Thursday, February 08, 2007

2007 University of Michigan Signees: Ceilings and Floors

The 2007 Michigan recruiting class isn’t ranked as highly as previous classes by the so-called recruiting gurus, but there actually are some things I really like about this class, and one in particular that stands out.

First, some background.

The recruiting rating universe is “star-centric” and a prospect is typecast as either a 5-star, 4-star, 3-star, etc. In my opinion, assessing a prospect is a lot more complicated than that and what I have tried to do is come up with a different paradigm in identifying the potential of a prospect.

When I look at players I try to determinewhat sort of ceilings and floors they have. By that I mean what is their upside and what is their downside. Nothing novel in that concept, as players are often referred to as being high ceiling types.

What I will attempt to do below, however, is broaden the context of the term from that of being a mere adjective to in some way “quantify” the potential upside and downside of a prospect. That will give us a better idea of what sort of athleticism we are bringing into this class and also give a sense as to what extent Michigan is making “bets” on high ceiling/low floor types as opposed to taking the safe road and putting more of a premium on High Floor prospects.

A lot of D-1 prospects have high floors but just average to slightly above average ceilings (when speaking in D-I BCS terms). In a sense, what you see is what you get. There will be an average amount of improvement in college but they are often already pretty sound fundamentally and will be solid to very, very good college players (and in some cases exceptional college players but not NFL types).

What is meant by a "high ceiling" is a prospect who has the speed and athleticism that may enable him to play at the NFL level if he puts everything else together (hard work, fundamentals, discipline, developing-if they can be developed-football instincts/understanding as to how to play the game). Usually the term is used on its own without also adding that the prospect has a "low floor" (i.e. a raw football player who may never contribute). Of course, prospects who have both high ceilings and high floors are called difference-makers (instead of being referredto a high ceiling kids) and are usually only the top 25-40 prospects in the nation (i.e. 5 stars).

After you get below the 5 stars, you have the 4 and 3 stars who have some combination of ceiling and floor which is below high/high. A lot of these kids could be average ceiling/high floor, which means that it is pretty sure that they will be very good college football players but they probably lack the great athleticism tobecome NFL-type difference-makers. Others will be high ceiling types with lower floors. These high ceiling types may have as much upside as the five stars but they have more downside (i.e. they are higher risk recruits)

Michigan usually doesn’t recruit a low floor prospect unless he has a high ceiling. The low floor may be due to several factors: 1) Very raw athlete (Mike Kenn); 2) Little playing time in high school, didn’t get many touches (Desmod Howard), a chance to showcase his skills (Elvis Grbac running the wishbone) and/or developed late (Braylon Edwards); 3) Character/Academic issues. In other words, taking one of these kids is a bit of a crapshot that could pay huge dividends or just as easily not work out at all. I still rmember the class where we brought in a lot of these high floor/low ceiling types (the Demetrius Smith, William Peterson, Jason Brooks class). That year most of them didn’t work out. On the other hand, players such as Braylon Edwards and Desmond Howard did work out.

Historically (until just the past 4-5 years), most (not all) of Michigan's defensive line and linebacker recruits had not been high ceiling types but rather high floor types who were athletic enough to get the job done when playing within the Michigan team system.

I think that a few years ago when the lack of speed on our defense was exposed by Tennessee and others Michigan started to move in a new direction and recruit high ceiling prospects at these positions as well. They recognized that teams were spreading things out quite a bit on offense and it was necessary to have more athletic and speedy players on defense as opposed to the more traditional hard-nosed and solid defenders that were effective for us from the 70s to mid-90s. As a result, we had an athletic defense in 2006 with the sort of skills and athleticism that one would usually associate with Miami and Florida State a fewyears back.

Here are some examples of how I would have rated some recent Michigan players when they were being recruited:

Erick Anderson Slightly above average ceiling/High floor

Mike Mallory Slightly above average ceiling/High floor

Jarrett Irons Slightly above average ceiling/High floor

Mike Boren Average ceiling/High floor

Glen Steele Slightly above average ceiling/High floor

MikeHammerstein Slightly above average ceiling/High floor

Larry Foote High ceiling/Low floor

Braylon Edwards High ceiling/Low floor

Charles Woodson High ceiling/High floor

Demetrius Smith High ceiling/Low floor

Jason Brooks High ceiling/Low floor

LaMarr Woodley High ceiling/High floor

Mike Hart Above average ceiling/High floor

DesmondHoward High ceiling/Low floor

This years class, although lacking in five and four stars, has more than its fair share of High ceiling/Low floor types. THAT is what I REALLY like about this class. Some of these kids will not pan out, but others will emerge as NFL type talents.

Just to give an example, a LB like Brandon Herron has the sort of high ceiling to be an Ian Gold type linebacker in the NFL. I would not say that about a prospect such as Chris Colasanti (a 4-star Michigander who signed with Penn State), who should have an outstanding college career but is more in the mold of some of thelinebackers that I listed above.

For you old-timers, an example of a program that had problems by recruiting High Floor types is Notre Dame back in the 1980s under Gerry Faust. He would go through the old Parade All-American listings and bring in loads of these prep stars who were great high school players but lacked high ceilings. Often they would be prospects who had the benefit of playing for top Catholic Schools such as Cincinnati Moeller and they were much more developed as players when arriving at Notre Dame. The problem was that many of these kids weren’t even great athletes and some (remember the undersized prep AA LB Tom Roggeman out of Arizona) didn’t even have high floors. But they were all paper all-americans.

With Michigan having 85 players on scholarship, my view is that it needs to continue to focus on the High Ceiling types at the expense of the High Floors. That is especially the case if it can’t bring in enough five-star talent because it will need to take chances with great athletes in order to compete with the USCs and Floridas of the world. Of course, the ideal High Ceiling prospect is one such as Herron who does not have character issues but is quite raw as a player. Let me make one thing clear, I am NOT advocating going the Michigan State route in taking questionable character prospects over the years. Michigan is in a position where, even though it may lose out on five stars to USC and Florida, it can still pick and choose among many lower-rated prospects with High Ceilings. That is exactly what the coaching staff did such a fine job of doing this year.

Here’s my breakdown of this year’s signees:

Ryan Mallett High Ceiling/High Floor – Entire package

Donovan Warren High Ceiling/High Floor – Great athlete from nations top program. Gone against AA WRsin practice for4 years

Martell Webb High Ceiling/Slightly BelowAverage Floor – Has the frame, speed and athleticism to dominate. Just need sto fill out and learn the game more. A bit raw.

Kenneth "Junior" Hemingway High to Above Average Ceiling/Average Floor - Great receiver skills

Michael Williams Above Average Ceiling/High Floor - Lacks athleticism and speed of Warren but is well-schooled and also from a top program

Ryan VanBergen Above Average Ceiling/High Floor – Motor always on go makes him a low rick kid

Dave Molk Above Average Ceiling/High Floor – Another low risk get, but upside limited by height

Toney Clemons High Ceiling/Low Floor- Has all the tools but senior season he wasn’t thrown to much and there were some other issues

Renaldo Sagesse High Ceiling/LowFloor – Great combo of size and speed,same as Alain Kashama. Most Canadians are low floor due to levelof competition

Austin Panter Above Average Ceiling/Low Floor – Nice size and athleticism but questions whether he can do it at a high level

Steve Watson Above Average Ceiling/High Floor – Well-schooled as he plays for a top program as pops was in the NFL

Zion Babb High Ceiling/Low Floor – Ditto Clemons

Avery Horn Above Averge Ceiling/Average Floor – Should be a solid contributor

James Rogers High Ceiling/Low Floor – Big and fast but will play a new position and his prep competition was poor

Mark Huyge Above Average Ceiling/Low Floor – I have a feeling he will be either a hit or miss. Reminds mea bit of Adam Kraus

Vincent Helmuth Above Average Ceiling/High Floor – Already physically developed and with th skills we are lookingfor at FB

Marell Evans Above Average Ceiling/Low Floor – Late-bloomer could surprise

Brandon Herron High Ceiling/Low Floor – Tests off the charts. Just needs to be more Tarzan and less Jane on the field

Troy Woolfolk Above Average Ceiling/Low Floor – Raw but upside high as he is getting bigger and you can’t teach his speed

Artis Chambers Above Average Ceiling/Average Floor – Very good skill set and fills a need


At 3:10 PM, Anonymous jwaw said...

Thanks. I have been trying to express my feelings about recruiting rankings for some time and haven't ever been able to make my point(s). This 'ceiling/floor' does it very well.

At 2:12 AM, Blogger Shane said...

Nice read. Wasn't Mike Hart a 3-star recruit out of high school, though? I thought I had read that he had some question marks as the competition he played in high school was so-so. Either way, he obviously panned out well.


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