Bryce Wilcox - S - Sharpsburg (GA) Trinity Christian: Wilcox is a 5'11", 171 lb. prospect with an offer from Navy. He's likely in consideration for a preferred walk-on opportunity from the Wolverines, if anything.
Justin Marshall - WR - Merrillville (IN) Merrillville: Marshall is a 6'0", 175-pounder with offers from Boston College, Indiana, and some MAC schools. He's a 247 Sports 3-star and the #93 wide receiver in the country.
This was originally posted on March 17, 2017. It has been updated following the 2021 season.
Sports fans love to debate the greatness of players and rank them in order from most revered to most despised. And while despised probably doesn't fit any of these players, since they played for the University of Michigan, we all have our favorites. I have endeavored to achieve the un-possible: Rank all of Michigan's starting quarterbacks.
Okay, that's too tall of a task for me right now. I'm working up to it. So I'm only going back to 1995, which was the beginning of the Lloyd Carr era. That's the earliest full coaching tenure where I can count on my recollections of Michigan football. I was a big fan of Bo Schembechler, Gary Moeller, and the Michigan Wolverines before then, but I'll be damned if I say I was aware enough to understand what was happening on the field.
This ranking only takes into account what the quarterbacks achieved wearing the winged helmet. High school highlight tapes and NFL performance aren't taken into account. (After all, we can agree that Tom Brady is far and away the best quarterback who ever played the game of football, and that includes Uncle Rico.)
So if you were starting a season with your pick of any Michigan QB since 1995, which one would you take?
Cole Cabana - RB - Dexter (MI) Dexter: Cabana is a 6'0", 180 lb. prospect who claims a 4.43 forty and a 10.69 in the 100 meters. He took a visit to Michigan this past weekend and was offered when he was on campus; Michigan joined Michigan State, Pitt, and West Virginia. He's a 3-star, the #21 running back, and #363 overall. He grew up as a fan of Michigan State.
Richmond (VA) Benedictine defensive tackle Joel Starlings decommitted from Michigan on Sunday.
If you read my commitment post, you know I wasn't a huge fan of Starlings (LINK):
With that review, I’m sure you can guess that I’m not sold on Starlings. He has a lot of potential because of his athletic profile, but if he were to go up against a college line right now, he would get donkeyed 15 yards down the field and planted on his back. Whether he becomes a good player or not seems entirely dependent on how much he buys into coaching, and it would be nice if he starts that buy-in during his senior year in 2022
One reason could be that defensive line coach Shaun Nua left for USC, but another reason could be that Starlings just wasn't that determined to attend Michigan. After all, he tweeted shortly after committing that his recruitment was open, and that was when Nua was still seemingly firmly entrenched in Ann Arbor. So the writing had been on the wall for a couple months.
Michigan now has zero defensive linemen committed in the 2023 class, but there's plenty of time to address the position group.
Jeffery Johnson - DT - Tulane: Johnson is a 6'3", 312 lb. grad transfer from Tulane. He's originally from Brookhaven (MS) Brookhaven and was a 3-star, the #39 defensive tackle, and #547 overall when he came out of high school in 2018. He made 44 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, and 2.5 sacks for the Green Wave in 2021. UPDATE: Johnson is no longer visiting since he committed to Oklahoma.
Xavier Chaplin - OT - Seabrook (SC) Whale Branch: Chaplin is a 6'6", 350-pounder who has been committed to Virginia Tech since last July. He also has offers from Georgia State, Louisville, and Michigan. He's a 3-star, the #118 offensive tackle, and #1221 overall. UPDATE: Chaplin is postponing his visit to next weekend due to a family illness.
Andrew Paul - RB - Dallas (TX) Parish Episcopal: Paul is a 5'11", 220 lb. prospect with offers from Clemson, Colorado, Michigan, and Michigan State, among others. He's a 3-star, the #89 running back, and #1211 overall. He took an official to Colorado in December, and this is an official visit to Ann Arbor.
Cole Cabana - RB - Dexter (MI) Dexter: Cabana is a 6'0", 180 lb. prospect with offers from Cincinnati, Louisville, Michigan State, and West Virginia, among others. He's a 3-star, the #21 running back, and #362 overall. Michigan has yet to offer. I would expect Michigan to take at least two running backs in 2023, especially if they don't land another in 2022, so Cabana might be a decent option for a second back.
Notre Dame defensive line coach Mike Elston is reportedly accepting the same position at Michigan. Elston is a former Michigan outside linebacker who got his coaching start with the Wolverines as a graduate assistant for the Wolverines before moving on elsewhere.
Elston made 29 tackles and 4 pass breakups as an outside linebacker at Michigan from 1993-1996. He then became a video assistant and G.A. at Michigan, coached at Eastern Michigan for a couple years, and then latched on with Brian Kelly. Elston was with Kelly at Central Michigan, Cincinnati, and Notre Dame, at various times holding the title of linebacker coach, defensive line coach, associate head coach, co-defensive coordinator, and recruiting coordinator. He's had a wide array of positions and held some clout in a very good program, so that bodes well for his abilities.
At Notre Dame, Elston coached a variety of quality players, including Julian Okwara, Stephon Tuitt, Sheldon Day, Khalid Kareem, Daelin Hayes, Ade Ogundeji, Isaiah Foskey, Jerry Tillery, etc. While he's never had a guy as productive as Aidan Hutchinson, he has coached a couple Notre Dame players (Tuitt and Foskey) into getting 11 sacks.
Despite the success of Michigan's team - and Hutchinson and David Ojabo - in 2021, I think Elston is a significant step up from former defensive line coach Shaun Nua. That's not just sour grapes because of Nua's departure for USC; I was long critical of Nua's developmental abilities, and there has been talk that Ryan Osborn helped out a lot with the edge guys who really exploded in 2021.
Elston has also been a solid recruiter. He's ranked as the #36 recruiter in the country by 247 Sports for 2022, which is third on the Fighting Irish staff behind new head coach Marcus Freeman and offensive coordinator Tommy Rees. It also would place him third on Michigan's staff, behind safeties coach Ron Bellamy and offensive coordinator Josh Gattis. I'm not huge into ranking coaches by the recruiting rankings of the players that they may or may not have been recruiting primarily or secondarily; I think that type of ranking is very convoluted and potentially very inaccurate. So I don't put a ton of stock in the ranking, and I put more faith in the fact that he was the recruiting coordinator for a team that recruits pretty well.
Michigan football news was overwhelmed this week with guys announcing they were either transferring or leaving for the NFL - oh, and the Jim Harbaugh-to-the-NFL drama - so yours truly just had no chance of keeping up with all those developments.
Posts on each one of these guys will be coming down the road to summarize their careers, but I wanted to address each one here and now.
DE Aidan Hutchinson: Hutchinson played four years at Michigan and could have returned for a fifth. He was the Heisman runner-up and set the school record for sacks with 14. He has nothing else to prove and will likely be a top-5 pick in the draft, so this was the right decision for him. Draft projection: 1st round
OLB David Ojabo: Ojabo had 11 sacks rushing the quarterback opposite Hutchinson one year after making 1 total tackle. As a redshirt sophomore, he could have come back for a couple more seasons, but he's striking while the iron is hot. Hutchinson and Ojabo surely helped each other out, and there would be a risk in returning for 2022, considering there's no proven pass rusher on the opposite side. He could very well have returned and put up mediocre sack numbers, hindering his draft stock. Even though Ojabo is not a good run defender, he does have outstanding athleticism and could be a year one pass rusher for an NFL team. Draft projection: 1st round
Offensive guard Chuck Filiaga has entered the transfer portal. Filiaga started four games at guard in 2021 and eight throughout his career on the way to appearing in 39 total games.
Filiaga was a class of 2017 recruit and could have returned in 2022 for a sixth year, considering the 2020 COVID year was a free year of eligibility. Instead he'll play the year elsewhere. He was a 4-star, the #13 offensive tackle, and #112 overall. I gave him a TTB Rating of 86 (LINK). It turns out I should have paid more attention to my red flags:
On the negative side, it’s a bit of a red flag that Filiaga doesn’t have more film as a big-time recruit. His junior highlights are just over two minutes long, and his senior highlights last 38 seconds. It may be an issue with the film or technology or the coach, so it’s not necessarily a lack of highlight-worthy plays, but it’s still a question mark. That dearth of highlights also shows up when it comes to pass protection, because there’s not a whole lot that shows his ability to fend off edge rushers. I think Filiaga shows some weaknesses when it comes to footwork and needs to be more consistent in that area. Another inconsistency is his stance, where he frequently seems to telegraph run vs. pass or even the direction of his block. If defenders get underneath him or slant across his face, he sometimes has trouble adjusting.
Filiaga did okay at Michigan, but he was pretty much always the weak link when he was starting. His lateral quickness was lacking, which made him a liability in pass protection, and he seemed to be a step late to identify blitzes and stunts. He played decent at times and starting at a big program is no small feat with all the 4-star prospects Michigan has landed, but it seemed like the competition in Ann Arbor was just a little too good for him. He could certainly go somewhere else and start next year, and that includes for plenty of other teams in the Big Ten. In general, it seems like a high percentage of transfers head closer to home, so the Texas native could very well end up closer to SEC/Big 12 country.
The only remaining 2017 signees are offensive tackle Andrew Stueber, punter Brad Robbins, tight end Joel Honigford, and defensive tackle Donovan Jeter. I use the word "remaining" loosely because I expect most of them to also jump to the NFL, except perhaps Honigford. Honigford came in as an offensive lineman and transitioned to tight end, losing a bunch of weight in the process. I will be interested to see whether he tries to hone his skills at that position for one more year, make an attempt at the NFL as is, or perhaps bulk back up to play offensive line now that Michigan is losing a couple guys.
I'm projecting next year's offensive line to look like this:
Jim Harbaugh came to Michigan to right the ship and return the program to national prominence. Rich Rodriguez went 15-22 at Michigan. Brady Hoke went 31-20, which isn't terrible overall, but things were going downhill. But that's a 46-42 record over seven years. Jim Harbaugh is 61-24 with a Big Ten championship and a College Football Playoff appearance. Has he won a national championship? No. But that's the only feat he hasn't accomplished, other than some personal goals he might have (winning 100 games, becoming the winningest coach in Michigan history, etc.). Ultimately, seven years is a pretty long tenure for any coach by modern standards, and especially if you consider he was at both Stanford and the San Francisco 49ers for four years each.
Harbaugh's career is essentially the envy of any coach ever. He's won in the NFL and gone to the Super Bowl. He's won in college and coached a team to the playoffs. He's taken broken and abused programs and turned them into perennial double-digit winning programs.
But if you want to win at the highest level, that's the NFL.
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With all the news surrounding coaching movement in the off-season, there's a lot to cover. First of all, though, I want to mention that former defensive coordinator Greg Robinson, who worked under Rich Rodriguez in 2009-2010, passed away from Alzheimer's complications at the age of 70.
Don Brown (Head Coach, UMass): UMass hired Brown to be its new head coach. This is actually his second stint as the head coach of the Minutemen; he was there from 2004-2008 and went 43-19, the best five-year record in school history. But that was when the program was in FCS (DI-AA), so this is a level up in competition.
Erik Campbell (Wide Receivers, Bowling Green State): Campbell finished up his third season as BGSU's wide receivers coach.
Tony Dews (Running Backs, Tennessee Titans): Dews had been the running backs coach for the Titans since 2018.
Quarterback Dan Villari has entered the transfer portal after redshirting and then playing mop-up duty. Villari was a 3-star, the #42 pro-style quarterback, and #1225 overall out of Massapequa (NY) Plainedge in 2020. I gave him a TTB Rating of 69 and suggested he would finish his career playing a position other than quarterback (LINK).
Villari redshirted in 2020. This past season he played in four games toward the end of blowouts, appearing mostly as a runner (9 carries, 35 yards). He did throw 3 passes against Maryland in extended blowout time, completing just 1 for 26 yards. He was the #3 quarterback behind Cade McNamara and J.J. McCarthy, and the only reason that might change is if McNamara or McCarthy leaves.
Villari's departure does not concern me much, considering I don't see him as a quarterback, or at least not a Michigan-caliber one. The one potential problem might perhaps come from additional attrition, such as if McNamara/McCarthy transfers and/or if Alan Bowman transfers. As good as this season was for Michigan, players want to go where they're going to play. There's at least a chance that the loser of the McNamara/McCarthy derby leaves town, along with former Texas Tech starter Bowman, who's on the outside looking in. It would not be too surprising to have Michigan go into the fall of 2022 with the winner of the McNamara/McCarthy duo and the two true freshmen, Jayden Denegal and Alex Orji.
Cornerback Andre Seldon, Jr. has decided to enter the transfer portal. Seldon was an Under Armour All-American in the class of 2020 and a 4-star, the #11 cornerback, and #161 overall.
Listed at just 5'8" and 173 lbs., size was always a question for him. However, he was a dynamic punt returner and speedy defensive back in high school, and he played bigger than his size in the UA game and practices. He played in just two games at Michigan and mostly practiced in the slot. He did have some health issues while at Michigan that prevented him from practicing/playing at times, but how much that factored into his overall decision is up in the air. Generally, it just seems like he did not have a clear path to playing time, and he wants to start over elsewhere. I thought he could be a punt/kick returner if nothing else, but even with Michigan's punt return struggles this season, Seldon did not see the field.
Three defensive backs have entered the transfer portal in recent days; Seldon joins cornerbacks Darion Green-Warren and George Johnson III. This is likely at least a little bit related to the fact that Michigan is bringing in six defensive backs in the 2022 class, several of whom are highly ranked and probably headed for some early playing time. In general, while Seldon could certainly go elsewhere and find success, I think it's odd and somewhat concerning that these numerous Belleville products do not seem to pan out or they struggle in college.
Seldon's brother Myles Rowser was at one time committed to Michigan in the class of 2022, and so was fellow Belleville product Aaron Alexander, a linebacker. Rowser is now committed to Arkansas, and Alexander is still searching for a home.
Stuart (FL) Martin cornerback George Johnson III announced on Wednesday that he was entering the transfer portal.
Johnson was a high school dual-threat quarterback who was bound for either wide or defensive back in college. He was a 247 Composite 3-star, the #60 athlete, and #876 overall in the class of 2019. I initially gave him a TTB Rating of 73 (LINK) before eventually giving a 58 (LINK).
Johnson redshirted in 2019, did not play in any games in 2020, and played in three contests this past season, making just 1 tackle. In the off-season some Michigan receivers said he was the most difficult cornerback to shake, but that didn't translate to the game field for whatever reason. It was always going to be tough for him to climb the depth chart at Michigan, considering the position switch and the other talent. But it didn't help that Michigan signed a bunch of defensive backs in this 2022 class, at least a couple of whom would probably jump ahead of him pretty quickly.
Joining RB Zach Charbonnet (UCLA), OG Nolan Rumler (Kent State), LB Anthony Solomon (Arizona), WR Giles Jackson (Washington), OG Zach Carpenter (Indiana), and LB Charles Thomas (unknown), Johnson is the seventh player from the 2019 class to transfer.
Now's your chance to lambaste me for my idiocy, so you can go check out my season predictions if you want (LINK).
LEADING RUSHER Season prediction: Hassan Haskins, 900 yards Actual: Hassan Haskins, 1327 yards Scoop: I thought Michigan might spread the ball around a little more - and I did not expect Haskins to get 270 carries - but Haskins got a big boost in production when Blake Corum injured his ankle. Haskins notched 27, 31, 20, and 28 carries in the wake of Corum's injury before the latter returned healthy. The last time any running back topped 270 carries in a season was Mike Hart, who had 318 attempts in 2006.
LEADING RECEIVER Season prediction: Ronnie Bell, 800 yards Actual: Cornelius Johnson, 620 yards Scoop: Bell got hurt in the first game of 2021, tearing his ACL on a punt return. He had 1 catch for a 76-yard touchdown at that point. After a two-year run as Michigan's leading receiver, it was time for a new king, and that new king was 6'3", 210 lb. Cornelius Johnson. Johnson made 39 catches for 620 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Second-year player Darion Green-Warren is transferring. Green-Warren was a 4-star, the #14 cornerback, and #190 overall in the 2020 class. He was also a participant in the All-American Bowl.
Green-Warren transferred from Santa Ana (CA) Mater Dei to Harbor City (CA) Narbonne before his senior year, and he was a tough, productive corner at both spots. He was never the most athletic player, but he was supposed to be competitive and technical. He played pretty well when we saw him on a national stage in the All-American Bowl, but the athleticism wasn't anything special.
I thought Green-Warren would play well at Michigan because he had some similar traits to other successful Wolverine cornerbacks, but cornerbacks coach Mike Zordich left and so did defensive coordinator Don Brown. Green-Warren never recorded any statistics at Michigan, and I'm not sure he ever played in a game.
Green-Warren is the fifth player from the 2020 class to transfer, joining LB Osman Savage (Alabama A&M), DE Aaron Lewis (Rutgers), LB Cornell Wheeler (Kansas), and LB William Mohan (Tennessee).
Michigan currently has 94 scholarship players slated to be on the roster in 2022, so they still need to shed nine players in order to get down to the limit.
Third-year player Anthony Solomon has entered the transfer portal. He was a 4-star, the #14 outside linebacker, and #223 overall in the 2019 class.
Solomon was recruited out of Fort Lauderdale (FL) St. Thomas Aquinas as a Viper in Don Brown's defense, and that made sense with him at 6'0" and 190 lbs. He bulked up to 6'1" and 215 lbs. by the 2021 season, but it wasn't enough to do any more than play in five games, almost entirely on special teams. He made 1 tackle in 2019, 5 tackles in 2020, and 0 in 2021. I ranked him at #39 in the 2021 Season Countdown (LINK), mistakenly counting on some injury issues to get him on the field. Luckily, Michigan's linebackers stayed healthy, negating the need for a ton of depth. Joshua Ross, Junior Colson, Nikhai Hill-Green, and Michael Barrett got the vast majority of snaps in the position group.
Michigan needs to shed a bunch of players going into next season to make room for the incoming recruits and transfers, and this is just the beginning. The Wolverines are bringing in several linebackers in the 2022 class, and they appear to have their starters for 2022 already in place with Colson and Hill-Green.
Rueben Bain - DT - Miami (FL) Central: Bain is a 6'2", 250 lb. prospect with offers from Florida, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, and Miami, among others. He's a 4-star, the #28 defensive lineman, and #197 overall. His uncle, Tolbert Bain, played for Miami, which seems to be the favorite. Rueben made 13 sacks and 9 forced fumbles as a sophomore in 2020.
Chandavian Bradley - DE - Platte City (MO) Platte: Bradley is a 6'5", 210-pounder with offers from Missouri, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, and Penn State, among others. He's a 4-star, the #6 edge player, and #57 overall. He claims a 4.56 forty.
The following depth chart has removed these listed players from the 2021 depth chart for various reasons:
OL Chuck Filiaga (graduation)
RB Hassan Haskins (NFL)
S Brad Hawkins (graduation)
TE Joel Honigford (graduation)
DE Aidan Hutchinson (graduation)
DT Donovan Jeter (graduation)
K Jake Moody (graduation)
P Brad Robbins (graduation)
LB Josh Ross (graduation)
DT Jess Speight (graduation)
OL Andrew Stueber (graduation)
OL Andrew Vastardis (graduation)
It also assumes that every currently rostered player and every currently committed prospect will be here in 2022, which is obviously not true. I listed wide receiver Ronnie Bell on the below roster since he plans to return in 2022 after suffering an ACL tear in 2021.
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Never underestimate recruiting rankings. I listen to Stewart Mandel and Bruce Feldman's podcast pretty regularly, and Mandel made the point that usually in these playoffs, the more talented team wins. Winning as an underdog in the CFP is very, very tough to do. Georgia has one of the top few classes every single year, while Michigan seems to be anywhere from about #8 to #25 on a yearly basis. So when walk-on center Andrew Vastardis gets obliterated by the #22 player in the country (6'5", 275 lb. Travon Walker) on a pull . . . yeah, that's what happens. This isn't Rutgers or Indiana or Northwestern with 250-260 lb. 3-star defensive ends. The bottom line is that Georgia is the more talented team, at almost every position.