Recruiting Update 4-30-09

2010 Michigan Recruiting Board goes here. There’ll be another substantive recruiting update on Monday, because I couldn’t fit all the information into this one.

The Wolverines are among the favorites for TX QB Jeremy Johnson. The same article is also posted on other schools’ Rivals affiliates with titles such as “West Virginia, Baylor among Johnson’s favorites.” With doing much further research, I would assume that is something of a top 3 for him. Remember, WVU sites were expecting him to commit to the Mountaineers at their spring game not too long ago, but he didn’t

PA QB Anthony Gonzales has been nominated to play in the US Army Bowl. This doesn’t mean he’s in the game (it’s essentially a semi-finalists list), but certainly speaks to his talent.

FL WR Kenny Shaw is blowing up this spring, and also indicating that he is probably all-but-committed to Florida State:

Shaw visited FSU unofficially last month, and wanted to pull the trigger then.

“Honestly the reason was my parents,” Shaw said. “They wanted me to wait it out, take my visits over the summer, and then make a decision after my senior year.”

With Michigan’s current stockpile of WRs in the 2010 class, it’s sad to see a talent like Shaw fall by the wayside for Michigan, but them’s the ropes, I guess.

FL WR Chris Dunkley has transferred from Royal Palm Beach High School to Pahokee. This might slightly increase Michigan’s chances for him (he’s mostly considered a Florida lock, however). Also, it gives Pahokee an awesome set of WRs with Fred Pickett, Dennis Hall, and De’Joshua Johnson already there. Speaking of Johnson, however, he’s narrowed his list of choices to 3, Florida State, Alabama, and Oklahoma State. He won’t be removed quite yet, but considering he’s stated he doesn’t want to play in a spread offense (which, lol at him, is the scheme that best fits his skill set), and is serious enough about it to eliminate Florida, he’s probably gone baby, gone.

He also dumped Michigan, which was a difficult decision since the Wolverines have three former Blue Devils on their roster and were the first team to offer Johnson.

“I’m not going to knock them, but (the spread is) why,” Johnson said. “That was my school for a while. That was my first written offer and all my teammates are up there. It would have been fun.”

Sounds like he really liked the Wolverines, so maybe Rich will be able to convince him that players in the spread can make it to the NFL (Steve Slaton, Pat White, the ever-gusty Percy Harvey).

A spring game visit to…Northwestern?… has “wowed” OH OL Christian Pace, and the Wildcats’ turnout of 3,000 fans was enough to vault them near the top of Pace’s list of favorites.

Removed PA OL Seth Betancourt. He is selecting a school today from a list of finalists that does not include Michigan. All indications are that he’ll don a Boston College hat.

The Charlotte Observer’s hideous Blogspot-hosted (lol) blog has some very nice things to say about NC DT Gabe King‘s ability to play the game of foot-ed ball. Caveats about his being a discipline case persist, but Michigan has offered and appear to be strong for him, so keep him in mind, even if you don’t think he’s worth the potential trouble at this point. Edited to reflect the correct name, because I’m apparently not fond enough of proofreading.

Florida is the leader for FL DE Lynden Trail (info in header).

Not a ton of information is available for free in this article about PA LB Jordan Paskorz, but the alt text for the image in the post is “Paskorz is favoring Michigan, Virginia and Pitt.” take that for what it’s worth.

More from the Sporting News on the faux-commitment of FL CB Travis Williams (they think it’s a real commit). Conventional wisdom, direct quotes, and logic say: He wants to commit, RR told him not to for now.

Michigan has offered FL CB Rashad Knight (info in header). He is a more highly-rated prospect than Williams, at the very least, and indications (article title: “Michigan Jumps in Front for Knight“) are that he also holds Michigan in high regard.

Has GA CB Jonathan Mincy been offered? I haven’t even heard of the kid, much less as somebody who was likely to have received a Michigan offer, but he’s now added to the board, tentatively listed without said offer.

CA CB Troy Hill says Washington is his #1 school right now (info in header). Remember, he said a while back that his interest in MIchigan was waning, so he’s teetering on the edge of removal.

Posted under Football, Recruiting

Where Does the Offense Go From Here?

Much to the delight of Michigan fans (or maybe just bloggers), Smart Football has taken a fairly serious interest in Michigan since Rich Rodriguez has been the headman. Of course, part of the reason that the Wolverines get mentioned time and again is the fact that everything is not all sunshine and lollipops in Ann Arbor. Of course, Rodriguez has never taken a significant interest in the defensive performance of his teams, so surely the focus of Smart Football is on that side of the ball, no?

Not So Fast My Friend. It is in fact the offense that Chris has taken an interest in. More specifically, it is the idea that Michigan’s offense is not as diversified or systematic as perhaps it should be. This is not an old issue for Chris, who has brought up the point before that the passing game is not conceptually designed. In the more recent post, he goes a little more in-depth:

If Rodriguez wants his offense to be truly elite again, it’s the passing game that has to be the source of innovation. The run game tools are largely in place. There’s some room for improvement all around, but, last season with general inexperience — and without a legitimate running threat at quarterback — the lack of a viable downfield passing attack worked to help cripple the Rodriguez offense. But the fact that this aspect never developed over the course of the season was what really troubled me.

There’s much more to say on this topic, but for now suffice to say that Rodriguez is in danger of falling behind in the spread offense arms race in terms of sophistication. I discussed that phenomena with Purdue as a pass-first spread team over the last decade, but it’s of a slightly different order with Michigan.

Let’s break this down, shall we?

Passing Game
Smart Football sez:

But Rodriguez is a bright guy and his passing game originally derived from (though is a long way now) the old run and shoot. So you’d think he could remedy this. Yet with nothing but true freshman, that evolution will have to wait. The longer they wait, however, the farther behind they fall. The only hope is the increased athleticism masks these deficiencies.

Brian’s take on the matter is that Rodriguez hasn’t been forced to have a complex passing game, because with Pat White at the helm, a dominating run game and simple pass game will work just fine, thank you. I tend to agree with that assessment, and it better be true, because, as noted by Smart Football, the Wolverines are likely a year away from being able to add any complexity to the passing game.

With Pat White able to run the ball like he did, and probably not able to pass well enough to have a full pass game installed, it’s easy to see a potential reason the pass game stayed stagnant. Rodriguez’s recruiting has shown that he’s more interested in being able to throw the ball, however, and Tate Forcier may even be a better passer today than White, if not quite the runner:

Running Game
Smart Football:

Compare their offenses with Rodriguez’s: there’s not much difference from a run-game standpoint (though Meyer and OU mix up their sets a bit more and use more tight-ends now), but the passing games have seen a wide departure.

All due respect to Smart Football (and I may be wrong here, because he knows a hell of a lot more about the game than I do), but I’d be willing to say that even Rodriguez’s ground game, at least as implemented last year, is simpler than other spread teams, most notably Florida and Oregon. Again, part of that might have been players who were less-than-optimal for the spread offense, particularly at the quarterback position.

In the future, however, a diversification of the offense, perhaps including innovations like Meyer’s use of the H-back as a shovel option, or more counters, even the triple option/throwback pass that WVU used in the Meineke Bowl. Having better fits at the QB position, and not having to install just that base offense all offseason, will certainly help that in the future.

The Future

Perhaps Pat White got a bad rap as a passer, or maybe Bill Stewart actually knew what he was doing for WVU’s offense, thoughthe stats don’t agree – and that’s in a year where a senior Pat White was supposed to lead WVU to one of the most prolific offenses ever. However, with White looking more like a quarterback than a wideout or return man at the NFL (for better or for worse), it looks like Rodriguez’s schemes will be able to develop more complexity down the road.

As far as diversifying schemes goes, Chris points out that Oklahoma is an example of a spread team with a much more complex (and effective) passing game than Michigan’s. The use of the tight end is pointed out specifically. In fact, Rodriguez has reportedly planned to visit Oklahoma’s coaches in the offseason to trade information on the passing game, particularly the use of tight ends (of which Michigan has many who aren’t getting very much use).

In the future, I would love to see visits to Florida as well, for diversifying the running game a bit, along with figuring out other ways to use the tights ends effectively in the spread offense.

And, as pointed out by Smart Football, Oregon’s offense is one of the best-designed as well. I’ve pointed out in the past that I don’t think Michigan’s schemes are as creative as Oregon’s, and that’s one area where there is room for improvement. Perhaps in the future, Rodriguez can pick the brain of Chip Kelly.

And, most importantly for the future comes recruiting. Rodriguez has more resources available at Michigan than he ever did at West Virginia. White’s emergence as a possible NFL QB has to help recruiting as well. Even if he didn’t tweak his offense at all, if he continues to recruit like he has for the past two classes (or, more likely, improves it by having more success on the field), He could be able to usurp the quality of his offenses in Morgantown. With minor improvements to certain aspects of the offensive side of the ball, an outstanding offense is likely in the future of Michigan football.

Posted under Coaching, Football