2015 Recruiting Grades: Defense, Special Teams

2015 Recruiting Grades: Defense, Special Teams

February 11, 2015
Tyree Kinnel

I posted the recruiting grades for the offensive side of the ball (LINK), so here are the grades for the defense. Rankings used are from the 247 Composite.

Lost from 2014: Brennen Beyer (graduation), Frank Clark (suspension/graduation)
Commits: Shelton Johnson, Reuben Jones
Grade: B+
Comments: Michigan didn’t land the highest value targets, and the two guys they brought in were last-minute fixes who don’t provide a huge speed rush that Michigan has been lacking in recent years. But Michigan does need numbers at the position, where the graduations of Beyer and Clark left the team with few viable replacements and a couple guys who perhaps should be playing defensive tackle instead of on the edge. Johnson (3-star, #20 SDE) has some high upside and Jones (3-star, #44 DE) has potential, too, so at least one of these guys should pay dividends sooner or later.

Lost from 2014:
Commits: None
Grade: C
Comments: Neither coaching staff deemed defensive tackle as a priority. Hoke only offered a handful of guys and actually backed off several targets last summer, and Harbaugh hardly made an attempt aside from offering defensive tackle Kendrick Norton, who never visited. Michigan is in a situation where they have a lot of guys in their middle years of football, but they will need to renew their efforts in 2016 to avoid a huge age gap.

Lost from 2014:
 Michael Ferns III (transfer), Jake Ryan (graduation)
Commits: None
Grade: D
Comments: Jake Ryan was a Butkus Award finalist and a stud at middle linebacker for Michigan last season, but the Wolverines should not miss him too awfully much with four senior linebackers scheduled to be on the roster in 2015 (Joe Bolden, Royce Jenkins-Stone, Desmond Morgan, James Ross). However, the only non-senior to have played much so far is junior Ben Gedeon, which means Michigan will be searching for answers in 2016. It would have been a good idea to land at least one guy to redshirt and adjust to the college game, because that guy could have been deployed in 2016. Assuming the five aforementioned guys suck up most of the playing time in 2015, the Wolverines will be very green in 2016.

Lost from 2014:
 Delonte Hollowell (graduation), Raymon Taylor (graduation)
Commits: Keith Washington
Grade: C-
Comments: Much like the running back position, Michigan had two highly touted guys committed at different junctures – Shaun Crawford (Notre Dame) and Garrett Taylor (Penn State) – and both of them slipped out of their grasp. Cornerback is a spot where guys can contribute early, but with Jabrill Peppers moving to safety, the Wolverines are very thin at the position. Washington (3-star, #77 ATH) was a high school quarterback who did not play a ton of defense, so he’s a project. If anyone higher in the pecking order gets hurt, the Wolverines could be in serious trouble, although Peppers has the ability to move back to corner if necessary.

Lost from 2014:
Commits: Tyree Kinnel
Grade: A-
Comments: I don’t see Kinnel (4-star, #11 S)as a huge playmaker in college, but he’s a good field general with some respectable athletic skills. The only safety scheduled to depart after 2015 is starter Jarrod Wilson, and most of the other safeties on the roster are good athletes without a great understanding for the game. So if new safeties coach Greg Jackson can coach those guys up, Michigan should be in very good shape here.

Lost from 2014:
 Will Hagerup (graduation), Matt Wile (graduation)
Commits: Andrew David
Grade: A
Comments: Punter is a position that can often be filled by walk-ons, which is likely what will happen in 2015 with Kenny Allen expected to take over the punting job. With no walk-on kickers daring to take the job, Michigan offered one guy and one guy only to be their placekicker, and they got him. David (3-star, #9 K) will be in a situation where he has a special teams coach in John Baxter, which should speed his development at least a little bit. Michigan got exactly whom they wanted.


  1. Comments: 21379
    Feb 11, 2015 at 12:55 PM

    That was a depressing read. I hope Harbaugh finds a way to make the defense effectively decent.

  2. Comments: 21379
    Feb 11, 2015 at 1:59 PM

    All well and good… but I don't see Wayne Lyons in here, nor do I see his TTB ranking.

    • Comments: 21379
      Feb 11, 2015 at 5:27 PM

      I'm undecided on whether to do a commitment post for Lyons, since it's not official as of now.

  3. Comments: 21379
    Feb 11, 2015 at 2:46 PM

    Among the very first things I'd be doing this Spring would be to line up every warm body I have that is considered to be a defensive back, without regards to their previous position and run route after route after route after route against them in an effort to see if who, if anybody, can cover man to to man. Then I'd reshuffle Safeties and Corners as appropriate.

    Watson, was considered by some to be a cover guy, another of the Safeties ….. I just can't remember which ….. was deemed somewhere to have some hips. I keep thinking we have some guys with some size that can make you throw near perfect balls to line up on your outside guys, we've just buried them for whatever reason.

    • Comments: 21379
      Feb 11, 2015 at 10:51 PM

      Don't safeties have to cover guys too? I think you put people at corner who are less skilled at reading defenses and shedding blockers. Also smaller guys who just aren't going to scare anybody and/or risk getting runover by RBs.

      I do agree with rethinking things. Put your best 4 or 5 DBs back there. From what I've seen on the field that's Lewis, Wilson, and Countess. Then you have Peppers, Lyons, in the mix along with the cast of safeties that did not stand out from last year (Hill, Thomas, Clark), Stribling, plus some younger options. Of course with new coaches anything is possible.

      Thinking more about the secondary. I seem to be the only who thinks Peppers isn

  4. Comments: 21379
    Feb 11, 2015 at 3:27 PM

    Yup, you got this better figured out than Harbaugh and staff.

    • Comments: 21379
      Feb 11, 2015 at 5:22 PM

      What you are unaware of here little anon, probably because of your preoccupation with that desperate but so far fruitless search for gainful employment, is that successful coaching staffs all over this great land of ours are actively searching out, on an almost daily basis, these little nuggets of wisdom offered up by The Roanman.

      That glaring exception of course being the Hoke administration which in their arrogance (Michigan Men after all) declined some extraordinarily good advice. The best of which was, Denard under center? ARE YOU NUTS? Well, we all know the end of that sad chapter.

      Read it again little troll, as that's how it's properly done. Pea shooter ….. gun fight.

    • Comments: 21379
      Feb 11, 2015 at 7:45 PM

      Only clarification – my comment was to "Thunder" not you, but then again I guess it could be applied to you in retrospect. You may have been prescient versus Hoke. My poorly educated (softball for you) guess is that you are not really in the same experience band as Harbaugh et al. "General seating" tryout recommendations for DB positions notwithstanding, I think the staff can figure this out.

  5. Comments: 21379
    Feb 11, 2015 at 5:58 PM

    I know Magnus/Thunder enjoys writing, because he publishes a lot of original and insightful work on this site. I know I enjoy reading, because I visit this site at least 4 days out of 7, and appreciate all of his original and insightful material. That and I will die humming "The Victors" to whatever is left of myself in the end.

    But with Jim Harbaugh as our head football coach I think we all should be prepared to be wildly inaccurate in our roster speculation, pleasantly surprised often, with the occasional unpleasant surprise mixed in for good measure.

    As an example regarding Jim's conception of the platoon system, did anyone notice Dymonte Thomas' locker room tour segment on the Signing Day special? He dropped a noteworthy comment: the lockers have been renumbered in order from 1 – 99. No divisions by class, or (strictly) position. Just football players with numbers between 1 and 99, out there in a room, flying or dying together 24/7/365.

    I'm sure Jim adheres to some concept of platoons, but my point is that he and his assistants will conceive of every roster they have in ways none of us ever will. And therein will lie the pleasant and unpleasant suprises.

    I sense he is one of the brightest minds in football, and we will all bask in its Maize colored glow for the foreseeable future.


    – Dave

  6. Comments: 21379
    Feb 11, 2015 at 8:44 PM

    I think you're a little pessimistic on the DEs. Considering we grabbed those guys away from FSU and Nebraska, I'm pretty excited about their long-term potential. I'm not even sure Hoke was in on anyone better heading into the season. Rankings aren't too impressive but offer lists indicate these guys are legit athletes. I'd give them an A-

    I agree with you on DT. Some (including Ace at mgoblog) seem panicked about this, but the reality is that a lot of our DEs could easily end up as DTs. Interior DL/SDE are positions Hoke hit really hard. Plus this is a position where freshman can contribute. It's clearly a big need in 2016, but skipping on the position in '15 was reasonable.

    Also agree on LB — this was a big whiff. I'd give them a lower grade for it, maybe an E. That said, you could certainly argue that some DBs will eventually end up at LB and that the need for LBs is marginalized in the day and age of frequent nickel packages. Hoke has over-recruited the position, so you can argue that a correction was needed (a la the WR situation in '11.)

    CB – almost everybody is a project when you are talking about transitioning to college. I love Washington's potential and the decommits under Hoke aren't really Harbaugh's problem. They did swing and miss on A LOT of prospects, so the grade does seem fair.

    Safety – I like Kinnel a lot and I think there's a good chance Cole ends up here as well.

    Overall, I think the grading was a little harsh. I like what Michigan did on defense more than what they got on offense FWIW.

    Nice post!

  7. Comments: 21379
    Feb 12, 2015 at 12:03 AM

    I'm a give the rundown first I'll start by saying I don't care bout the recruiting class this year we have so many under class men this year was jus basically adding players and we did get some decent guys might I add but let's run down Michigan football QB- were set there I think speights will start with morris close but it will b hard to keep malzone out the equasion for #2 if u watch his fill he has all the tools and we will be set there for the next few years.RB- very deep u can say no feature back but very good quality 3 maybe 4 deep can start for a lot of d1 teams and every year getting stronger very confident in that group.WR- a lot of people are sleep on this position plenty of talent plenty the sleeper is damario Jones what his film very good slot receiver mock my words he will b 3rd on depth chart 1st at slot u can argue experience but a lot of these guys got on field garbage time or special teams so they know how fast the game is played like every other offensive position harbaugh will have these guys competing which will have a huge impact on the upcoming season in a positive way. TE- so what we missed out on Chris Clark that kid was confused anyway not deep but Jake butt and kalid hill will thrive because of the reciver play which will b a lot better I think those 2 guys are really good Jake was actually open a lot this past season but Gardner was always locked on 1 guy which doomed the offense u will see between the 2 500-800 yards receiving with 7-10 touch downs. OL- still deep some upper class men but some young but a lot of playing experience showed good improvements but one again if u can't throw the ball n teams know there gonna load the box again with the receiving threat that box will b less crowded and a 1000 yard rusher will emerge and my guy here is ty Issac big fast physical shifty 1 on 1 u not tackling any of these guys. Point on the offensive side of the ball spreading the love not keying on one player like we have under gardner opens a lot for the offense u can jus key on one player or one thing u have to play defense against us think bout this we were never out of any game even Ohio with playing the way we played now that we won't b one dimensional we will have the edge over everyone yards per play will go up time management will go up turnovers will go down leads will b managed mix that in with a top 10 defense WOW

  8. Comments: 21379
    Feb 12, 2015 at 12:12 AM

    Defense will b bananas we lost frank Clark OK and but Jake was the biggest lose but I think we got more than enough talent every one says where short at a lot of positions people got to realize these guys have a lot of experience playing all over the field and still had a top 10 defense with a couple seniors and a few juniors I'm very confident in this d and I think it will b faster stronger and angry I'm calling a 10-11 win season with a win over Ohio

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