Army All-American Game analysis

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3Jan 2009
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Army All-American Game analysis

The East team beat the West in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl this afternoon, 30-17. I predicted a West victory, but Tajh Boyd must have been angered by my prediction and threw three touchdowns to prove me wrong.

(I hope you know the meaning of sarcasm.)

Most Impressive Offensive Player
Tie: Tajh Boyd, QB, and Bryce Brown, RB (East team)
Boyd didn’t start the game, but he was the best quarterback for either team. He completed 7-of-9 passes for 187 yards and 3 TD’s. That’s an average of 20+ yards per attempt. One throw was a questionable decision where Boyd threw into double coverage to Corey Brown. Luckily, Corey Brown was wearing his Superman underpants and outleaped both defenders to make an excellent catch in the end zone. Running back Bryce Brown was named co-MVP of the game with Boyd after catching a 60-yard and 41-yard TD passes. Bryce Brown looked like the fastest player on the field and he outran linebackers on both TD catches to get open. He also looked elusive and powerful when running the ball.

Most Impressive Defensive Player
Willie Downs, SS
Downs is an athlete committed to Florida State. He hadn’t played defense for his entire senior year before practice this week, but the shortage of defensive backs on the East team necessitated a move from receiver to safety. Downs turned out to be the best defensive player on either team. He intercepted a first quarter pass by AJ McCarron and returned it 49 yards for a touchdown. He also had at least one pass deflection and forced a fumble, along with making several tackles.

Analysis of Michigan Commits

William Campbell, DT
I was thoroughly disappointed in Campbell’s performance. He’s a better player than what he showed in this game. He started at defensive tackle and played sparingly subbing for Xavier Nixon at left offensive tackle. He consistently stood straight up at defensive tackle and played pattycake with the offensive guard before trying to chase down the play. Campbell might have been able to knock around the average high school lineman with a forearm shiver or two, but you can’t do that with elite players. His effort was subpar. It was a meaningless game in the sense that nobody really cares who wins these all-star games; nonetheless, it showed that he didn’t take the game seriously, which brings his discipline and competitive drive into question. He seems like a good teammate and a good kid, so I think he’ll do fine at Michigan. But it does scare me a little bit because former highly touted, mammoth defensive linemen at Michigan (Alan Branch, Gabe Watson) have been guilty of taking too many plays off.

Jeremy Gallon, WR
Gallon received rave reviews early in the week for his ability to get open and create plays for himself. Unfortunately, he sustained a bit of a groin pull in the middle of the week that hampered him for the remainder of the week’s practices. That injury might have prevented him from seeing significant playing time in the game, because Jake Golic and Orson Charles both saw extended time in the slot, and neither of them is a typical slot receiver. Still, Gallon caught a 34-yard pass through a tight window from Tajh Boyd and made an excellent special teams tackle. He will likely be a contributor as a freshman in 2009, returning kicks, working from the slot, or both.

Anthony Lalota, DE
I am not very impressed by Lalota’s skills. He’s a recent convert to football, having not played until his junior year of high school. So significant improvement may still be forthcoming. However, he is very raw as a defensive end and usually tries to beat offensive tackles by bull rushing with 100% effort. I love the effort and that hard work could turn him into a very good player, but at 6’6″ and 260 lbs., he reminds me of former Michigan player Pat Massey, which is generally not considered to be a good thing by Michigan fans. As far as I saw, he didn’t make any plays in the game, and I wouldn’t expect him to play significantly at Michigan for at least a couple years.

Justin Turner, CB
Turner already has a college body and college skills. I’m encouraged by what I saw today. He did get beaten for a touchdown by Patrick Patterson, but he had excellent coverage on that play and Patterson made a highlight reel, leaping, one-handed catch. Turner later had an acrobatic interception to go along with a half dozen tackles or so. He’ll be ready to contribute in the fall, most likely as a slot corner or a safety.

Brendan Gibbons, K
Gibbons had a mercurial performance today. His first kickoff was short; his second kickoff was excellent. His first extra point squeezed just inside the post; his first field goal attempt split the uprights. A 46-yard field goal attempt was about as wide right as you can get. He also had an extra point attempt blocked. One thing I noticed on the blocked field goal was that he was shuffling his feet when he was waiting for the snap. I’m not sure if that was out of nervousness, a bad habit he has, or something he was coached to do. But it didn’t seem like he was ready to be moving when the ball was snapped, which slowed down his approach by a split second. The kick might have still been blocked, but either way, Gibbons has some things to work on. He does have a strong leg, though, which is a great building block.

3Jan 2009
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William Campbell, Wolverine

A collective sigh of relief blew through the internet when William Campbell re-committed to Michigan during the Army All-American Bowl this afternoon. He had committed to Michigan during his junior year but then decommitted in the fall of 2008 in order to take visits elsewhere. One prevailing theory for his decommitment was that he wanted to get free trips to see other parts of the country. His adventures out of the way, he picked a Michigan hat off the table instead of LSU, who had made a late push, and Miami.

Campbell is 6’5″ and 317 lbs. and a very good athlete for his size. Several schools were recruiting Campbell to play offensive line, but he will most likely be a defensive tackle for the Wolverines.

Rivals: *****, #3 defensive tackle, #25 player overall
Scout: *****, #4 defensive tackle, #35 player overall

Campbell’s position might depend on what defensive scheme Rich Rodriguez chooses to use in 2009. If Rodriguez chooses to use a base 3-3-5 defense, Campbell would mostly play nose tackle and split time with Mike Martin as a true freshman. If Rodriguez selects a defensive coordinator with a base 4-3 scheme, I think Campbell will start as a 3-tech defensive tackle. He and Campbell are both ideal nose tackles, but with two such talents on the defensive line – and very little depth behind them, with Renaldo Sagesse and two other incoming freshmen – Campbell is a better fit as a 3-tech than Martin would be. With Brandon Graham returning at one defensive end and two defensive tackles who could command consistent double teams, that could make for a dynamic defensive line. Barring injury, Campbell should be a three- or four-year starter.

1Jan 2009
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I just wanna dance!

If you want inside info, here it is. This is what happens when Army All-Americans get together:

William Campbell was just about the only East team member willing to get out there and dance. I like that. He’s not afraid of competition. Where was Anthony Lalota, though? We should all know by now that when you’re looking for a good dancer, you should never overlook the 6’6″, 260 lb. white guy.

Also, there was this:

Campbell looked pretty agile and showed pretty good hands…for a 6’4″, 315 lb. defensive tackle. He definitely looked more athletic than fellow DT Chris Davenport. I guess that’s why Campbell is #25 on the Rivals 100 and Davenport is a lowly #26.

25Dec 2008
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Christmas Wish List

With 2009 recruiting in the home stretch, the Wolverines have a little over a month to woo undecided prospects (or, in the case of Eugene Smith, decided prospects). With early enrollees possibly counting toward the 2008 class, possible transfers and early draft entries, etc., it has been suggested that Michigan could accept 28 National Letters of Intent. Considering all the decommits Michigan has suffered this year (Anthony Fera, Bryce McNeal, Kevin Newsome, Jordan Barnes, Shavodrick Beaver, Will Campbell), I doubt we will pull in 28 commits. I’m guessing the current number of 20 commits will jump to about 26 by National Signing Day.

Here is my Christmas wish list. Obviously, if this were totally wishful thinking, I’d wish for Russell Shepard and Jesus. These are eight players still on Michigan’s radar who I would like to see fill out the class. In no particular order:

William Campbell, DT
Campbell is a 5-star to Scout and Rivals. He was an early commit to Michigan and then opened up his recruitment. The decommitment was rumored to be merely a chance to get free trips around the country. He was “interested” in USC, but the Trojans stopped recruiting him, possibly because they realized they had no shot at actually garnering a commitment from the 6’4″, 317 lb. defensive tackle. Campbell will announce his commitment when he participates in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on January 3, 2009, but rumors have circulated that he has already enrolled for Winter 2009 classes at the University of Michigan.

Quinton Washington, OG
Washington is the #16 offensive guard to Rivals and a 4-star. After he visited Michigan officially on September 26, he made some comments about Michigan being his leader. Since then, our position with him seems to have weakened somewhat. He’s been pretty quiet about favorites recently, but he hasn’t visited any other schools recently. Hopefully he was so overwhelmed by Michigan that he’s not visiting anywhere else and he’s just trying to draw out the drama. At 6’3″ and 315 pounds, he could be a mauler.

Denard Robinson, QB/ATH
Robinson is being recruited hard by Florida, who is considered the team to beat. But Michigan is probably turning up the heat on him. With the recent decommitment of Shavodrick Beaver, Michigan needs to add another quarterback in this recruiting circuit. Robinson has excellent athleticism and a decent arm, although he lacks some fundamentals. He’s the #12 athlete in the country, according to Rivals, and if the whole quarterback thing doesn’t work out, Robinson could play cornerback or wide receiver. It’s quite possible that Tate Forcier will be the best QB recruit Michigan can get in 2009, and with the lackluster performances of the quarterbacks on the current roster, Forcier might have a clear path to be the starter for several years. It’s not a bad idea to bring in a guy who could learn quarterback but play some receiver. And if Michigan gets a good QB in 2010 such as Devin Gardner, Robinson could switch to defense. He has a lot of talent and a lot of versatility.

Dan Mason, MLB
Mason is strictly an inside linebacker prospect. When I first watched film of him, I did not think he would be a significant upgrade over the decommitted Jordan Barnes. They seem like similar players in a lot of respects. But with additional film study, Mason looks more athletic than Barnes. I would like to see Michigan make a habit of turning outside linebackers into middle linebackers, but it’s not a bad idea to have at least one pure MIKE on the team. Both other middle linebackers on the current roster (Obi Ezeh and JB Fitzgerald) have more athleticism and could also play SAM. Furthermore, Mason is a solid tackler, which has been a weakness of Michigan teams for the past two seasons.

Chris Freeman, OT
Freeman is a project. He’s about 6’7″ and 330 lbs. and he never played organized football until his junior year of high school. However, he was a basketball player before that, so he has some athleticism and competition isn’t a brand new thing to him. Kids that size don’t grow on trees, and the nice thing about Freeman is this – he doesn’t have to be Michigan’s savior at offensive tackle. Michigan isn’t looking for Freeman to come in and start – or even compete – right away. These are the tackles Michigan will have on the roster in 2009: Mark Ortmann (5th year senior), Steve Schilling (RS junior), Perry Dorrestein (RS junior), Dann O’Neill (RS freshman), Patrick Omameh (RS freshman), Michael Schofield (freshman), and Taylor Lewan (freshman). There’s a lot of young talent and depth at the position, meaning Freeman would presumably have three or four years to learn and mature before being asked to contribute.

Je’Ron Stokes, WR
Stokes plays a position of…”want.” The Wolverines don’t necessarily need another outside wide receiver for 2009. Stokes would have several players in front of him, all vying for a limited number of passes. But he’s the #13 receiver in the country, according to Rivals, and you can never have too many playmakers on your team, especially when you’re trying to fill up a recruiting class. Michigan has plenty of receivers for 2009, although several are of the slot variety, and two outstanding 2010 recruits in Jeremy Jackson and Ricardo Miller. I doubt Michigan will start handing out WR offers in the last month or so. If the coaches can land a good one, they’ll take him. If not, they’ll be fine with what they have.

Travante Stallworth, slot receiver
Stallworth’s recruiting bears watching throughout January and into February. He had been an Auburn commit before things in Tigerland went haywire, so now he’s a free agent. Without having visited Michigan, Stallworth has said that he’s very interested in the Wolverines. On top of that, Michigan is the only team that has offered Stallworth a shot to play quarterback. Yep. Stallworth is a wispy high school quarterback from the SEC area that many schools are recruiting to play wide receiver. I’m not saying he’s the next Pat White. But I’m not saying he’s not the next Pat White, either.

Dennis Thames, S/CB
Thames has been hard to read throughout the scouting process. He’s changed his mind several times about his leaders, which is understandable. Early in this recruiting cycle, it was thought Michigan would have a good shot with him because his uncle is Marcus Thames, an outfielder for the Detroit Tigers. More recently, it seems like Mississippi State might earn his pledge. Either way, Michigan needs help in the defensive backfield. Thames’s ability to play corner would be helpful, since Michigan has several safety/linebacker hybrids who have yet to mature. If players like Isaiah Bell and Mike Jones move to linebacker, Thames could help out at safety; if those other two stay at safety, Thames could be a corner.

24Dec 2008
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The Plan

At this point, this is obviously a fledgling blog. I started it back in early fall. Due to extenuating circumstances, I was unable to keep up with it as much as I would have liked.

Looking forward, here are some ideas I have:

– Individual player pages, preferably in wiki form.
– Countdowns of various sorts, including “Freshmen Most Likely to Contribute” (to begin after National Signing Day) and “Top Returning Players” (to begin once a new defensive coordinator is announced or when we learn about the playing statuses of Avery Horn, Carson Butler, and Brandon Graham).
– General team reporting, opinions, and discussion.

The player page thing is a work in progress as I try to decide on the proper format for the wiki pages.

Feel free to give me ideas for things you might want to see.