Saturday, June 23, 2007

Post-Camp U-M Football Recruiting Thoughts: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly


The Good


The surprise verbal of Detroit Cass Tech rising junior William Campbell. This was important as Michigan is not heavily involved with many rising senior defensive tackles and it also helps to re-establish the Cass Tech pipeline after landing Boubacar Cissiko this year. The Joseph Barksdale fiasco still lingers…..

Speaking of rising junior class, the state of Michigan looks to be on the verge of producing a third consecutive class that would be considered at least slightly above average. The in-state rising juniors performed well, with a couple of other offers being extended. It looks to be a great year for in-state skill prospects, led by WR/CB James Jackson, WR Cameron Gordon and RBs Larry Capers and Hersey Jackson. I think the summer camp has actually become more important in identifying the top young talent and starting to establish relationships with these prospects. The Michigan coaching staff is starting to do a good job in adapting to the accelerated recruiting time line and kudos have to go to recruiting coordinator Chris Singletary with respect to this.

In my view, a limited number of new camp offers is a good thing. This means that the staff is further along in the evaluation process than they used to be in the old days, when summer camp was once early in the evaluation period.

New offers to rising seniors went out to the following prospects:

QB John Weinke

RB Jonas Gray

OL Rocko Khoury

OL Kevin Zeitler

CB Marc Anthony

The Weinke offer was not a big surprise once I learned he would be attending camp. He is one of the fastest-rising QBs in the nation and Michigan has been cslow in evaluating and offering QBs this year, in part because it is a down year for the position.

Gray finally received his offer after wowing onlookers at the camp, including running a 4.37 forty.

Khoury and Zeitler were the gong show winners among a large group of offensive linemen were were battling for a scholarship offer. A few camp offers needed to be given out here as Michigan has a need at the position and has finished second on a few higher-regarded prospects.

Anthony is one of the fastest-rising CB prospects in the nation. He lacks real jets, but has open hips and excellent coverage skills. It is also a position where Michigan needs to build some depth.

Here are a few campers who did not earn offers but who looked good enough to remain on the offer watch list heading into high summer:

RB/LB Glenn Winston

DE Glen Foster

DE Sean Progar

LB Kenny Demens

QB Nathan Stanley

LB/RB Brandon Beachum

WR Damion Dixon

CB/WR D.J. Woods

OL Deonte Pannell

Winston and Foster are two Glenn’s who have tremendous size/speed ratios and are really put together well. Classic high ceiling types who are still raw as football players.

Progar is a prospect to really watch out for. He has liked Michigan for some time and looked very good at the camp.

Stanley seemed to be possibly third on the Micvhigan QB target list after Mike Glennon and John Weinke. An offer could go out to him at any time.

Demens and Beachum could receive offers if Michigan misses out on some of their top LB targets.

Dixon could receive an offer down the road, especially if the news on Jon Baldwin is true.


The top uncommitted campers who have been offered by Michigan:

1. Ethan Johnson

2. Michael Floyd

3. Jonas Gray

4. Marcus Dowtin

5. Fred Smith

6. Kevin Koger

Michigan really helped themselves with Johnson, who has relatives nearby. Floyd is a longshot and could end up at Notre Dame. Dowtin, Smith and Koger are all seriously considering Michigan but none of them are locks.


The Bad

Thus far, there have been no rising senior verbals. It must also be disconcerting that prospects such as Rocko Khoury and Kevin Zeitler did not commit immediately and are considering Michigan State and Wisconsin, respectively. In the old days, Michigan would have locked up on these kids early.

I’ve heard from three separate sources that Michigan has fallen behind Notre Dame in the Jonathan Baldwin sweepstakes. This is the first bit or REAL bad news in the recruiting front this year. The other prospects Notre Dame has beaten U-M out for this year are all solid kids, but none are the difference-maker type of prospects that Baldwin is. Wolverine fans won’t be able to spin this one away should Baldwin go Irish.

Tyler Hoover to Michigan State. When is the last time Michigan State beat out Michigan for an in-stater that both schools offered. OK, so a lot of people aren’t enamored with Hoover as a DE, and the name Pat Massey is often heard in the conversation. Nevertheless, Hoover is a tall, rangy and athletic DE/TE/OT who I think could make an outstanding OT down the road. A loss, albeit not huge, for Michigan, but a huge get for MSU. These things are relative, after all.

The feeling that Michigan State could really make a big push when it comes to in-state recruiting. Michigan may have waited too long to offer Jones Gray, and with teammate Kenny Demens not yet sporting a Wolverine offer, I would not be surprised to see both verbal to the Spartans sooner rather than later. The longer this thing plays out the better for Michigan. I also think Michigan has a battle on their hands with Michigan State for both Fred Smith and Nick Perry. Michigan State just seems to be showing the in-staters a lot more love than the Wolverines. Perhaps this is because these are the biggest fish that Mark D’Antonio and company have to fry while Lloyd Carr and crew have a smorgasbord of blue-chippers to recruit and choose from.


Biggest camp disappointments:

None of the in-state quarterbacks (Mifsud, Lum, Follett, Krauss, Kay) emerged as an offer candidate.

People were waiting to see how Mike Hart’s cousin, Anton Harris, who was a star for Bitburg High in Germany, would do. Hes a hard-nosed runner like his cousin but didn’t show the speed to be a top flight recruit.

A lot of people were eager to see how small school in-state OT Zac Hueter would perform. He looks to be MAC-bound.

Was New York LB/RB Latavius Murray a now-show. Hes from Mike Hart’S school and could have earned himself an offer with a good camp performance.

Detroit CB Anthony Hollis was another no-show that puzzled people.

Yet another CB who failed to show was Illinois DB Tommie Thomas.

Pennsylvania WR/DB Vaughn Carraway was another no-show, albeit it one with an offer. Has his love affair with Michigan cooled?


The Ugly


One of the things that has really worried me in recent years has been our recruitment of the “Big Uglies”: the offensive linemen. In the past several years we have only landed a couple of consensus first or second team all-american recruits at that position: Steve Schilling and Justin Boren. And we almost lost Boren, a U-M legacy, to Ohio State because we waited so long in tendering an offer. Jake Long is a great talent and coming out of high school I REALLY liked him (as did a few other astute followers of U-M recruiting), but he was not a consensus national top 100 prospect.

I remember a few months ago when Dan O’Neill committed to U-M and Lloyd Carr told him that he would be part of the best OL class in the nation. Well, that is not necessarily happening. Sure, Kurt Wermers and Elliott Mealer are solid prospects, but they are not super elite linemen. Neither are new offerees Kevin Zeitler and Rocko Khoury. It should tell you something that Mealer failed to receive an Ohio State offer and we are battling Michigan State for Rocko and Wisconsin for Zeitler. Solid prospects, but not the supers we need to compete with the USCs, Ohio State’s and Florida’s of the world.

Here is how I have the linemen/prospective linemen ranked for Michigan as compared to our competitors (cumulative OL rankings, not divided between center, tackle, guard):

Michigan

17 Dan O’Neill

25 Zebrie Sanders

45 Kurt Wermers

48 Elliott Mealer

60 Rocko Khoury

62 Kevin Zeitler


Ohio State

5 Michael Brewster

6 Mike Adams

13 J.B. Shugarts


USC

1 Tyron Smith

3 Matt Kalil

33 Matt Meyer


Nebraska

10 Baker Steinkuhler

16 Trevor Robinson

28 Bryce Givens

31 Dan Hoch


Notre Dame

30 Lane Clelland

50 Braxston Cave

54 Mike Golic


As you can see, USC has managed to receive verbals from two offensive linemen in the past few months who are more highly rated that ANYBODY Michigan has signed at the position in, say, over ten years. Ohio State is on the verge of putting together an offensive line class for the ages. Nebraska’s class is also stronger and includes several kids they beat U-M out for. Currently, Michigan’s class is only slightly better than Notre Dame’s, and that’s simply because of O’Neill and the fact that Notre Dame already has a ton of Offensive line prospects on campus.

The offensive line class that Michigan is putting together this year reminds me quite a bit, both in terms of numbers and talent level, of the 2005 freshman class of Justin Schifano, Mark Ortmann, Cory Zirbel, Dave Moosman and Tim McAvoy. Schifano had a national ranking similar to O’Neill’s while all the others were more or less middling prospecst who were not national elite top 20 linemen. Entering their third year in the program perhaps one, likely Ortmann, will be a starter, and that is probably due to the fact that Schilling has missed so much time due to injury. Lots of road-graders who are fine agaist the likes of Indiana, Minnesota and even Michigan State, but have a tough time holding up against the athletic defenders at programs like USC. The proof is in the pudding.

It’s interesting to note that U-M has had very little success in recruiting both offensive linemen and the state of Illinois since Andy Moeller has been responsible for both at Michigan.

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