Monday, July 6, 2015

2015 Season Countdown: #55 Sione Houma

Sione Houma and Desmond Morgan (image via Michigan Daily)
Name: Sione Houma
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 243 lbs.
High school: Salt Lake City (UT) Highland
Position: Fullback
Class: Senior
Jersey number: #39
Last year: I ranked Houma #32 and said he would be the starting fullback. He was a backup fullback and made 4 tackles on special teams.

Last year was a swing and a miss on Houma, who I think is a better athlete than Joe Kerridge. Houma has been playing special teams since his true freshman year, and that's where he made the majority of his impact in 2014. So far in his career, he has just 2 catches for 14 yards and has made 14 tackles on special teams.

I'm not going to take the same wild swing this year. Houma missed the spring with an injury, and while he is supposed to return by the time the season starts, he has now been Kerridge's backup for three consecutive seasons. If Houma wins the job, I think it will be a surprise to almost everyone. Michigan also has other options at fullback, like 276 lb. Brady Pallante and redshirt sophomore Wyatt Shallman, who has also played some tailback and H-back. Houma can still play special teams, and I think he can do some good things if given the chance on offense, but he's not a significantly important cog.

Prediction: Backup fullback


  1. We're only at 55 and already seeing a pattern...too many guys making little or no progress up the list, as they get more experience and PT, and some even regressing. Our player development has been poor for far too long.

    1. This is a weird place to put this comment. Houma has evolved just as you'd expect a FB to evolve with the exception that a former walk-on passed him by. In some cases that's a sign of lack of development I assume but it's not like Kerridge is a bad player. Not sure what more you can/should be expecting of a fullback. The bigger issue is why Hoke decided to allocate scholarships to the position - but this was a question only a handful of people were asking 3 years ago.

  2. I remember being excited for Houma when he was being recruited. He seemed more athletic than your typical FB, and I was excited to see that deployed in the Hoke/Borges offense (this was, of course, before that offense turned into the raging absurdist train wreck that it would become). It seems like I've been waiting for him to break out, but I'm guessing at this point it just won't happen.

    Any idea as to what has left him stuck behind Kerridge (who, don't get me wrong, has been perfectly serviceable, just not much of a weapon in his time on the field)? I feel like I've never heard any practice reports about Houma struggling with any particular aspect of him game, like blocking or something.

    1. I was pumped about Houma as well. He had good straight line speed in HS. I'm just not sure that Borges knew what he wanted out of a FB. Perhaps with all of the other positions struggling so much over the last few years and the constant tinkering with scheme, maybe it was tough to develop a strategy for the position. Despite his listed weight, Houma has always looked smallish to me in uniform. He does not appear to be a weapon as a blocker, and who knows about his receiving hands...

      Both Borges and Nussmeier spoke highly of Kerridge, for what it's worth. In fact, Nussmeier was not an I-formation guy, but he still tried to find ways to get Kerridge on the filed, particularly putting him on the edge in more of an H-back spot. It was a bit awkward IMO. With Harbaugh having a clearer vision for the position this year, maybe these FB's will look a little better going forward.

    2. I think Kerridge is the better blocker, so that probably kept Houma off the field.

    3. The fullback position is 95% about blocking. Houma's best bet was always for Michigan to use him more like an H-back (only 80% about blocking), but the O-Line issues combined with scheme/coaching problems never allowed it.

    4. That is probably the case. It is nice to be well-rounded, but blocking is still the top priority for any FB.

  3. I would redshirt Houma. Gives him time to get fully healthy and gives us a 5th year senior FB for 2016. If something happens to Kerridge and Shallman can't hack it then we just take of the red shirt.

    1. Redshirting Houma means taking away one of these 2016 recruits' spots. I'm not sure if Houma is worth it.

    2. He is not. I don't think Houma is a player that JH would have recruited.

    3. It would be completely stupid to spend two years worth of scholarships on one year of a fullback. I recommend zero years worth of scholarships, but it looks like the coaches are recruiting for the position and already have people pegged for a tryout there, at least.

    4. @ Painter Smurf

      I'm not so sure. Michigan is recruiting Sione Heimuli-Lund, who looks pretty darn similar to Houma.

    5. Not sure about Heimuli-Lund - looks like a higher profile prospect running a lot of feature-RB in a shotgun offense. Also looks like a two-way player.

      But Houma was a wishbone FB if my memory serves, and he showed up to campus as a freshman around 5'11" 210 lbs (realistically). I love the Pacific Islanders as much as any football fan, but my hopes for him faded pretty quickly when I saw him in pads next to the RB's as a freshman. Credit to him for bulking up some, but he just did not look the part of a FB to me.

    6. Heimuli-Lund is small for a linebacker. And while they're different offenses, Houma was the feature back at Highland.

  4. There are many reasons this is too low for Houma.

    1. He might start. Sure, Kerridge is the clear favorite but we have a new coaching staff and that means people are less locked in than ever. Even if he's the backup he's one twisted ankle or academic misstep away from being a starter at a key position in Harbaugh's offense.

    2. He's a "starter" on special teams - been making contributions there for several years and that should hold with the new regime given his profile.

    3. There isn't actually much depth behind him. Harbaugh moves people all the time and there aren't a lot of 280 pound FBs for a reason. Pallante was always a reach as a recruit (though I liked him as a program guy for Hoke) and it's hard to imagine him getting any more than situational (e.g., goalline) snaps in specific packages. This 'move' is one of the most overrated storylines of the offseason. As for Shallman, the continued assertion year after year that he's a fullback is tiresome. Especially now that we have coaches who recruited and started Toby Gerhardt and that there are other "moosebacks" on the roster, including Ty Isaac whose rapid weight gain has been uh...noteworthy.

    1. Ugh. You constantly bring up Isaac as a FB option. He's not. He's always been a big back. He tweeted out that he hasn't been 225 lbs. since high school. He's not known for his blocking, and he would probably transfer again rather than be a fullback. Your insistence about this is unfounded.

    2. He's a seconds stringer at a position that is only on the field part-time. As Thunder pointed out, he did not see a ton of meaningful snaps last year and nothing has changed going into this year, other than a third option in Pallante coming into the mix. 55 seems reasonable.

    3. More or less unfounded than the insistence of Shallman at FB? Which elements of the argument against Isacc at FB don't apply to Shallman?

      "He's not known for his blocking, and he would probably transfer again rather than be a fullback."

      Shallman has also always been a big back, isn't known for his blocking, and could transfer. Shallman is the same age, eligibility, and size. The difference is Isaac's already transferred once and gained weight more rapidly.

      Isaac is currently dogged by transfer rumors. One way to interpret that is that he won't play FB. Another way is that the coaches are pointing him in this direction because that's where he belongs.

      The difference between them boils down to fan speculation. Shallman was rumored to be a FB before he hit campus despite saying he was recruited for RB. He's headed for his 3rd year now at the position. Isaac played RB at USC and was 5th string as a freshman, getting mostly garbage time carries and had a lower ypc than...a fullback.

      Michigan has a huge opening at FB next year. The candidates to take it are freshman or converts from other positions. Isaac (and/or Shallman) could very easily be buried behind Green, Smith, Higdon, and Johnson this year. At that point his options may be to transfer AGAIN or bite the bullet and move to fullback. Contrast that with Shallman who can still graduate from Michigan before taking a grad year transfer somewhere to prove himself as a RB (without losing out on a Michigan degree).

      The reality is that NFL doesn't have many 245 pound running backs anymore, so both Shallman and Isaac are contenders for conversion to FB. I see no good reason to include one and not the other. Both want to be RBs, were recruited to be RBs, but project better physically to FB where Michigan has a need.

      Love the countdown and discussion as always.

    4. @PS

      Most of the guys this low on the list are 3rd or 4th string at best. Theoretically, the 2nd stringers should start around 25-50th in the rankings. Houma, as a proven senior with no real depth behind him, should probably be within that range, especially given his special teams contributions - even if FB isn't the most important position on the roster.

      "Nothing has changed."? Well, I consider Jim Harbaugh and a new coaching staff to be kind of a big change.

    5. @ Lanknows 1:45 pm

      The key difference there is that Shallman has, for his entire career, been practicing as a fullback/H-back at least part of the time. Isaac has not. So the Isaac thing is unfounded. The Shallman thing is not.

      Also, Scout and ESPN ranked Shallman as a fullback coming out of high school. Isaac was not ranked as a fullback.

      Basically, the only person who has suggested that Isaac could be a FB is you. And we're not talking about the NFL - we're talking about the University of Michigan.

    6. @ Lanknows 3:06 pm

      Houma is coming off of an injury. He is not an impact player (at least not as of yet). He is a backup. Michigan has moved Pallante, Winovich, and Poggi to the H-back/fullback position, and Shallman exists. So despite the fact that Houma is presumably the #2 guy at his position, he is not particularly important to the success of this team, in my opinion. He is replaceable.

    7. @Thunder

      The injury concern for Houma is legit and this is a subjective exercise, so reasonable minds may disagree. I don't see any defensive converts as legitimate threats to Houma's role as THE backup at FB - and therefore an important player.

      I do expect one to emerge as the season goes on though, for the sake of 2016, but I doubt they would start over Houma/Kerridge.

    8. @ Thunder RE: Shallman

      Conjecture is conjecture. I don't care how many people talk about Shallman at FB or how many times it gets mentioned - he was recruited for RB and plays RB for Michigan. Does it really matter what Scout thought 3 years ago? I don't think it does anymore than them thinking Shane Morris is a 5-star QB.

      The practice time argument is more compelling, but Isaac hasn't been around for as long as Shallman. If he takes a few snaps at FB in practice does that suddenly change everything? -- I don't think it does. Harbaugh moves people around often.

      Shallman had 12 carries in the spring game, more than any other RB. Isaac had 1. Shallman was the starter, playing behind Kerridge at FB and ahead of Isaac on the depth chart. That's a few months ago, not a few years ago. That's IN the Michigan football program, not outside of it.

      For a guy that reads a lot into spring game stuff, I don't know how this doesn't even enter the conversation.

      Isaac and Shallman are same size and neither guy has shown to be a starting caliber RB early in their careers. They are both slotted behind a bunch of other RBs and as jumbo backs are logical candidates to play at fullback at some point. Either one of them could move. Either one of them could start at RB. We don't know.

      What we do know is that one guy led the team in carries in the spring game playing beside our starting FB, while the other transferred from another school, got fat, and hasn't stayed very healthy. The one being projected to FB in this context seems like the wrong one to me.

    9. You're right that Shallman played running back over Isaac in the spring game...when Isaac was injured. Isaac was nursing an injury all spring, gave it a go in the spring game, and it gave out on him. I don't think much can be gleaned from that.

      Ross Douglas also played running back in the spring game. Dennis Norfleet played cornerback. Are you also expecting them to play those positions? Probably not, because they were essentially being used as utility men because of a lack of depth. I'm not saying Shallman was used as a utility man, but he got carries for a team that was so thin at RB that it was using a backup slot receiver/cornerback.

      Isaac isn't fat. He never has been. That's a silly comment. But hey, Wyatt Shallman has barely played and Isaac averaged over 5 yards/carry and scored a couple touchdowns at there's plenty of conjecture going on if you think Shallman is the superior running back.

      Pros in the argument for Isaac: RB out of high school, 5-star/4-star guy, played RB at USC, actually gained yards and scored

      Pros in the argument for Shallman: recruited as a RB out of high school, played RB in a spring game

      You're the one going out on a limb here.

    10. There comes a point where holding on to recruiting rankings becomes ridiculous. Morris, Poggi, Fox, Green, Thomas, Douglass are all guys who the fanbase has lowered expectations on based on the evidence at hand (poor performances, injuries,weight gain, low position on depth chart, etc.). They're about to be juniors!

      Isaac is in the same class as those guys but because he hasn't struggled behind Michigan's weak OL yet, somehow he is the recipient of fan hopes and optimism. Stop the hope train - I call BS.

      I'm not sure I'm going out on a limb in saying that the lead ball carrier in the spring game is probably a RB - the position he was recruited to play and said he wants to play.

      I probably AM going out on limb in saying Isaac will be at FB. Except I'm not really saying that, just saying he is a leading candidate to switch because of his size and position on the depth chart. I actually think a transfer is more likely and it's been rumored elsewhere. If he does stay at Michigan - well, there's a long history of jumbo RB who have moved to FB as upperclassmen.

      Asserting it's all just due to injury oh boy you just wait till Isaac is healthy isn't compelling. He was apparently healthy enough to play and Shallman got the start over him. He was healthy at USC and ended up 5th string.

      Isaac has gained nearly 30 pounds since high school (per Rivals listing him at 215) and he's the same height. That probably has something to do with his health problems. Also - he's shied away from competition at USC. He's also been rumored to have work ethic/motivation issues at Michigan and as a potential transfer. That sounds like a guy who might be fat, just like Derrik Green was fat.

      If we're going to be blindly and irrationally optimistic in the face of a mountain of evidence otherwise, I'd rather pretend a guy who picked Michigan is going to be great than a guy who transferred. Here's to 4 Heismans for Higdon! I

    11. Shallman has been a FB/H-back. Isaac hasn't. So it seems more likely that Shallman would "switch" to FB.

      I'm not saying "oh boy you just wait until Isaac is healthy." What I am saying is that Isaac was injured in the spring. Going by number of carries in the spring game is not particularly useful. Dan Liesman got more snaps than Mike McCray at linebacker. Should we also assume that Liesman is ahead of McCray on the depth chart?

      Isaac said he hasn't been 225 lbs. since high school. That's straight from the horse's mouth (or, well, fingertips). Here's a report from the Under Armour practices:

      "- USC commit Ty Isaac (Joliet, Il.) is the definition of a big back. He’s a legit 6-foot-2.5/6-3 and 220-pounds. He’s got the body type to add 15-20-pounds of good weight to his frame, and add to his versatility."

      He's now listed at 6'3", 240 lbs. So he's gone from 220-225 lbs. to 240 lbs. That's not really "getting fat" unless it's, you know, fat. And according to what I've seen/heard, he's not fat. Eddie George was listed at 6'3", 240 lbs. Was he fat?

    12. I'm not big on reading too much into the Spring game, and I don't expect Shallman to start at RB but when you are talking about the 4th or 5th RB; evidence is scant.

      I haven't seen Shallman anywhere besides RB. I've seen practice reports that say he has worked at FB (or H-back), but he was and is primarily a RB.

      Did Liesman start over McCray? Maybe we should put him above if so.

      Eddie George was listed at 6'3/235. Both taller and thinner than Isaac AND well after college. He was lighter than that at OSU. Also - He played in the mid 90s and those kind of backs are very rare these days.

      Was he fat? No. But he also wasn't a 5th string guy who transferred, gained weight rapidly, and has been hampered by injury and dogged by rumors since.

      220 pounds and 240 pounds is a huge difference for a RB. The best case scenario is that he gained 15-20 pounds of good weight over the last year and a half. Given that he's been hurt and that that is way heavier than typical for RBs these days, it seems dubious to assert that this is good weight.

      In other words, he's probably fat - given what we know and the rumblings around his current situation.

    13. Anyway - the "fat" issue is beside the point. Maybe he isn't - he still a former 5th stringer who transferred, hasn't been healthy, and is not a match physically for the position he is listed at. He's still buried on the depth chart and practice reports since last fall have never been especially glowing.

      If Michigan had a stud (or even a guy who projects to compete for a starting spot) waiting for eligibility to come through you'd hear about. People LOVE that kind of stuff and rivals/scout would be more than happy to roll out the hype train if they had any justification at all for it. For example, the O'Korn hype is already beginning in off-season workouts and people have Peppers ready to captain the defense. Instead, what we hear about Isaac is that he can't stay healthy and is again a transfer candidate.

    14. The "is not a match physically for the position he is listed" argument is hogwash. Who was Harbaugh's most successful running back? Toby Gerhart, who was 6'1", 235 lbs. Who did Harbaugh just recruit for the 2016 class? Kingston Davis (who is 6'1", and listed between 225-242) and Matt Falcon (last I heard, he was 6'1", 228 lbs.).

      Meanwhile, I *have* heard good things about Ty Isaac in practice. He simply hasn't been healthy.

    15. Neither of those guys are 6'3. Gerhart is 6'0 / 230 lb. Higdon is 5'10/190. Stepfan Taylor was 5'11. Gaffney 6'1.

      There's a big difference between 5'10 and 5'8 just like there's also a big difference between 6'1 and 6'3. That takes you to the statistical fringe of the RB population.

      Harbaugh likes powerful backs - there's no debating that - but the dream of the 90s are only alive in Portland: where Brandon Jacobs remains a thousand yard rusher in perpetuity and Joey Harrington just won his 12th Heisman.

      It's extremely unlikely Michigan has use for a 6'3/240 RB for anything other than situational duty. That's probably a short-yardage specialist who gets some carriers here or there to grind lesser opponents. Isaac's (now gone?) speed and (disappearing) recruiting hype may not give him much advantage over Shallman for that role.

      Football has changed. QBs don't have to be white. Passes should be completed more than 2/3s of the time. OLmen are enormous. RB and WR are shrinking. And tall jumbo backs are a dying breed.

  5. Thunder....Do you plan on giving us a list of guys that you think will benefit the most from the coaching change that are currently on the roster? A guy like Houma or the other backs on the roster could benefit from a well coached offensive line. There more than likely will be a few guys (hopefully more than a few) who were lost and are found by the new staff who put them in positions to succeed. I would be interested to see who you think those guys could be.

    1. I have not considered doing that, but that's not a bad idea. Thanks.

  6. I recall many of where concerned about offering him a scholarship.

  7. I go away for a day and come back to find 24 comments on a Sione Houma post. Football season must be right just about upon us.

    1. The early to mid parts of the countdown are my favs.