The crisp air. Tailgating. Sweaters and jeans. Family and friends. Why is it that football and Fall go together like coffee and cream? Why is this a feeling that you just can't quantify? And why does it matter so much to so many people? I can only begin to take a stab at this, as it seems to be one of those things in life that you just leave alone and enjoy in the moment. You know it when it is here. You can feel it. I felt it today when I walked outside. The excitement wells up inside you all summer long. The reprieve from the scorching hot month of August when you actually begin to long for cooler weather. September gives you small signs here and there. But it is really not until mid October that you get that first actual taste. That smell of burning leaves on a bonfire. The look your dog gives you when she finally finds the bone in the pile of leaves and runs back to you, feeling more accomplished than usual. The sound of the band playing on a friday night combing over the neighborhood like a Lake Michigan high tide. These are the things that draw us together, bring us a human element of common ground, of passion, and pride.
Passion - "Any powerful or compelling emotion or feeling, such as love or hate."
From my personal experience, it means just as much as almost anything else. One of my earliest memories involving the sport was seeing those out-of-reach mini helmets on a shelf in my basement, tempting and fascinating me. Why were they so colorful, and held in such high regard? What gave them the right, to sit up on that lofty perch so I couldn't attempt to put them on my sister's dolls and have an all-out brawl? These wonders would come more into focus in the following years of my life. The experiences going to my brother's football games showed me exactly how important it was. He and his friends were like gods to me, and it mostly had to do with the sports they were involved with. In seventh grade I picked football up, and immediately got to the root of why it is so meaningful. It is not something there is a word for, it is simply something you have to experience. It is the comradery you feel with your brothers in battle. The pride you have walking down the hall with your jersey on during homecoming week. Being a part of something bigger than yourself. Not to mention, the outlet where you could actually, fully, legally hit someone. It got to the point where I never felt more comfortable in any aspect of life than when I had a football in my hands. To an extent, that remains true to this day. The sport taught me to lead, to strive for things in life, and the unique power of working with others in a collective unit. It's where I go when a rough patch comes up. I think back to how it feels when you are out of breath, choking on cold air, and somehow you find it in you to keep going, to keep running. Everything is going to turn out okay. Those who have experienced it know what I mean. It's untouchable.
Comradery - "The spirit of friendship and community in a group, like the comradery of soldiers at war who keep each other upbeat despite the difficulty of their circumstances."
Saturday afternoons. Those were the Fall days growing up where the house would fill with uncles, cousins and friends. Everyone brings a dish and their favorite beverage, and you help man the grill while tossing around the pigskin with your dad. The red in the leaves inspires you, fills your heart with anxious excitement, to head inside and catch the kickoff. Michigan football was at the center of it all for us. It brought us together, and stories came along with that. Whether that be stories of teams past, of your memories playing the sport, or simply of something that happened at work or school last week, it got us together and it got us talking. Occasionally, we would head to Ann Arbor and tailgate at the Chiropractor's parking lot prior to heading in. The same things would happen here, except there were way more people. You cheer, do the wave, and high five your neighbor who seems like a longtime friend even though you never even met. You try to say something to your dad but it is often too raucous to hear, so you just shrug it off and forget about it. You smile anyway, knowing there is no place you'd rather be. You forget your worries of the week. Meanwhile, things get testy on the field. The clash of maize and blue with green and white, or scarlet and gray strikes you. State pride on the line, and bragging rights for the foreseeable future. The crack of pads matches the crack of the air against your face. You feel the moment, you take it in, and for those 3 or 4 hours, you own it. This is as close as I can get to it. It's special.
Two years ago, Michigan fans thought they had found their next great running back in the form of Derrick Green. Green was the number one rated running back on rivals.com in 2013 and the number 8 player in the country. Thus far at UofM Green has not lived up to his huge hype. In two years he has only made 7 starts for the Wolverines and has rushed for a total of 741 yards and only 5 touchdowns. These stats are uncharacteristic for such a highly rated recruit. The thing that has puzzled me the most so far about Green isn’t his lack of production it is his lack of toughness. Green, sizing up at 5’11 234lbs, tries to run at times like a shifty break away back when he lacks the skills to do so. He needs run between the tackles with more regularity, and that is where his toughness lacks. In both 2013 and 2014, Green seemed to shy away from hits and did not run well in the trenches. If he wants to play significantly under Jim Harbaugh, his style of play has to change. Green has to learn how to use his size and learn how to hit holes and break tackles. If he doesn’t learn how to do that, this top recruit could end up to be a huge bust.
Don’t count Green out yet though; under a relaxed Hoke coaching staff I could see why players would not have developed much of a mean streak. Under Harbaugh that intensity and “toughness” will be imbedded into these players’ heads. So far everything I hear coming out of spring camp is that Harbaugh is running intense/coachable practices and that Green is looking good. So hopefully that intensity in the spring will roll over to the fall and turn regular old Derrick Green into MEAN Derrick Green!
With Jim Harbaugh comes a great quarterback. That is what we have all assumed and expect right off the bat. While Jim is considered one of the best in the 'biz at developing the position, it is still going to be the work of a football coach, not a magician. So what are the realistic expectations for the quarterback position in 2015? Let's break down each player and see what we can gather!
Note: John O'Korn will be redshirting this year and thus will not be profiled.
The Case For: Shane Morris
Sugar Shane returns as the only quarterback on the roster with any playing experience, after the departure of Devin Gardner and Russell Bellomy. The southpaw out of local high school Warren DeLaSalle was coveted as a recruit, at one time ranked as the #1 pro-style QB in the nation. He has since had to grow up fast, having his redshirt burned in the first game of his freshman year, and enters his Junior season prepared to work with his third offensive coordinator in as many years. Morris has started two games in his career: against Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl as a Freshman, and against Minnesota as a Sophomore. Both resulted in bad losses for Michigan and Shane played a key role in both blunders. He didn't look horrible against Kansas State, and received the benefit of the doubt seeing as he was a Freshman. Appearances in his Sophomore campaign were taken under the microscope a bit more, and revealed a troubling statistical trend: Morris throws far too many incompletions, and it wasn't getting any better. He is 43 for 87 career, putting him at 49%, and has ZERO touchdowns to go along with five interceptions. Now, let's not forget, this kid is still at least relatively inexperienced, and losing out on a redshirt year really hurt his development. Under the new staff, he needs to show EARLY that he is ready and willing to learn the new offense and step up as a leader amongst the quarterbacks. If he does this, and is morphed quickly into the kind of guy Harbaugh, Drevno and Fisch want running this offense, then he should have the upper hand in being your starter for game one at Utah. A game manager is not what this staff is looking for, either. There is potential still locked away in Morris, and I believe he could be a solid quarterback still. He possesses a strong arm and has the pocket presence it would appear, but he needs to first prove that he has the confidence and desire to be the starter amongst this young group, and second show the coachability to adapt and excel in the new offense.
Best Case: Shows leadership and improvement, starts the whole season from Utah through the bowl game.
Worst Case: Continues to struggle finding receivers and is a backup option all year.
The Case For: Wilton Speight
This brings us all the way to the QBs who have yet to appear in a game.. which is.... well, everyone besides Morris. Speight is the only other quarterback who was on the roster last season. An east coast kid, having attended The Collegiate School in Richmond, Virginia, Speight was Michigan's only QB commit in the 2014 class. His film unveils a relatively raw, tall drink of water with a strong arm and high release. Tons of potential here. He got a redshirt in his Freshman season, and by all accounts, took full advantage of that opportunity, improving his mechanics and getting in the weight room. The previous staff noted his desire to improve and learn the offense, a welcome addition to any stable of quarterbacks. Now ready to see the field in 2015, Speight brings a lot of height to the table under center, and a solid arm. Listed at 6'6" 235lbs., he shouldn't have much trouble seeing open receivers up the middle. It'll be interesting to see how much Speight measures up to Morris in the leadership department, as I'm sure the two will be the starters of their respective teams in the Spring game. That fact alone should go miles in determining the top guy for this season. Speight is a quiet and relaxed guy by nature, and so its hard to read into how much he wants the spot. Assuming he does just as much as Morris, you would have to think that a new staff coming in plays in his favor, starting from scratch in their evaluations and not dwelling as much on playing experience. They will have to like Speight's big, wide frame as well, adding another point here. Based on what we have seen in this young quarterback's high school film, coupled with a year of development under his belt and the new staff, there is no reason not to think that Speight is essentially neck-and-neck with Morris in the battle for the starting job.
Best Case: His football IQ is on par with his size, and the staff likes him enough to give him the start in Game 1.
Worst Case: He is confused with the offense, and can't lead the players in the way the staff hoped, is a backup version of Gentry minus the speed.
The Case For: Alex Malzone
Malzone comes in with a foot in the door, having been a Hoke commit and early enrollee. He does not have the experience that Speight has, but has a leg up on Gentry, already being involved in daily operations while Gentry won't arrive until the Fall. Coming from Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice, Malzone is another Michigan Catholic League school quarterback to go along with Morris. What he brings to the table is a passion for Michigan football, as displayed by his early and decisive commitment, shutting out all other schools thereafter, and statements he has made saying how Michigan has always been his dream school. His listed size is 6'2" 205lbs., not overwhelming by any means, but tolerable for a quarterback with his skill set. Malzone throws a tight spiral, and gets the ball out of his hand on time, just after hitting his last step in the drop. He has a tremendous sense of awareness and balance, knowing where receivers are without staring them down, and never throwing off of his back foot. Watching his film, you get the sense that he is a perfectionist, and probably throws routes vs. air a ton in practice so that it is mindless in the games. My colleague and contributor to this site, Alex Sweet, dubbed him "the Bulldog of Birmingham", due to the grittiness he displays in the way he plays the game, and confidence to boot. If Malzone can impress on these coaches enough, DON'T BE SHOCKED if he plays... a lot. Everything that you see in Malzone screams desire, which is just what Jim wants to see in his quarterback.
Best Case: Carries his confidence into the Spring, plays with the consistency he showed in high school, takes Michigan to the Rose Bowl as a Freshman (if only).
Worst Case: His size works against him, and Jim prefers the guy that he handpicked.
The Case For: Zach Gentry
Gentry was Harbaugh's biggest get in his three-week recruiting escapade upon being named the "savior of us all." It seemed that Jim came sweeping through the desert like Zorro and swiped Gentry right from Texas' mighty clutches (mwahaha). In all seriousness, scooping up Zach Gentry was a tremendous addition to the class, adding interesting competition to the four-horse race. This kid is impressive physically. Listed as either 6'7" or 6'8" on the recruiting sites, and between 230 and 240lbs, he is definitely no termite. Gentry is going to serve as Jim's favorite toy, an "experiment" if you will. Coming out of Eldorado High School in Albuquerque, New Mexico, hardly a football hotbed, Gentry has a lot to prove. He was listed as the 4th ranked quarterback by Rivals, probably mostly on potential alone. His stats were very impressive, but that is probably due in large part to the lowly competition he faced. His film shows a kid who is deceptively athletic despite his giant size, just as capable of running for 15 yards up the middle as he is throwing downfield for 30. Has a tendency for throwing off of that back foot, though, which I can assure you WILL be addressed. The case-in-point here, is that Gentry could potentially be Ben Roethlisberger, Jamarcus Russell, or could even wind up as a pass-catching tight end someday. Let's just say that unless this kid has the mental capacity of Wernher Von Braun, I hope he is redshirted and gets the chance to develop. I LOVE the upside here, and yes, there is always a chance that since this is Jim's hand picked guy, he could play and even start this season.
Best Case: Develops into a throwing machine by Fall, is too good to not put on the field, and becomes a dynamic dual-threat with a killer deep ball.
Worst Case: Jim's playbook looks like its written in Japanese, puts on some weight and lines up next to Ian Bunting in practice.
Former University of Houston quarterback John O'Korn has announced via his twitter account that he is transferring to Michigan. O'Korn had just finished his sophomore season at Houston, when multiple coaching and philosophy changes prompted him to make a change. He decided to come join Jim Harbaugh and Jedd Fisch at Michigan, as he felt the two of them provided him with the best opportunity to help bring out his full potential. He will need to sit out the upcoming season, but will be a redshirt Junior in 2016, and should have a solid grasp on the offense after a full season of practice and study.
O'Korn has had a wild ride ever since his recruitment began. He grew up in Pittsburgh, but moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida to attend the national high school football powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas for his varsity ball. He came to Houston as a 6'4" 220lb 3-star recruit (acc. to Rivals) and was thrust into a starting role very early in his true Freshman season. He learned on the fly, and developed into an above-average passer in the fast-paced Cougar offense, throwing for 3,117 yards and 28 TDs, good enough for AAC Freshman of the Year honors. The next season, Houston OC Doug Meachem left for TCU and O'Korn struggled to adapt to the new offense, eventually losing playing time. Head coach Tony Levine was fired at the end of the year, and O'Korn decided it was time to make a move himself. He will be a welcome addition to the piping-hot QB battle that Michigan now finds itself in.
Wayne Lyons has decided that he will indeed follow his mother Gwendolyn Bush, Michigan's new Director of Player Development, to Michigan as a grad student transfer. Lyons, a Harbaugh recruit and signee in his last year at Stanford, has enjoyed a successful four seasons with the Cardinal, starting parts of his Sophomore year and all of the last two seasons at cornerback. He will be able to play this year, due to being a grad transfer, similar to what Russell Wilson did at Wisconsin in 2012.
Adding Wayne Lyons to an already loaded secondary will surely help bolster depth at the position for 2015. A projected starting group of Jourdan Lewis and Wayne Lyons at the corners, backended by Jabrill Peppers and Jarrod Wilson at safeties, should be what is on the mind of secondary coaches Greg Jackson and Mike Zordich. This allows the veteran Blake Countess to play on the slot receivers in the nickel and dime packages, and will permit him to move to the outside whenever needed. Adding a player of Lyons' experience is a great bonus for the staff in its inaugural season. He was a productive corner at Stanford, tallying 113 tackles and 3 INTs in his career. His mother will be an asset to the program as well, especially in recruiting Florida. She is very highly respected in the AAU 7-on-7 circuits, having served as "team mom" of the South Florida Express, the team that produced quarterbacks Geno Smith and Teddy Bridgewater, as well as her son, and others.
Addition and Attrition at the Forefront
Anytime there is a head coaching change, there is an expectation of roster upheaval, with players both coming in and departing from the program. With the nearly complete staff overturn and perceived change in mentality, Michigan is currently a program that is not to be excluded from these types of things happening. We have already seen examples of both, with the departures of LB Michael Ferns, OT Kyle Bosch and QB Russell Bellomy, and the additions of O'Korn and Lyons. Expect to see a few more, of both examples, before we kick off on the evening of Sept. 3rd in Salt Lake City. Players coming into the program obviously are a benefit, but players leaving can be either a blessing or a curse. Departures can cause depth issues and put a negative picture of your staff on display for recruits, but on the other hand, can open up spots for more scholarships and opportunities for hungry underclassmen. One thing is certain, Michigan will be experiencing more of this before all is said and done, as it is an exciting yet changing time for the Leaders and Best.
The annual signing day has come and passed, and Michigan has received letters of intent from 14 student athletes. Harbaugh's first class is a relatively small one, but that is mainly due to attrition rates being low this year with many returning scholarship players. The group that he did manage to put together, in only three weeks, is a pretty solid one and addresses both immediate and future needs. Here is a rundown of the members of the 2015 class, with a description, photograph and highlight link for each (rankings are according to Rivals).
WR Brian Cole (Saginaw, MI/Heritage) 6'2" 190lbs. 4*
The athletic Cole was one of the top rated signings in this class, Rivals #4 athlete and #101 ranked player. He was a Hoke commit who held over for the Harbaugh regime and enrolled early along with quarterback Alex Malzone, his current roommate. Cole was recruited as an athlete, but by all accounts will most likely play receiver due to only signing one other player at that position in this class. Look for him to be a playmaker wherever he lines up, whether on the outside offensively as a speedy deep threat or as a lockdown corner in the future.
Brian Cole Senior Highlights
QB Zach Gentry (Albuquerque, NM/Eldorado) 6'6" 230lbs. 4*
Gentry was the first and probably biggest surprise of this class, as the former Texas commit decided to come to Michigan after a late visit from Harbaugh. One of two quarterbacks in this class, both 4-stars, Gentry is by far the taller of the two, and has shown the ability to be mobile both inside and outside of the pocket. He possesses a strong arm but is raw and needs to work on not throwing off of his back foot so much. Look for him to be right in the mix for the quarterback position this year and into the future.
Zach Gentry Senior Highlights
RB Karan Higdon (Sarasota, FL/Riverview) 5'10" 190lbs. 3*
Higdon was committed to Iowa, but took an official visit to Michigan on the weekend of January 30th and never looked back. He flipped from Iowa on signing day, but said that he knew that's what he was going to do immediately after he got home from Ann Arbor. A shifty runner with incredibly quick feet, he utilizes his juking and cutting abilities to evade defenders with vigor. Fun to watch, and with Wheatley as his position coach in college, he should blossom into a productive back for Michigan.
Karan Higdon Senior Highlights
DE Shelton Johnson (Delray Beach, FL/Atlantic) 6'5" 225lbs. 3*
One of the biggest surprises of signing day, Johnson took an official visit to Michigan on the weekend of January 16th, and left with good albeit non-revealing reviews. He was thought to be sticking with one of the in-state powers, Florida State or Miami, or possibly Virginia Tech, with Michigan a distant fourth. This all changed on the eve of signing day, when reports began to connect Johnson back with Michigan. He is a raw athlete who has tremendous upside and feet, and just needs to work on pass rushing technique and size/strength to be a truly special defensive end.
Shelton Johnson Senior Highlights
DE Reuben Jones (Lakeland, FL/Lake Gibson) 6'4" 225lbs. 3*
Jones was formerly a Nebraska commit, who flipped to Michigan. He was Harbaugh's first pledge, and did so while on his official visit the weekend of January 23rd. He is a hybrid type, with a relentless motor, never giving up on plays. He could stand up on the line as a pass rusher in the 3-4, play as a true defensive end, or even line up at outside linebacker. With the passion he displays on the field, Jones is the breed of player Michigan wants right now for either side of the ball.
Reuben Jones Senior Highlights
S Tyree Kinnel (Huber Heights, OH/Wayne) 5'11" 200lbs. 4*
One of the original Hoke commits, Kinnel was a Michigan pledge for almost a year when Harbaugh and company came into the fold. A classic, instinctive safety who can quarterback the defense and fly in to make tackles with his swift athleticism. Has enough speed to cover deep passes and is physical with tight ends up the slot. Has tremendous hips and pivots fast to aid in run support once identified. A real get from the state of Ohio.
Tyree Kinnel Senior Highlights
QB Alex Malzone (Bloomfield Hills, MI/Brother Rice) 6'2" 205lbs. 4*
Malzone pledged to Michigan immediately when he was offered in the early summer. That alone shows how much he loves to be a Wolverine and wants to be the next great signal caller here. He never jumped ship after the Hoke firing and didn't waver one bit upon Harbaugh's arrival nor the signing of Gentry. A classic dropback passer, Malzone has great accuracy and puts decent zip on the ball. Always seems to throw a tight spiral, and not afraid to go deep. Will battle for snaps with Morris, Speight and Gentry this Spring and into the Fall.
Alex Malzone Senior Highlights
OT Grant Newsome (Trenton, NJ/Lawrenceville) 6'7" 280lbs. 4*
Newsome also was a Hoke commit who stuck the waiting game out. He pledged over the summer, and was maize and blue all the way. A giant of a man, Newsome could be an ideal fit at either tackle spot, and has the prototypical skill set to excel on the offensive line. He is already tall enough to be a force, and has solid feet. As with any young offensive lineman, he will need to work on his pass blocking and add some strength in the weight room. Do that and you're looking at a Big Ten offensive tackle.
Grant Newsome Senior Highlights
WR Grant Perry (Bloomfield Hills, MI/Brother Rice) 6'0" 185lbs. 3*
An in-state star that Harbaugh was able to flip from Northwestern, Perry is an all-around solid football player. He works hard off the line and uses quick feet in and out of his routes. A tremendous blocker whether on the outside or in the slot. Extends his hands when catching the ball. All the things you look for in a possession wide receiver, Perry displays. Potentially a perfect fit as a slot guy in the passing game down the road. He also returned punts in high school and showed a knack for getting downfield and never moving east and west. Doesn't hurt that he was Malzone's teammate and top target in high school. Gritty football player, tremendous addition.
Grant Perry Senior Highlights
OT Jon Runyan Jr. (Philadelphia, PA/St. Joseph's) 6'4" 275lbs. 3*
One of two Michigan legacy players in this class, Runyan is the son of great Michigan and NFL lineman Jon Runyan. He has the intangibles to be a good player, not missing many assignments and picking up exotic blitzes on film. Though a bit slight in the height department for a tackle, he has the frame and feet for it, but could very well end up at guard if that is where Drevno sees him fitting best. Some footwork improvement, time in the weight room, and practice against college-level talent could reveal that this kid is more than just a legacy player, but an actual force on the line.
Jon Runyan Jr. Senior Highlights
OG Nolan Ulizio (West Chester, OH/Lakota West) 6'5" 293lbs. 2*
You may look at this kid's star rating and ask, why would Harbaugh go after him? Surely there could've been a better option out there? Then you watch his film. Bam, it jumps right off the screen at you. Nolan Ulizio is a relentless force on the football field, with feet that never stop driving, barrelling defenders over with "Enthusiasm Unknown to Mankind" (had to do it). All jokes aside, this former UConn commit that Harbaugh flipped while on his visit can block some people, and does so with tenacity and what appears to be a mean streak, perhaps a chip on his shoulder for the low rating. Perfect guy for Drevno's pulling guard spot, some fine-tuning should have Ulizio as both a fan and coach favorite in due time. I'm calling this one. It has Harbaugh written all over it.
Nolan Ulizio Senior Highlights
CB Keith Washington (Prattville, AL/Prattville) 6'2" 175lbs. 3*
Probably the most unexpected of the signing day shockers, this Alabama athlete and former Cal commit signed his LOI to play some defense at Michigan. He was a dual-threat QB as well as a lockdown CB in high school, and will look to continue that trend at the college level. Very underrated, Washington stays with receivers stride for stride and measures up to them in height. He can hit someone, too, showing that he can shed blocks and is not afraid to come downhill and drive his legs through the tackle. As far as grittiness, he reminds me of the defensive version of Grant Perry in this class. With his height and athleticism, and probable high football IQ seeing as he was a quarterback, don't be surprised if he ends up at safety in the future.. but I love him as a CB.
Keith Washington Senior Highlights
TE Tyrone Wheatley Jr. (Buffalo, NY/Canisius) 6'6" 260lbs. 4*
The other legacy player in this class, Wheatley Jr. decided to join his father, legendary Michigan running back and new RBs coach Tyrone Wheatley, to paint his own picture in maize and blue. This was one that people had their fingers crossed for, as he showed a lot of interest in the likes of Alabama and UCLA down the stretch, but ultimately caused us all to exhale when he chose Michigan. The #1 player in the state of New York, Wheatley Jr. is an impressive kid physically. He has the size to be a great tight end, or even defensive end, at this level. He will contribute efficiently in blocking, given his size and strength. Perhaps his best attribute to couple with his height is his sure hands, which could be a prelude to some jump balls in the back of the end zone at the Big House. Look for the younger Wheatley to make a name for himself here.
Tyrone Wheatley Jr. Senior Highlights
K Andrew David (Massillon, OH/Washington) 5'9" 170lbs. 2*
David was Michigan's first commitment of this class, and stuck to it all the way since 2013. Don't let the star rating fool you, as kickers don't have their own separate rating system, which I think they should, but unfortunately they don't. David is ranked as the 9th best kicker in the country by rivals, to give you a feel for how solid he actually is. He has all the things you look for in a kicker: distance, accuracy and poise. Watch the film to see what I mean.
Andrew David Senior Highlights
He was rated the #4 Pro-Style QB by Rivals, and has shown a knack for making plays with his long legs, similar to Luck. His senior stat line is impressive: 2,978 passing yards, 1,057 rushing yards, and 48 total TD's. He joins the already-enrolled Alex Malzone (Bloomfield Hills, MI/Brother Rice), a 4-star in his own right, and the #11 rated Pro-Style QB, as the incoming freshmen quarterbacks. The old adage "competition breeds success" should be tested with these two under center over the next few years, along with redshirt freshman Wilton Speight, who is also 6'6" and has tremendous upside. Michigan got better today, and the future now looks very bright at the quarterback position.
Zach Gentry Senior Highlights
After what has seemed like an eternity, Jim Harbaugh has gained his first verbal commitment of his Michigan coaching tenure. 3-star DE Reuben Jones (Lakeland, FL/Lake Gibson), formerly a Nebraska commit, decided on his official visit Saturday that he would rather be a Wolverine than a Husker. Jones stands at a generous 6'4" and weighs in at 225lbs. His film and recruiting chatter has unveiled that this kid, though undersized for a defensive end, has a relentless motor and is a natural at shedding blocks and getting to the quarterback. Expect Durkin and Mattison to use him standing up as a rush end, or at outside backer in the 3-4. Its quite possible that we could see him on the field sooner rather than later, as depth at that spot is shallow. Regardless, it is just nice to have that first commitment on the board, and it is a bonus for it to be at the much-needed DE position. Recruiting opened up again just over a week ago, but palms were beginning to sweat as we waited to hear about a commitment amongst all the rumors. Well, have no fear, that day has come, and with it should be a few more before the weekend reaches its conclusion.
Reuben Jones Senior Highlights
From Harbaugh to Brady to Henne, Michigan has been a hotbed for producing NFL-ready pocket passing quarterbacks. The recent lull in the wins department and the temporary switch to a spread offense has put a damper on that reputation. With Jim Harbaugh now heading up the program, “Quarterback U” should be back.
Perhaps the biggest toss-up for Michigan fans is who will be the 2015 starting quarterback. With only one quarterback on the roster who has starting experience (JR Shane Morris) and one other (RsSR Russell Bellomy) with very minimal playing time, Michigan football looks as if it could be in quite the predicament. And so the question becomes: Who will be the next QB to reclaim Michigan as "Quarterback U"? A possibility could be a young man from Gilmer HS in Gilmer, Texas. His name is McLane Carter, and it has been noted of late that Harbaugh is interested in him and the two parties have been in contact. A few sources have even said that Harbaugh is going to make his way down to Gilmer to see the quarterback work out, throw and meet with him in person.
Carter is an under-the-radar recruit. In fact, he's not even rated on any major recruiting site. He is listed as a dual-threat QB, but when watching his tape, he comes off as a pocket passer who runs only if necessary. Carter is a 6’3", 190lbs. lefty who delivers a very accurate ball. Last year as a senior, Carter posted a stat line of 3,969 passing yards, 47 touchdown passes, a 74% completion percentage, and only 2 interceptions. To put those stats into perspective, Carter has helped produce the second-highest scoring offense in Texas high school football history. More importantly, Carter is a winner, and as a Michigan fan a winner leading the offense is something we need. Last year he led The Gilmer *gasp* Buckeyes (yes…. Gilmer’s mascot is the hairless nut known as the "Buckeye") to a Texas Class 4A Division ll State Championship. After the championship game, Gilmer’s head coach, Jeff Traylor, sang Carter's praises, touching on his great leadership, the tight spiral he puts on his throws and just how much the college coaches are passing up on a jewel by not showing interest. He has the size, mobility, stats and leadership abilities... why this has yet to yield a major college offer is beyond me.
Obviously, Carter holds no current offer from Michigan and who knows, he may never receive one. Maybe coach Harbaugh doesn’t like what he sees out of Carter when he watches him throw. For now though, Carter seems to be a legitimate rising QB on Michigan’s radar. Keep an eye on this hidden Texas gem, he might just surprise everybody and kickstart a new era of "Quarterback U."
McLane Carter senior highlights
With signing day quickly approaching and the Harbaugh regime having the immediate disadvantage of being late in the recruiting game they have been working hard in an attempt to salvage the 2015 recruiting class. Within this process, they have spent much time on a couple of high profile, possible immediate impact players that embody the style of play they want the team and program to adopt. Being from the Bo Schembechler school of football ideology, it only makes sense that Jim is attempting to bring in a high profile tight end to serve as that foundational building block of the class. The staff has been working hard to reassume the commitment of former Michigan commit Chris Clark (Avon, CT/Avon Old Farms) . With the pursuit of the high profile TE, it appears Jim hasn't forgotten that infamous phone call to Bo to inform him of the landing of his first head coaching job, in which Bo quipped back with: "Jimmy, tell me you are going to have a tight end that puts his hand in that ground on every snap." The 6'5" 253lbs. senior was on campus for his official visit this past weekend where he raved about Harbaugh and the coaching staff. He is the #1 rated TE of the class, and could be the catalyst for the offensive scheme that Harbaugh plans to implement involving the prototypical Big Ten tight end anchoring a power run scheme while also having the athleticism to be utilized in the passing game. It is currently between Michigan and Jim Mora Jr.'s UCLA bruins to be the landing spot of the highly coveted "Y".
On the other side of the ball, Harbaugh and recently named Defensive Coordinator D.J. Durkin have been focusing a lot of their recruiting energy on the secondary. One prospect they are targeting specifically is 5-star #1 CB and #3 overall recruit (per rivals) Iman Marshall (Long Beach, CA/Poly). Although believed to be a "long shot", the Wolverines staff has made a late hard push to put the top rated cornerback of the class in the maize and blue for the second year in a row. If accomplished, this could be huge for the defense. With a secondary unit that is returning corners in Jourdan Lewis and Blake Countess and reportedly moving former 5-star recruit Jabrill Peppers to safety, the addition of Marshall could pay dividends in Durkin's early defensive success. With the aggressive nature of Durkin's defenses, the ability to lock up on the outside with a skillfull and athletic secondary is vital. With a secondary that has the ability to matchup with receivers, Durkin will have the flexibility to play games with the linebackers and certain secondary pieces. With questions at the defensive line coming into the year the defense could be one in which its success works from the outside in, with the great coverage of the secondary leading to sacks, negative plays and turnovers. With Jim Harbaugh and staff at the helm, one thing is clear, they will not be outworked. Whether they are able to acquire these two top players in their class or not, one thing has been made abundantly clear, the University of Michigan is now an absolute player in the world of recruiting.
When Iman Marshall heard that Jim Harbaugh would be the new coach at Michigan, his interest immediately peaked. At the Under-Armour All-American game a few weeks back, the 5-star CB from Long Beach, California told Scout.com reporter Doug Kimmel: "Coach Harbaugh going to Michigan is a game changer, obviously, he knows what it takes to get to the highest level. He has changed Stanford and the 49ers around." This was music to the ears of Harbaugh. The 6'2" 195lbs. Marshall is rated as the #1 CB in the country and the #3 overall prospect. He immediately made room in his packed schedule to take an official visit to Michigan, originally expected to be from Sunday 1/18 to Monday 1/19 following a weekend visit to Florida State. However, new Defensive Coordinator D.J. Durkin is believed to have been instrumental in getting Marshall to stay until Tuesday morning and have a complete visit. Time will tell if this pays off and Marshall decides he wants to don the maize and blue. He and the equally talented Jabrill Peppers would be a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks. The hometown USC Trojans appear to be the team to beat here, but Marshall has listed his finalists as USC, UCLA, Michigan, Notre Dame, Oregon, Florida State, and LSU. A link to his highlights is posted below.
Iman Marshall senior highlights
Mike Weber headed back to Michigan?
When Brady Hoke was fired, rising 4-star Detroit Cass Tech RB Mike Weber decommitted and promptly committed to Ohio State. Once Harbaugh was hired, a series of Weber interviews in which he stated he would "give Harbaugh a call" had people convinced that the door had come back open for Michigan. Weber is rumored to be a big fan of new Michigan RB coach Tyrone Wheatley, which could play a role in his return to the 2015 U-M class. Some OSU insiders have begun to think so too, indicating on the 247sports.com team recruiting site "Bucknuts" that sources have said the chances Weber returns to Michigan are "pretty solid". Ohio State also received a commitment from 2016 5-star RB Kareem Walker during the national championship game, which could aid in Weber's decision to return. Weber is 5'10" 205lbs and his 40-yard-dash is listed as 4.47 on Rivals. He would be a big pickup for the new staff. This should be an interesting conundrum to keep an eye on in the coming days and weeks. Below is a link to Weber's highlights.
Mike Weber senior highlights