2010 Recruiting Grades: Linebacker

2010 Recruiting Grades: Linebacker

March 16, 2010

The realization that Michigan could be headed toward a 4-2-5 defense in 2010 makes the recent class’s linebacker recruiting a little murky. The Wolverines desperately needed some linebackers in the class, but largely failed to get what Michigan fans – and anlaysts – wanted to see from Rich Rodriguez. Presumably, Michigan’s two starting inside linebackers will graduate after 2010 (Obi Ezeh and Jonas Mouton), leaving only J.B. Fitzgerald, Kenny Demens, Isaiah Bell, and Mike Jones to play those two spots; only Fitzgerald has seen significant playing time thus far.

One of Michigan’s first commitments of the cycle, Youngstown, OH, linebacker Antonio Kinard arrived on the scene. He played fullback and middle linebacker in high school, but throughout the recruiting process, he and analysts insisted he was being recruited for the Quick end position. Shortly before National Signing Day, Kinard revealed that the coaches would start him off at the weakside linebacker position. So it looks as if Kinard will be groomed to be Mouton’s potential replacement. Kinard is 6’4″ and only 202 lbs., so he has some filling out to do. He has the speed and athleticism to be an excellent defender, and it’s promising that he actually played ILB as a high schooler.

Michigan’s second linebacker commitment came from Josh Furman, a SAM prospect from Millersville, MD. Originally recruited to play SAM, the potential switch to the 4-2-5 essentially eliminates the SAM linebacker. So it remains to be seen what position Furman will play. However, his physical skills might be the most impressive of any player in the entire class. At 6’3″ and 194 lbs., he supposedly ran a 4.37 laser-timed forty (which is surely fake, but still impressive, if only for its audacity). His speed is impressive, but he tends to run upright and could struggle with his agility at the next level. I don’t expect the SAM linebacker position to disappear permanently (it might only be a one-year experiment to maximize talent), but Furman has the frame and skills enough to bulk up to weakside linebacker size. As for the 2010 season, I expect Furman to get some reps at strong safety.

Predictions: Kinard will almost surely redshirt in 2010, and I’d expect him to be around 230 pounds by the time he earns some playing time in a couple years. He’s a more natural fit at inside linebacker than some of the other linebackers (Bell and Jones, for example), but I don’t see him really pushing for playing time until his third year. Furman, on the other hand, could very well play in 2010. I think he could be an excellent special teams player with his speed and size. Furthermore, while I don’t see him starting this year, he could very well get some backup minutes in the role of SS (or SAM). I wouldn’t trust him in deep zone coverage just yet, but he would be a good matchup in coverage on tight ends.

Grade: C. Michigan really needed a middle linebacker in this class, which the coaches failed to secure. It’s possible that Jake Ryan could play MIKE, but so far it seems he was recruited to play Quick end. Kinard has good upside, but he’s a couple years away from contributing. That’s fine because there are other options at weakside linebacker, but an immediate-impact sort would have been nice. Furman is a good player and could play a variety of roles; he reminds me a bit of recent Wisconsin Badger Jonathan Casillas, but with better pass rushing ability.


  1. Comments: 21379
    Mar 16, 2010 at 8:18 PM

    What do SAM and MIKE exactly stand for?

  2. Comments: 21379
    Mar 16, 2010 at 10:26 PM

    "SAM" and "MIKE" don't really stand for anything. They're just names for the different linebacker positions, so the coach/players don't have to spit out "weakside linebacker" or "middle linebacker" or "strongside linebacker" every time.

    I've heard different names for each of the LB positions:

    Strongside linebacker – SAM, SPIKE
    Middle linebacker – MAC, MIKE
    Weakside linebacker – WILL, WHIP

    But in recent years, the most common terminology swirling around Michigan is SAM, MIKE, and WILL.

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