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Good News on the Way?

Wednesday, April 30, 2008 by Tim

I have received reliable information that there is good recruiting news on the way. In a very good couple of weeks of commitments, this could just add to the great season so far. More information as it becomes available.

(for a hint: see if there have been any prospects' myspace page redesigns lately)

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Fans are done worrying about West Virginia...

by Tim

...but our coaches aren't. On top of Rich Rodriguez's ongoing lawsuit deliberations with West Virginia University, Coach John Beilein is also paying the Mountaineers for his departure to Crisler Arena.

Don't believe me? The Wizard of Odds has some proof (which they got from West By God Virginia, who, presumably got it from the source).

Perhaps interesting to note: The Bank of Ann Arbor, the institution that allows Beilein to write checks for more than a quarter-million dollars, is owned by Michigan Athletic Director Bill Martin.

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Rich Rodriguez on The Herd

by Tim

Coach Rod was a guest on The Herd on ESPN radio today yesterday (sorry, more important things came up yesterday to post about it then). Colin asked him the general questions you'd expect from someone who doesn't follow the program all that closely (i.e. respond to Boren comments, what will you do without Pryor, etc), to which the response was generally "I only like to talk about the guys who play for Michigan."

However, Colin did ask him one good question, about why he took the Michigan job when he passed over Alabama's head coaching vacancy just a year earlier. While Rodriguez said he couldn't talk too much about it while his lawsuit was ongoing, he did give one interesting comment.
"Alabama was a super situation. There's a lot of things that went on that I'd like to discuss, but I can't because I'm in the middle of this lawsuit, but the Alabama thing was very tough to turn down. I was happy at the time to stay at West Virginia, then things happened."
This definitely gives credence to the theory that Rodriguez was looking to get out of Morgantown, wherever he ended up, rather than wanting to go to Michigan while not considering what it would mean to West Virginia. He doesn't know when the lawsuit will be wrapped up but (obviously) hopes it wraps up soon.

Herd was very complimentary to Michigan, though he obviously was never a fan of Lloyd Carr. Nice to hear that the grudge against the program has ended. He also likes the way Michigan has scheduled in the past (with Notre Dame, Oregon, etc.), and hopes to see that continue. Rodriguez noted that the difficulty lies in getting people to come without promise of a return visit. Cowherd also told WVU to get over their Rodriguez grudge: he brought a "joke" program to prominence, and now they hate him for it.

Also, the word of the day was "tickled." I am not joking. Here's the full audio.

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Shavodrick Beaver Goes Blue

Tuesday, April 29, 2008 by Tim

Though many believed Kevin Newsome would be the only top-flight quarterback in Michigan's class of 2009, improbably-named Texas QB Shavodrick Beaver has also committed to Michigan (Scout). Beaver (6-4, 200, 4.5), unlike Newsome, is not expected to enroll early.

Player Notes
Beaver is a run-pass quarterback, with a very good TD-Int ratio for a player with that distinction, especially at the high school level. As the second quarterback in this class, it will not be a surprise if he redshirts in 2009.

Recruiting Notes
Beaver was off the recruiting radar for Michigan fans for quite some time, despite his status as a highly rated dual-threat QB. Beaver wasn't thinking much about Michigan either, as he was prepared to commit to TCU when his Michigan offer came. He quickly reconsidered, and Michigan moved among his top choices, sending TCU fans into a tizzy. After indications that a quarterback could commit this week, many Michigan fans were thinking it would be Tate Forcier yesterday. However, Beaver committed today instead.

It will be interesting to see what Beaver's commitment means for Tate Forcier. Tate has said that Beaver would not scare him off from committing to Michigan, though he doesn't plan to commit until a little later in the process. However, if Tate were to go blue as well, that may frighten Beaver into changing his commitment.

More on Beaver as it happens.

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What's the Deal with Barwis?

by Tim

A lot of Michigan fans are wondering why everyone is talking about new Director of Strength and Conditioning Mike Barwis. There was never much discussion about the old guy, Mike Gittleson (except of the "ARGHHHHH GITTLESON I HATE YOU" nature), so why is Barwis on everyone's mind all the time? Obviously he is a great S&C guy, but what makes him this way, and even still, what is so different about Barwis that it makes him a pseudo-celebrity, when I have never heard the name of a single other S&C coach in the country?

First, Barwis is a very good Strength Coach. He has unique workouts that focus on the core of the body, and are designed to help football players. While other gurus might train in ways that make guys bigger simply for the sake of having more size, or faster just to be able to run a better 40-yard dash time, Barwis designs his drills after football-specific movements, to make his guys better football players, rather than better weightlifters (or sprinters). Barwis takes a very scientific approach to everything he does, and won't do a workout if he can't explain the reason for it scientifically.

Another aspect of Barwis's coaching that is noteworthy (at least to Michigan fans) is the fact that he holds every player accountable for their workouts, both in and out of season. If a player is too injured to work out, he is on the bike, or seeing the trainer, or doing something else to help him become a better football player. Under the old S&C staff, if a guy was hurt, he simply didn't show up at Schembechler Hall for his scheduled workout. The offseason workouts are still nominally voluntary, but as Coach Rodriguez says, "so is their playing time."

The results speak to Barwis's prowess as a Strength Coach. West Virginia has been one of the most successful teams in the country over the past four years, despite not reeling in top recruiting classes. Thanks to a great conditioning program, the Mountaineers have been able to run other teams ragged, and outwork them over the course of four quarters to get a victory. For Michigan fans who say that the results for the Wolverines wouldn't have been different with better conditioning (and that in-game coaching is instead more important), I point to the 2006 Rose Bowl, when the O-line was clearly out of shape, and the first two and last one game(s) of 2007, where the team was clearly not in game shape. They would have beaten App State, and at least not embarrassed themselves against Oregon and Ohio State. As further evidence, look at Ryan Mundy. He was forced out at Michigan because he wasn't any good, and in the course of one year, Barwis turned him into an NFL draft pick.

The main reason Barwis has garnered so much fame, becoming a celebrity more than any other S&C Coach, is his personality. The guy is engaging and intense, as many interviews with him display. His players love coming to his workouts despite the difficulty, visiting recruits consistently say that he made them want to start working out then and there, and reporters are taken aback by his gravelly voice and intense demeanor. The famous video of Barwis giving a pregame speech to the Mountaineers before this year's Fiesta Bowl (Thanks to commenter Max for furnishing a link and clarifying that it was actually the previous year's bowl game) speaks volumes. Not only is the strength coach giving a pregame speech, it pumps the team up in a way that nothing else could, and is a perfect capsule of his motivational power.

When Rich Rodriguez came to Ann Arbor, many were excited for his unconventional offense and recent track record of success. Many were unaware that he would also be bringing along one of the best Strength Coaches in the country, and perhaps the man that is one of the biggest keys to his success. Barwis and Rodriguez seem to be linked for the long-term:
I was coming to work for Coach Rodriguez. He is a good friend and a tremendous coach. He is the one guy in the country that I really want to work for. Regardless of the situation, I want to work for Coach Rodriguez as long as he'll have me. He's my head coach. I have the utmost respect for him.
Michigan fans hope that the tandem can combine to bring the success they had in Morgantown to Ann Arbor.

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Quarterbacks

Monday, April 28, 2008 by Tim

In case you were worried about Kevin Newsome's speed, check out this video of his 4x100 team winning the large school division at the Penn Relays.

Newsome is the anchor leg in lane 2(? second from nearest at the finish line, the guy who wins). He brings his team the victory.

Also, according to Sam Webb on today's edition of the Michigan Insider on WTKA, there may be other good QB news this week. Tate Forcier or Shavodrick Beaver may announce for Michigan this week.

Thanks to frequent commenter RJ for the tip.

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Recruiting Update 4-28-08

by Tim

The Board.

New Information:
AZ DE Craig Roh will visit Michigan this summer.
VA QB Kevin Newsome participated (well) in the Penn Relays.
PA OT Eric Shrive. He has a Nebraska offer, and now one of his teammates will be a Husker.
Article on various prospects including Morgan Newton, Stephon Gilmore, and Quinton Washington.

Not a lot of action this week. Players that I haven't seen anything about lately (in terms of link to Michigan) may on the cusp of getting dropped (a couple of the quarterbacks, maybe a running back or two, probably safety).

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Wolverines Drafted

by Tim

Jake Long, #1 overall, Miami
Already knew he was going here, so there is no surprise. Well-deserving of the top spot. A future all-pro.

Chad Henne, #57 overall, Miami

Dropped a little further than I thought he would, especially after Matt Ryan went #3 overall (because the Falcons want to continue to suck). Henne was behind Joe Flacco and Brian Brohm, and he will probably end up the better pro than Brohm (and Ryan, for that matter) with Flacco being a little more of a mystery because of his lack of exposure while still having some pretty good skills. Henne will challenge to be a starter in Miami, especially with a new coach.

Shawn Crable, #78 overall

Good spot for Crable to go, and hopefully his freaky stud freak-ness can carry him to great success in the NFL. The Patriots are a perennial contender, and with their linebacking corps aging, Crable could be a contributor within a couple years (along with fellow former Wolverine Pierre Woods).

Mario Manningham, #95 overall
There is no way in hell that Manningham was the 14th best wideout in the draft, but he definitely earned his positioning with his actions since his junior season ended. He will end up being a better pro than half the guys drafted ahead of him. And what the hell is with the Rams picking some guy nobody has ever heard of as the first WR off the board?

Mike Hart, #202 overall
Hart fell way furhter than he should have. He is a very similar player to Ray Rice, except better in every single way (aside from perhaps being injury-prone). ESPN agreed for most of the day, as the "experts" were dumbfounded that he was still on the board time and again. However, he was able to go to a team that will be able to ease him into the rotation, and he will probably contribute down the road (even if it's just to impeccably pass-block for Peyton Manning).

Adrian Arrington, #237 overall

Arrington was dangerously close to being Mr. Irrelevant, and he has probably realized that he made a huge mistake in coming out early. He probably would have been better served with one more year in maize and blue, proving that he could be "the guy." He was very underrated for all of the past two years, and his performance in the florida game is closer to what I expect to see from him.

Undrafted
Jamar Adams, SS: I'm surprised he didn't end up going in the later rounds.
Chris Graham, LB: His size and ability to play in space held him back. He might make a team as a free agent (primarily for special teams).
Adam Kraus, OG: Hopefully the era of underachieving linemen will come to an end.

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The Basics of the Zone-Read Play

Sunday, April 27, 2008 by Tim

Since Michigan's offense will call the zone-read option its bread-and-butter play for the next few years, fans are probably interested in how the play works. Slightly more interesting than "run left," I assure you.

Most important to the smooth operation of the zone-read is not a quarterback who is blazing fast, but a signal caller who can make the right decision with the ball, and can at least do a little damage with his feet.

The play operates out of the shotgun, with either one back to the QB's side or one split to either side of him. The running back for whom the play is called will start lined up on what will eventually be the backside of the play, since he crosses in front of the quarterback (this is not always the case in RR's offense, but for the sake of the basic play, we will start with that). The offensive line will block down to the playside, leaving the backside defensive end unblocked. This is the player that the QB will read (hence the name "zone-read").

The quarterback takes the snap, and the running back crosses in front of him. The QB puts the ball in his stomach, but does not hand it off. This is called the "mesh point" where either the QB or the running back can end up with the ball. It is at this point that the quarterback must be able to make a good decision with the ball, and read the defensive end. If the defensive end stays at home and holds contain, the quarterback simply hands off the ball to the RB. The offensive line is expected to outnumber the defenders, and block everyone for a good gain (or excellent depending on execution and the running back's vision).

If the defensive end gets greedy, and decides to try to chase down the running back from behind, the quarterback pulls the ball out from the mesh point, and runs back past the end, and gets a decent gain (if the offensive line blocks well, the QB should be able to get to the second level without facing a defender). The quarterback makes this read if the defensive end turns his shoulders toward the running back, rather than keeping them parallel with the line of scrimmage, as he would if keeping contain.

For those who are visually oriented:


This is obviously the very basic play, so there are lots of other variations on it. For example, backs can be motioned into or out of the backfield, slot receivers can be used as pitchmen, the play can be designed to go towards the direction that the RB is lined up, rather than the opposite direction, etc. The option-pass can also be effective, with the play run the exact same way, but if the DE crashes, the quarterback, instead of trying to gain yards, rolls out for a pass, using the zone-read as a play-action.

If my explanation was confusing (and I hope it wasn't), have Rodriguez explain it to you himself:

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Big Ten 2009 Recruiting Class Rankings 4-25-08

Saturday, April 26, 2008 by Tim

This will become a weekly feature for Saturdays henceforth. If there is no recruiting action during the week, I'll either skip it or do something else informative.

Action since last rankings:
4-5 Northwestern gains commitment from Evan Watkins.
4-18 Michigan gains commitment from Fitzgerald Toussaint.
4-19 Ohio State gains commitment from Darrell Givens.
4-21 Ohio State gains commitment from Jordan Hall and Dorian Bell.
4-24 Michigan gains commitment from Kevin Newsome. Melvin Fellows switches commitment from Illinois to Ohio State.

New Rankings:
#1 Ohio State - 8 commits
DT
*****
Johnny Simon
LB
*****
Dorian Bell
RB
****
Jordan Hall
CB
****
Darrell Givens
WR
****
Chris Fields
CB
****
CJ Barnett
MLB
****
Storm Klein
MLB
****
Jordan Whiting
OT
***
Jack Mewhort
S
***
Jamie Wood
LB
*
Adam Homan
Ohio State has picked up three 4-star players and one 5-star player since the last rankings were given. They have a very strong start to their class. Adam Homan switched from FB to LB, where he will likely (not) play in college.

#2 Michigan - 6 commits
DT
*****
William Campbell
QB
****
Kevin Newsome
CB
****
Justin Turner
S
*
Isaiah Bell
RB
*
Teric Jones
RB
*
Fitzgerald Toussaint
Michigan has continued a fairly strong (though not OSU-ian) start to the recruiting year. Kevin Newsome fills a huge need for the Wolverines, and is the right guy for this system. He will end up a very high 4-star or a 5-star (currently Scout's #41 player (they had 50 5-stars last year), and Rivals's #39 player (they had 30 5-stars last year)), though an early commitment to Michigan typically means death to a player's ranking. Fitzgerald Toussaint is another RB/slot hybrid, with impressive film. High 3 or low 4-star likely.

#2 Michigan State - 6 commits
RB
*****
Edwin Baker
RB
****
Larry Caper
SLB
****
Chris Norman
WR
***
Donald Spencer
DT
*
Blake Treadwell
QB
*
Andrew Maxwell
No movement since the last rankings. Passed by Michigan because the Wolverines' commitments will end more highly ranked, and fill positions of need effectively.

#4 Illinois - 2 commits
DT
****
Lendell Buckner
OT
****
Leon Hill
Losing Melvin Fellows wasn't enough to drop the Illini below a couple teams with fewer commits.

#5 Wisconsin - 3 commits
OG
*
Ryan Groy
DT
*
Jared Kohout
DE
*
Shelby Harris
No movement. Their guys aren't yet ranked, but Wisconsin develops linemen like it's their job (side note: it is, in fact, their job).

#6 Minnesota - 3 commits
QB
***
Moses Alipate
C
*
Ed Olsen
OT
*
Josh Campion
Minnesota is going through a big scheme change, and needs to recruit players to the new system. After a huge (and pretty good) 2008 recruiting class, Minnesota is not off to a fast start in 2009. Once a new batch of rankings come out, they might sneak past Wisconsin.

#7 Penn State - 1 commit
C
*
Ty Howle
JoePa is death to Penn State's ability to recruit.

#8 Northwestern - 1 commit
QB
***
Evan Watkins
A big QB. Curious to see whether he has the quicks to run Northwestern's scheme, which requires some mobility.

T-9th - Indiana, Iowa, Northwestern, Purdue (0 commits)

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Recruiting Update 4-25-08

Friday, April 25, 2008 by Tim

The Board. With the Newsome thing, it will be interesting to see which other QBs continue to be interested in Michigan. One formatting note: committed players are now tacked to the top of their respective positions on the board.

Moved to Committed:
VA QB Kevin Newsome. WOOOOOOOOOOO! Conquering Heroes dug up some factoids on Newsome.

Added:
OK CB Gabe Lynn. He has an offer and is friends with RB prospect David Oku. He is one of the top cover CBs in the nation.
SC DE Sam Montgomery. He reportedly has been offered by UM. A four-star prospect at a position of major need.
GA S Darren Myles. He has a Michigan offer.

New Information:
TX QBs Shavodrick Beaver and Kolby Gray attend an Elite 11 combine.
NC DB Devonte Holloman. Michigan and Clemson are his current top 2.
OH OL Marcus Hall. Top 6: OSU, USC, Ill, Mich, Fla, FlaSt. Currently plans to decide after taking 5 officials.
SC OL Quinton Washington. He is strong. but he may end up staying in South Carolina. Recruiting fluff.

Removed:
PA RB Jordan Hall. Michigan may have wanted him a bit for the slot position, but it is clear they had higher priorities there. His offer may have just been an attempt to get Terrelle Pryor to think harder about attending Michigan.
MS DB David Conner. His listed height and weight have been falling ever since the initial evaluations came out, and it also appears that he won't leave the SEC.

Etc:
For those of you who doubted my reasoning for having a big spring game (I'm lookin' at you, Charles), SI's Andy Staples agrees with me. 2-part interview with Lloyd in the Free Press.

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NFL Draft Prospects: Michigan

by Tim

With 4 of the greatest Wolverines on the offensive side of the ball leaving Michigan to ply their trade in the NFL, and a couple decent defensive prospects, this should be a fairly good draft for Michigan. The Draft can be seen on the sports network of your choosing starting tomorrow at

Jake Long, OT
Long has already signed with the Miami Dolphins and will be the #1 overall pick in the draft. This makes him the 2nd Wolverine taken #1 overall (Tom Harmon in '41), and the highest Michigan player picked since Braylon Edwards in 2004. He will anchor the Dolphins' line from one of the tackle positions. Some experts have said his limited athleticism may make him a better fit at right tackle. His 1 sack allowed and 1 penalty committed in 2007 would be inclined to disagree with that.

Chad Henne, QB
Henne leaves Ann Arbor as one of the most productive QBs in Michigan history. He has been listed as a potential pick anywhere from the mid-to-late first round to the mid-second round. Most analysts peg him as the second or third QB in the draft, behind the massively overrated Matt Ryan. Henne's injuries during the senior campaign may be troubling to some teams, but both were of a freak nature, and he was able to stay injury-free in the previous three years. Latest scuttlebutt is that the Ravens like him at pick #20, though there are also rumors of teams drafting earlier than that who would like to trade to take him with a first-round pick. Either way, it is seeming likely that Henne will end up being taken in the first.

Mike Hart, RB
Hart, for being the alltime leading rusher at a school with plenty of famous running backs (Harmon, Morris, Biakabutuka), is not looked at as a particularly enticing NFL prospect. This is mostly due to his small size and lack of breakaway speed, in addition to some injury trouble during his sophomore and senior years. However, with very good strength, vision, and moves, he will likely end up a contributor on an NFL team, if never a feature back. Who knows? the last guy whose college production wasn't expected to carry into the NFL because of size and speed - Emmitt Smith - ended up as a Hall of Famer. Still, Hart would be a risky pick early, and will probably end up with a late second to early fourth round selection. The team that picks him will not count on Hart to be their feature back, so he would be a less risky pick for them.

Mario Manningham, WR
Manningham had one of the greatest two-year-stretches for a Michigan wideout, despite injury problems his sophomore year and Ryan Mallett his junior year. Manningham opted to try for his money now, before he has to spend another year with a first-time college QB tossing him the rock. In terms of strict talent, Manningham is the best receiver in the draft, though his size is a little on the smallish end. However, the intangibles may hold him back, as he was suspended from Michigan for a game, was seen fighting with quarterbacks on the sidelines, at times looked like he wasn't giving a full effort, and has admitted that he lied to NFL GMs in his interviews, stating that he never tested positive for banned substances (marijuana). Still, Manningham hasn't had as troubled a college career as someone like Chris Henry or Randy Moss. He still grades out very well, and will probably be taken in the second round, with a potential slip into the first if a team is willing to take a chance on a fine physical specimen.

Adrian Arrington, WR
The second half of the alliteratively-named Michigan WR duo didn't leave college because he thought he'd be a great NFL pick, but rather for a few other reasons: 1) His friend Mario was leaving as well, 2) He didn't want to risk habing a bad QB throw him the ball in a potentially WR-unfriendly offense, and 3) He was a fourth-year junior, and presumably had already gained his degree. Arrington's draft stock has plummeted since his declaration, mostly due to poor combines (which he accounts for with injury). Still, Arrington will be an insanely good value pick for a team in the later rounds (6th-7th, most likely, if he doesn't slip to free agency). I stil believe that had he stuck around for one more year, he could have become a Braylon-like receiver for Michigan (if not quite as physically gifted). His size, hands, and ups are absolutely unquestioned, it's just a speed matter that has teams worried.

Adam Kraus, OC
Kraus wasn't even invited to the combine after being all-Big Ten. He is an indication of how far Michigan's Strength program and offensive line coaching had fallen (though a physical specimen like Jake Long was still able to succeed). He will probably be given a shot in fee agency, and try to make a team's camp roster.

Shawn Crable, LB/DE
Crable is a fine physical specimen without a true position. He doesn't have the bottom-end build to play defensive end in a 4-3, and he lacks the ability to play in space consistently, which will preclude him from playing SLB in the NFL. However, in the 3-4, he could be an outside linebacker, a la Lamarr Woodley (who was at a further disadvantage of having played almost exclusively DE in his final years at Michigan). This means teams like the Dolphins, Steelers (who drafted Woodley) and Patriots would be candidates to select Shawn. He will probably be a mid round pick.

Jamar Adams, SS
One of the most underrated players in the time I have been watching Michigan. He was rarely a liability in coverage, and can come up to fill the run very very well. With excellent size in the defensive backfield, his speed may be questionable, though he could bulkl up a bit and become a WLB in the NFL. Jamar is a safe pick with a decently high floor and a limited ceiling as a safety. He will be a mid-to-late round pick.

Chris Graham, LB
Graham was a speedy guy who could lay a hit in college, but he was often lost in coverage. This factor and his less-than-optimal speed could collaborate to drop him very low in the draft. He will be a late-round pick or free agent signing. He is the sort of player who could be a special teams phenom while learning to play linebacker more consistently. I hope he catches on with somebody though, as he could sure as hell use the money.

Brandent Englemon, FS
A guy who played the FS role admirably while at Michigan, but probably doesn't have what it takes to get to the next level. He may be a free agent signing with someone. It would certainly be nice to see him succeed.

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Kevin Newsome Goes Blue

Thursday, April 24, 2008 by Tim

Woooooooooooooo!

VA QB Kevin Newsome has given his word to become a Michigan Wolverine. Newsome is a 6-3, 212-pound player from Chesapeake, Virginia. He becomes the 6th commitment for Michigan's 2009 class. He is currently a high 4-star (the second rated dual-threat quarterback), and could end up a five-star when all is said and done. He is planning an early enrollment for the winter semester.

Player Notes
Newsome, from Western Branch, is a Tebow-like Quarterback, a physical runner who is more like a linebacker than a safety (a la Pat White). However, he has more top-end speed than Tebow, running (and exceling) in various track events. His teammate, Javanti Sparrow (also a track athlete), is a cornerback who may be in the running for a Michigan offer down the road. Newsome is also a good student, participating in National Honors Society, and having considered other quality academic institutions like Northwestern and Duke.

At this year's Army Junior Combine, he measured 6-3.5, 205lbs (slightly taller than his listed 6-3, and lighter than 215, but he could have added that weight). He benched 18 reps of 185 pounds, right around the median at the event, and certainly among the strongest for QBs.. As far as speed, he did the agility drill in 4.29, among the fastest times there, and ran a very respectable (especially for a QB) 4.68 40-yard dash, at a slow event where Teric Jone's 4.47 tied for the fastest time there.

Recruiting Notes
When Russell Shepard committed to LSU, not only did it mean Michigan's top prospect was off the board, but it also catapulted Newsome to #1 (or 1a, depending on your thoughts about Tate Forcier). Virginia Tech was considere the early favorite for Kevin Newsome, and even more so after another Virginia QB, Tajh Boyd, committed to West Virginia. Newsome received an early Michigan offer, and visited Ann Arbor for the spring game at Saline High school. While he enjoyed the game (in terrible weather), he still visited several other Midwest schools the following weekend - without stopping by Ann Arbor. However, a visit from Michigan coaches on the first day of the spring evaluation period to Western Branch High School solidified Michigan at the top of his list.

Video
Youtube-ness.


Game winning drives? Check.


Et Cetera
Newsome's younger brother, Keevon, is a 2010 DE prospect, who won MVP honors among D-linemen at a recent underclassman combine. Newsome's commitment has to put the Wolverines in good position with Newsome the younger as well, though he will probably start out a VT lean.

And of course, Newsome's teammate Javanti Sparrow is a 2009 CB prospect. It will be interesting to see if Michigan pursues him with Newsome in the fold.

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Post-spring Summary: Linebackers

by Tim

Linebackers
WLBMLBSLB
Mouton (rSo)
Thompson (rSr)
OR Ezeh (rSo)
Ezeh (rSo)
OR Evans (So)
Logan (Sr)
Panter (Sr)
Patilla (rSo)
OR Herron (rFr)
Demens (Fr)
OR Witherspoon (Fr)
Fitzgerald (Fr)
Hill (Fr)
Arriving in the fall: Kenny Demens, Marcus Witherspoon, J.B. Fitzgerald, Taylor Hill.

With a fair amount of depth here, and not much at DE, someone among the linebackers who played DE in high school may start bulking up and change positions. Michigan loses a few seniors, but only one of them (Johnny Thompson) is a projected starter. In recruiting, Michigan can probably hold out for a top guy or two unless they lose a couple players to defensive end.

Class of '09 Linebackers
Name
Measurables
Rating
Hometown
School
Offer?
Timetable
Player Notes
Recruiting Notes
Jelani Jenkins
6-1, 200, 4.45
*****
Wheaton, MD
Our Lady of Good Counsel
Offer

Student-athlete with a 4.0. Washington Post all-Met 1st team as a junior.
Virginia wants him like it's their job. Will he stay closer to home?
Julius Ferrell
6-1, 230, 4.55
****
Youngstown, OH
Liberty


Hits like a ton of bricks. Described as David Harris-like.
Ohio State may not have room for him in their class. His teammate Isaiah Bell is committed.
Jonathan Pippin
6-1, 210, 4.5
***
River Ridge, LA
John Curtis


From the program that sent Joe McKnight to USC.
He lists a lot of SEC schools and Michigan.
Dan Mason
6-1, 223, 4.59
***
Pittsburgh, PA
Penn Hills



Pitt is his early leader, and he lists West Virginia, which may translate to new-UM.
John Michael Davis
6-1, 220, 4.59
***
Los Flores, CA
Tesoro


Dropped from a 5-star after Scout's first re-evaluation.
Grew up a Michigan fan. He is currently listing Michigan, but how well will New-UM recruit California after the departure of Ron English?
Dan Fox
6-3, 215
***
Cleveland, OH
St. Ignatius


Attended UM junior day.


After a very large 2008 LB class, this isn't a huge area of priority. Michigan can hold out for higher-level prospects.

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The Perfect Spring Game

Wednesday, April 23, 2008 by Tim

After this past weekend, many Michigan fans were up in arms over the comparatively festive spring game atmospheres at rival schools (Notre Dame, Ohio State, and even Michigan State) as compared to the less than 5,000 fans who took in Michigan's final spring scrimmage at a nearby high school. For the future, I would love to see a better spring game.

Why not this year? There were tons of extenuating circumstances (pretty much all out of Rodriguez's control) that prevented a spring game from happening. Most of them will not be present, at least to their current magnitude, next year.
  • Construction in the Big House. Even if they weren't going to have a legitimate game this year because of other circumstances, they probably would have still invited fans to come to a practice in the Big House had it been available. Next year, the magnitude of construction won't be as great (there is literally no East Concourse anymore, just steps that lead to a cliff - photo credit to UMGoBlue.com), and they'll hopefully be able to use the Big House for the game, even though construction won't be completed.
  • Installing a new system. This year, Coach Rodriguez and his coaches were installing completely new offensive and defensive schemes, which is something that they probably won't be doing again in their time at Michigan. Even upperclassmen are learning something completely new, which won't be the case in future years.
  • Playing catch-up. On top of a completely new system to teach the players, Michigan's new coaches had other areas in which they were playing catch-up as well. They had to gain back ground on the 2008 recruiting class, start anew for the 2009 class, get to know each other (along with terminology and schemes in some cases), buy houses, and integrate themselves into the community in Ann Arbor. When they don't have all these things to make up ground, they'll be able to teach more effectively in the spring, and plan for a spring game.
  • Rodriguez had other things to worry about. Including his lawsuit, which he has a stake in, regardless of the fact that his lawyers are doing all the actual legwork.
Is it likely we'll see one in the future? Yes. Spring games give media exposure which is good in almost every way. It certainly helps with recruiting. Also helping with recruiting is being able to invite tons of top prospects to the game, and show them an exciting atmosphere. Also, Rich Rodriguez has had one in the past at West Virginia. Almost no school this day can sustain a great program without some form of popular spring game.

So what makes a great spring game? Several factors have to come together to make a spring game truly great. The event must be about not only the game, but a carnival-like atmosphere around it.
  • First, the game must be entertaining. This means 1st team offense v. 1st team defense, backups v. backups on two teams, with standard timing, scoring, etc. No "offense v. defense" games with complicated and weird scoring systems that nobody can remember (much less decipher in some instances). If you don't want to do special teams for the sake of avoiding injuries, they can be left out or limited.
  • Inviting recruits is also important. Even if many of them can't come, letting them know that you are thinking about them (a la a Pete Carroll text message) is important to prospects, especially those who won't get an offer, but still want to feel like BMOCs. This is also big for keeping in-state coaches happy.
  • Media coverage. I wouldn't be surprised if BTN has exclusive rights to all spring coverage of conference schools, which hurts somewhat (it means no GameDay, and no national coverage on basic cable unless the network gets picked up by more carriers), but at least it is something. The game should be on live television, presented exactly as though it is a real game.
  • Have other important people there. Invite back every football alum who is or has been in the NFL (photo of Lamarr Woodley, Pierre Woods, and ? thanks to MVictors.com). Invite other prominent Michigan grads (Lucy Liu, Michael Phelps, Steve M. Ross) to come as well, and make the whole thing into an event. The famous people can even come together and coach the teams.
  • Band, cheerleaders, alumni cheerleaders, etc. Make it a clone of a real game.
  • Have other events around the game, like Ohio State (Lacrosse game in the 'Shoe) or Florida (sprints between students and players).
  • Not sure if this is allowed per NCAA rules, but invite signed recruits to the game, and introduce them to the fans over the loudspeaker. That lets future recruits know how important they are to the program, and also helps fans know who will be on future teams.
  • Advertise the game more. Statewide, via direct-mail lists, alumni associations, etc. Get fans in the seats.
  • Have the parking lots open for tailgating, just like any other game.
Take a lesson from Don Canham, Mr. Martin (and Mr. Rodriguez) and advertise the event and the program, not just the game itself. Having a big spring game can only help the program achieve long-term success.

Have any other ideas? Drop them in the comments.

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Post-spring Summary: Defensive Backs

by Tim

Secondary
CBFSSSNickelCB
Warren (So)
S. Brown (Jr)
Stewart (rSr)
OR
Harrison
Harrison (Sr)
Trent (rSr)
Harrison (Sr)
Williams (rFr)Chambers (So)
Dutch (rSr)
Woolfolk (So)



Williams (rFr)

Arriving in the fall: Boubacar Cissoko (CB), JT Floyd (Nickel), Brandon Smith (SS).

Committed Safeties
Name
Measurables
Rating
Hometown
School
Player Notes
Recruiting Notes
Isaiah Bell
6-3, 205
***
Youngstown, OH
Liberty
Junior Film.Michigan's fourth commit, on 3-31-08

Class of '09 Safeties
Name
Measurables
Rating
Hometown
School
Offer?
Timetable
Player Notes
Recruiting Notes
Devonte Holloman
6-2, 200
*****
Charlotte, NC
Independence
Offer
Post-officials decision, potential early enroll
SS prospect. He also plays QB in high school, but is unlikely to toss the rock in college. Fluffy fluff.
Notre Dame, Florida, and Clemson are the top 3. He has said he wants to stay close to home. He wants to get down to 5 schools by the end of summer.
Jonathan Scott
6-3, 190, 4.6
***
Daytona Beach, FL
Seabreeze
Offer

Strong safety prospect.
He has family at both Georgia Tech and Ohio State. Michigan in his top 5.
Dorian Berry
6-3, 200
***
Baldwyn, MS
Baldwyn


A big dude who projects as a SS. He may have trouble qualifying for college.
Hopson-Mississippi connection.
Rod Woodson
6-1, 200
****
Olive Branch, MS
Olive Branch



Jay Hopson gives Michigan the ability to recruit Mississippi.
Shamari Benton
5-11, 175
***
Birmingham, MI
Brother Rice

Early decision
Plays OLB and standup DE in HS. He'll need to add tons of weight to be on LB, or show faster 40 times to be a safety.
Favors Michigan State over Michigan.
Brock Reynolds
5-11, 175
***
Battle Creek, MI
BC Central


Thin safety prospect. He'll need to add more weight to get high-DI offers.


A ton of safety prospects out there right now.
Committed Cornerbacks
Name
Measurables
Rating
Hometown
School
Player Notes
Recruiting Notes
Justin Turner
6-2, 200
****
Massilon, OH
Washington
Junior Film.Michigan's second commit, on 3-28-08

Class of '09 Corners
Name
Measurables
Rating
Hometown
School
Offer?
Timetable
Player Notes
Recruiting Notes
Dre Kirkpatrick
6-2, 180, 4.5
*****
Gadsden, AL
Gadsden City
Offer
Signing day decision
Scout's top defensive back early in the recruiting game.
Looking mostly at southern schools. He visited Auburn 2-22 weekend Going to Bama 3-8 weekend.
Brandon McGee
6-0, 180, 4.45
****
Plantation, FL
Plantation
Offer

He is a HS QB as well.
Grew up an FSU fan, but is also interested in Ohio State.
Travis Hawkins
5-11, 185, 4.42
****
Gaithersburg, MD
Quince Orchard
Offer
Early enroll
A lot of big-time offers imply that he will be a very good prospect.
Plans to visit Ann Arbor.
DJ Hunter
6-0, 190
****
Middletown, OH
Middletown



Favors Indiana and Ohio State, along with Miami of Florida. He claims offers from the entire Big Ten except OSU and Michigan.
Tony Graham
5-11, 185, 4.44
****
Trotwood, OH
Trotwood-Madison



Michigan's emerging pipeline into T-M can only help with Graham. He plans to attend Michigan's summer camp.
Corey Brown
6-2, 185, 4.58
****
Monroeville, PA
Gateway
Offer

Also plays WR on offense. Sam Webb video interview.
He is friends with some Pitt players (Shayne Hale, Cam Saddler), and his HS coach is a Pitt supporter.
David Conner
6-0,200
***
Batesville, MS
South Panola
Offer

Plays safety in high school, but will probably grow into an OLB in college. He's a little short for the position. He was a first team all-state selection in 2007 according to the Clarion Ledger.
Michigan is among his first offers.
Javanti Sparrow
6-0, 170, 4.49
***
Chesapeake, VA
Western Branch


Super-fast track star who is a HS teammate of Kevin Newsome.
Interested in attending the same school as teammate Newsome.
Ryan Campbell
6-0, 175, 4.38
***
Columbus, GA
Shaw


Super-fast track star who is a HS teammate of Kevin Newsome.
Jim Stefani notes that he is originally from Michigan.
Varmah Sonie
5-10, 160
***
Apple Valley, MN
Apple Valley


A friend of WR Bryce McNeal
Visited Michigan with McNeal last weekend.

Michigan will like at least one super.

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Presented Without Comment:

by Tim

Justin Boren to OSU.

Also presented without comment:

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Long Signs; Will be #1 Overall

Tuesday, April 22, 2008 by Tim

Michigan offensive tackle Jake Long has been signed to a five-year deal with the Miami Dolphins, guaranteeing that he will be selected first overall in Saturday's NFL draft. Long is the first Wolverine selected #1 overall since Tom Harmon in 1941(!). Current speculation is that Long's prowess on Guitar Hero was the deciding factor for the Dolphins.

For analysis of the remaining Wolverines' draft outlooks, check back here on Friday.

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Post-spring Summary: Offensive Line

by Tim

Offensive Line
LTLGCRGRT
Ortmann (rJr)
MacAvoy (rJr)
Molk (rFr)
Zirbel (rJr)
Schilling (rSo)
Huyge (rFr)
Moosman (rJr)
Moosman (rJr)
Moosman (rJr)
Dorrestein (rSo)
O'Neill (Fr)
Wermers (Fr)
Barnum (Fr)
Mealer (Fr)
Zirbel (rJr)
Khoury (Fr)



Omameh (Fr)

Arriving in the fall:
Dan O'Neill, Rocko Khoury, Kurt Wermers, Ricky Barnum, Elliott Mealer, Patrick Omameh. Redshirts on the way for just about all of them except maybe O'Neill and whichever interior OL is most ready to play.

David Molk was out for most of the spring (with mono), but I think he'll use summer camp as a springboard into a starting position. Though Michigan doesn't lose anyone from this group, the departures of a few players mean that they are still a little thin at the position. Rodriguez likes to have around 16 linemen on the roster, and he will have 15 on the roster next year (including a couple who aren't likely to ever have big contributions).
Class of '09 Offensive Linemen
Name
Measurables
Rating
Hometown
School
Offer?
Timetable
Player Notes
Recruiting Notes
Xavier Nixon
6-6, 285
*****
Fayetteville, NC
Jack Britt
Offer

Considered one of the top OT prospects. A basketball center, he is reknowned for his quick feet. HS coach fluff.
Due to a mix-up, Rodriguez got his film late. Michigan is probably playing catch up on this one.
Marcus Hall
6-5, 295, 5.35
*****
Cleveland, OH
Glenville
Offer

From Ted Ginn Sr.'s Glenville high
Ginn had a beef with the Carr administration, will he send prospects to new-UM? Top 3 of OSU, USC, Illinois would imply otherwise.
Eric Shrive
6-7, 282, 5.10
*****
West Scranton, PA
West Scranton
Offer
Deciding after 2008
Likely the midwest’s top OT. Film evaluation.
Many consider Notre Dame a heavy favorite (went to their junior day 2-24). Local paper blog on Shrive's recruitment. Maybe telling: midwest visits do not include UM.
Xavier Sua'filo
6-5, 275
****
Provo, UT
Timpview


Being recruited by a lot of top schools. ESPNU Under Armour game.
He wants to take an unofficial to Michigan.
Chris Freeman
6-8, 315
****
Trotwood, OH
Madison
Offer

He is also a PF prospect for basketball? I guess that means he is ridiculously athletic for his size, but… what?
Michigan has the Trotwood-Madison connection in their favor for this huge OT prospect, though he is the cousin of OSU LB Marcus Freeman. Florida is also hard on Freeman. He plans to attend several Michigan spring practices.
Chris Watt
6-4, 270
****
Glen Ellyn, IL
Glenbard
Offer
pre-season decision
Viscious interior prospect.
Came to UM junior day. Just like everyone else in the country, he has been offered by Notre Dame (they may be the favorite) (like, seriously). He wants to stay within the midwest.
Quinton Washington
6-4, 320
****
Saint Stephen, SC
Timberland
Offer

Currently listed at OT, though his measurables project him on the interior.
Lists a lot of southern schools and Michigan.
Khalil Wilkes
6-4, 285
****
Jersey City, NJ
St. Peter's


Likes playing in spread offenses.
Has interest in Michigan. His dad played at Rutgers, and they can be considered the current favorite.
Zach Matthias
6-6, 305, 5.1
****
Hemlock, MI
Hemlock


He plays basketball at his size, which means he is likely a good athlete. An in-state semi-sleeper along the lines of Jake Long. Scholar-athlete as well. 1st Team all-conference as a junior.
Expected to attend Michigan's junior day.
Brennan Williams
6-6, 260, 5.2
***
West Roxbury, MA
Catholic Memorial



Jim Stefani noted that his dad is from Michigan and played at Toledo.
Tahir Basil
6-2, 250, 4.88
***
Philadelphia, PA
Roman Catholic


Good student, maybe not an elite OL prospect (but S&C could mold him into one).

Ricky Clemons
6-5, 305
***
Flint, MI
Carman Ainsworth


A little short to be a true OT. Could move inside in college. He's already got the mass, it will likely need to be converted into muscle.
Grew up a State fan, but went to his first CFB game for The Horror.
Zach Martin
6-5, 260, 5.10
***
Indianapolis, IN
Bishop Chatard
Offer?

Right around tackle size.
Michigan spring game visitor. Offer is not confirmed as yet.
Henry Conway
6-6, 295
***
Shaker Heights, OH
Shaker Heights


Not a big-time prospect, but he has good size. Tackle project.
Michigan Spring Game visitor
Not a ton of need here. They will probably be able to hold out for a couple highly-ranked guys (1-2 tackles, 1-2 interior OL).

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Rodriguez's Recruiting in the MSM

by Tim

Article from the Dayton Daily News, in which the general idea is "so what." The article point out what other outlets (and Joe Tiller) fail to note:
"You know what?" Roundtree said. "It was my decision."
Roy Roundtree didn't switch from Purdue because Rich Rodriguez pulled some sort of trick move, he did it because he wanted to. Forcing him to stick to his Purdue commitment would have helped out Purdue somewhat, but at the expense of the kid, whose welfare is far more important in the grand scheme of things than that of a couple million-dollar sports programs. For Joe Tiller to claim that Rich Rodriguez is the only coach who recruits to the end, Kenny Demens and Brandon Moore would disagree with that:
"Michigan State, Tennessee, Boston College, Louisville ... it was that stress again," Demens said. "It was like I was being re-recruited, getting pulled out of classes, talking to coaches."
and
"Almost all the schools still recruited me after I committed," Moore said. "If I didn't call them back, most of them stopped eventually. Some coaches started recruiting me a lot harder, like Tennessee, Miami and Duke. Sometimes you think, 'Why even commit?'"
Again, if these guys wanted to switch commitments, they easily could have (including Demens to another Big Ten program). Joe Tiller attempted to slam Rich Rodriguez because it would have been impossible to slam himself for not completing his recruiting season.

Since Rodriguez and apparently Jim Tressel have decided to drop this matter, I shall henceforth stop piling on Joe Tiller's moment of supreme idiocy unless something else comes out.

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Recruiting Update 4-21-08

Monday, April 21, 2008 by Tim

Not a lot of guys have updates, but some dudes got dropped. Board.

Added:
FL DT Antwan Lowery. He may be leaning towards Rutgers?
TN OG Alex Bullard. He is now reporting a Michigan offer.

New Information:
VA QB Kevin Newsome. A ton of people have e-mailed me with the MySpace thing, so I might as well post it. Apparently, he is blue? I wouldn't read too much into it. Maybe he just likes 90s pop-techno. Also, interesting ESPN article that VT may redshirt Tyrod Taylor. That would have to make the depth chart here look even more appealing in comparison.
TX QB Shavodrick Beaver. Apparently TCU fans are up in arms over my post making fun of beloved member Zammers. I don't harbor any resentment towards the guy, he just said a lot of dumb things championing TCU over Michigan. I don't really care either way. Thanks to "mgoblu," who apparently registered for the board just to defend my post. Also, TCU fans, all no huddle spread offenses are not the same. Sorry.

Removed:
FL QB Aaron Murray. He will commit on Thursday, picking either Georgia or Florida (probably Georgia over Florida). He never got a Michigan offer.
PA LB Dorian Bell. Lots of internets say he will commit to the Buckeyes today.
VA CB Damien Thigpen. Committed to Tennessee.

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Post-spring Summary: Defensive Line

by Tim

DEDTNTDE
Graham (Jr)
Johnson (rSr)
Taylor (Sr)
Jamison (rSr)
VanBergen (rFr)Kates (rSo)
Slocum (rSo)
Banks (rSo)

Sagesse (So)
Ferrara (rSo)
Patterson (Jr)
Arriving in the fall: Mike Martin (DT).

Michigan really needed some DEs in the 2008 class, and pulled none. They also lose three of their starting linemen to graduation, and the jury is still out on whether everyone else will stick it out.
Class of '09 Defensive Tackles
Name
Measurables
Rating
Hometown
School
Player Notes
Recruiting Notes
William Campbell
6-6, 300
*****
Detroit, MI
Cass Tech
Surprisingly explosive for his girth. He was a big success at the Junior Army combine. He'll be one of the top 2-3 DTs in 2009. Army game.
Michigan's first commit, on 6-21-07. He plans to take some visits, and may be considered a soft commit.

Class of '09 Defensive Tackles
Name
Measurables
Rating
Hometown
School
Offer?
Timetable
Player Notes
Recruiting Notes
Chris Davenport
6-5, 320, 5.27
*****
Mansfield, LA
Mansfield
Offer
September or October decision.
One of the top DTs in the country.
He attended LSU’s 2-23 junior day, and the Tigers are likely his favorite. USC other school in his top 2.
Josh Boyd
6-4, 280
****
Philadelphia, MS
Philadelphia

Signing day decision
2nd team all-state per Clarion Ledger.

Levi Brown
6-2, 320, 5.1
***
Bethlehem, PA
Liberty


A 1-tech tackle (Will Campbell is a likely 3-tech). HS teammate of DE prospect Braxton Isaac.
Michigan may have need for one 1-tech in this class.

William Campbell is a great start. Michigan might want to snag another good DT (do they have enough depth to only grab one if he's on a higher level?)

Class of '09 Defensive Ends
Name
Measurables
Rating
Hometown
School
Offer?
Timetable
Player Notes
Recruiting Notes
Devon Kennard
6-3, 230, 4.82
*****
Phoenix, AZ
Desert Vista
Offer

Scout's top defensive end. Army game.

Craig Drummond
6-5.5, 210
****
Chicago, IL
Morgan Park
Offer
Pre-season decision. Visits after he wraps up ACT.

Top 5 of M, IL, USC, Kstate, and Tennessee. Illinois is the leader.
Craig Roh
6-5, 230, 4.60
****
Scottsdale, AZ
Chaparral
Offer

Among Jim Stefani's top DE prospects for Michigan. Has offers from lots of top programs, despite only being a 3-star on Scout at this time.

Corey Adams
6-3, 275, 4.86
****
Scottsdale, AZ
Saguaro
Offer
Decision after 5 officials.
Big DE prospect who will have to stay in shape or move to DT. ESPNU game.

Chris Bonds
6-4, 275, 4.8
****
Columbia, SC
Richland NE
Offer


USCal and USCar top 2, Michigan in top 5
Juantez Hollins
6-4, 265
****
Aliquippa, PA
Aliquippa


Currently a DE, could grow into an interior OL (or even OT) prospect.
Notre Dame is interested in him. Michigan was in-school in January '08.
Tyrone Ezell
6-4, 255, 4.7 5
***
Munhall, PA
Steel Valley


Not very polished (only played football for a couple years) or strong (never really lifted weights) but has a lot of potential to become dominant. Also a high school wrestler.
He has said Notre Dame is his dream school.
Jack Lippert
6-5, 225, 4.75
***
Harrisburg, PA
Central Dauphin


Very small for his speed. Will he be able to add more mass without dropping his quicks?

Andre Civil
6-5, 250, 4.85
***
Brooklyn, NY
Sheepshead Bay



Currently interested in Syracuse and Rutgers He wants to stay in the northeast, and he may be dropped soon unless he develops into a top prospect.
Braxton Isaac
6-4, 240
***
Bethlehem, PA
Liberty



Interest throughout the midwest and LSU
Trevor Foy
6-7, 235
***
Louisville, KY
St. Xavier



Went to multiple Michigan FB games in the fall. Also has apparently strong interested in ND, as he went to their 2-24 junior day.
Davon Custis
6-4, 235
***
Columbus, OH
St. Francis DeSales


A high school teammate of Patrick Omameh.
Visited Michigan in the spring.

Michigan has a ton of need here, and don't be surprised if they grab 2 or 3.

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