Martell Webb, #80

Martell Webb, #80

May 18, 2011

Martell Webb looks like a defensive tackle

 2010 Countdown: #37 Martell Webb

Webb graduated from Pontiac (MI) Northern High School in 2007.  He was a 4-star recruit and the #20 receiver in the country to Scout.  Rivals ranked him as a 4-star and the #29 wide receiver.  During his senior season, he had 31 catches for 862 yards (27.8 yards per catch) and 12 touchdowns.  He also returned 11 punts for 301 yards (27.4 yards per return)

Webb burned his redshirt in 2007, playing sparingly in 10 games.  Most of his playing time was on special teams, where he assisted on 3 tackles.  He played a bit of tight end, but did not catch a pass.  As a sophomore in 2008, he was deemed even less ready.  Webb played in 3 games and only on special teams.  People began to wonder if he would ever contribute, but in 2009 he played in all 12 games, earning 1 start and catching 4 passes for 44 yards and 1 touchdown; he had developed into the team’s blocking tight end.  More of the same was to come in 2010, when Webb started 2 games and played in all 13.  On a team that didn’t utilize the tight ends much in the passing game, he caught 5 passes for 67 yards and 1 touchdown while backing up Kevin Koger.

3 starts; 9 receptions, 111 yards, 2 touchdowns; 3 special teams tackles

Even back in 2007, I was frustrated that Webb was burning his redshirt.  In the summer prior to the season, I saw Webb at a Blockbuster store in Ann Arbor, and he looked like the wide receiver/tight end tweener that he was coming out of high school.  Then a month later, I saw him on the field as a freshman.  It didn’t make sense then, and it doesn’t make sense now.  He barely played that season.  Had he redshirted that year, he might have had a good shot at being the starter going into 2011, although his battle with Koger would have continued.  Now Michigan has a dearth of tight ends (unless you like walk-ons, position switchers, or a guy who we’ve barely seen on the field in Brandon Moore) to back up or complement Koger, who would have been ideal for the H-back role this year.  Webb reportedly suffered from the dropsies in practice during his first couple seasons, which is why he rarely played early on.  And when he did play, he rarely saw the ball come his way through the air, although they ran behind him plenty.  How could you not run behind a 268 lb. tight end?  Perhaps the play I’ll remember most is the one pictured above, which was a short throwback on which Webb was completely unencumbered by the diminutive defender climbing up his back.

There was an outside chance that Webb would be drafted in the April NFL Draft, and that chance remained outside.  Whenever NFL teams are allowed to sign free agents, though, I expect Webb to latch on as an undrafted free agent.  He has decent athleticism, especially for a guy who’s 6’4″ and 268 lbs.  If nothing else, he could be a cheap blocking tight end for an NFL team, not unlike former Denver Bronco Dwayne Carswell.

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  1. Comments: 21381
    May 18, 2011 at 10:37 AM

    Is it possible for a player to redshirt after their freshman year? Sometimes when depth is a problem I could see a player burning a RS as a freshman but then be redshirted a year or two later. Not saying this was the case for Webb but I think it explains some other non-sensical burning of redshirts by Rich Rod?

    I'm more mad about Barnett maybe not redshirting this year as a result of Webb not being a RS Senior than not actually having Webb. I liked him and he is a solid #2 TE, I just think 1 more year of Barnett > 1 more year of Webb.

  2. Comments: 21381
    May 18, 2011 at 10:42 AM

    @ KB 6:37 a.m.

    It is possible, but rare. Most redshirts that come after a player's freshman year are due to injury.

    By the way, Lloyd Carr burned Martell Webb's redshirt in 2007, not Rodriguez. Rodriguez burned some redshirts that made me unhappy, too, but he's not to blame here.

    Personally, at this point I'd rather have a known commodity (Webb) than an unknown in Barnett. You never know how Barnett's going to turn out. And I don't know that Barnett will HAVE to play this year. As long as the other TE's stay healthy, we'll have Koger, Moore, and Watson, plus Ricardo Miller as an H-back type. Not exactly a murderer's row, but you don't really need your third TE to be awesome, either.

  3. Comments: 21381
    May 18, 2011 at 6:53 PM

    We could always shift a fullback-type player to tight end for 3-TE sets Aaron Shea-style if we're dead set on redshirting Barnett (good idea due to knee injury). We at least have flexibility.

  4. Comments: 21381
    May 18, 2011 at 7:28 PM

    Interesting that a guy reportedly recruited to be a WR and ranked by all the sites as a WR, who was a lanky 210 lbs @ 6'5, ended up essentially a blocking specialist with 9 career catches.

    Goes to show you that you can't take long-term projections about positions too seriously when it comes to recruits. They're all 'athletes' to some degree. Its true that an OL won't often become a QB, but we've seen QBs become TEs before.

    Regarding the issue with the red-shirt…its possible that Barnett never commits to Michigan if Webb was red-shirted. And if he does, then Michigan has one less scholarship to offer someone else.

    Don't get me wrong, I'd rather use a scholarship on a 5th year of Webb than a 1st year of Barnett but thats not a real choice. Scholarships are scarse rescources that have to be allocated wisely. When you red-shirt a guy you get no production out of that scholarship and have one less guy that could be potentially brought in to contribute.

    Sometimes, not saying thats true here, when people talk about 'burning' a red-shirt they act as though its free money, but in reality it's a tradeoff. Many players will only be special teamers or occassional backups for 2 years before finally significantly contributing to the team for 2 seasons. The question is, will that production be significantly more if you invest 5 years of scholarships instead of 4. The answer is – who knows. Many players won't be 25% more productive despite your additional 25% investment – thats why you see athletic guys who can help right away – even just for special teams – play as freshman.

  5. Comments: 21381
    May 18, 2011 at 7:43 PM


    I still think you're crazy to think Barnett's not going to play. Kogers not going to be able to play every down. We need depth and Moore hasn't been real good so far, Watson's been a DE, and Miller's tiny. There are bodies, enough to have serviceable depth and even enough for some of the 2 TE formations the staff wants, but..

    Barnett is a high end talent if his offer list is any indicator. He's a big target – 6'4 and 244 as of last winter (ESPN) and Rivals even has him at 6'6 245 – meaning he could be physically close to being ready to play by fall. I think they'll want to utilize a weapon like that if he's at all ready.

    Especially considering Denard's skills as a passer – he can gun it to a spot, but is less good at leading his receiver or putting touch on it. I'd imagine Borges is going to want to give him some more big targets from TE types.

    I'll be very surprised to see him red-shirt. He should at least be useable as a pass catcher from the 2nd TE spot while someone like Koger or Moore blocks. I could see him sub in for Koger in a passing situation or be a target on a goal-line play action. Koger is clearly the #1 guy, but after that its Barnett might be the most effective receiving target at TE the day he steps on campus.

  6. Comments: 21381
    May 18, 2011 at 7:45 PM


    Interesting point you make about projected positions for recruits. Granted, linemen are the hardest to project, but I like the line about how they're all "athletes" to a degree.

    Part of why I like this is my annoyance with people like the not-quite-trolls on MGoBlog who got snooty when, for example, Jake Ryan was recruited and they came out with lines like "It's about TIME we recruited a linebacker who actually played linebacker in high school."

  7. Comments: 21381
    May 18, 2011 at 8:09 PM

    Ha – well, I actually agree with that logic. While positions switches are going to happen, they come with a cost. The main thing for the Michigan defense was that we want to see some stability. And considering the defense needed immediate help – having people like Carvin Johnson and Craig Roh playing LB seems to be kind of crazy. We needed a reliable base before doing a lot of experimenting and switching on defense.

    Hopefully we have that now. The starters at DL are veterans. The backups are hopefully done moving around. The linebackers are mostly returning. The secondary is still a Work-In-Progress but with Woolfolk-Avery-Kovacs hopefully you have 3 guys that can be viewed as returning starters.

    My comment was more in regard to people on MGoBlog getting nervous about not enough SDE vs WDE and too many WLB vs MLB and if Wayne Morgan is a safety or cornerback. I enjoy reading the individual conjecture, but trying to access roster balance based on that kind of stuff just seems silly.

  8. Comments: 21381
    May 18, 2011 at 8:50 PM

    @ David 2:53 p.m.

    I don't know that we have many fullback-type players who could move to TE. The only fullback on the roster is John McColgan. Next in line is probably Stephen Hopkins, and incoming freshman Joey Kerrigan is coming off a knee injury himself.

    I agree that you can manufacture a blocking tight end (take a backup DE, a walk-on, etc.), but that really limits your playcalling/versatility.

    Hopefully everyone just stays healthy and we don't have to worry about it. *crosses fingers*

  9. Comments: 21381
    May 18, 2011 at 9:06 PM

    @ Lankownia 3:28 p.m.

    I didn't follow recruiting as much back in 2007 (or in 2006 when Webb committed), but I do remember thinking that he was awfully big to be a WR. Rivals had him at 6'5", 225 lbs. I did think he would be a tight end, but I figured he would be the H-back/receiving type rather than the 268 lb. monster that he turned into.

    The thing with redshirts is that, for all intents and purposes, a kid who doesn't redshirt loses flexibility with his eligibility. Coaches and/or players can cut off the scholarship after four years with no real hard feelings. Four years (to schools that have a conscience) are virtually guaranteed, but that fifth year is a bonus.

    Michigan had Carson Butler, Andre Criswell, Chris McLaurin, Mike Massey, and a freshman Steve Watson on that team, too. I think that might have been the year that Massey was hurt, but even Watson was bigger (239 lbs.) than Webb that year. For what Webb was asked to do (run down the field on special teams, block occasionally on offense), I think they could have found someone else to do those things just as well. Additionally, I would have been more concerned about preserving Webb's talent than Watson's.

    I'm not furious about the redshirt thing with Webb, but it's one of many that just tweaks me a little bit.

  10. Comments: 21381
    May 18, 2011 at 9:13 PM

    @ Lankownia 3:43 p.m.

    We'll see, I guess. I'm not 100% certain that Barnett won't play, but it just seems like another waste to me. Barnett's coming off an ACL injury, and he didn't enroll early.

    Furthermore, Koger will obviously be the starter, but I'm guessing a redshirt junior Brandon Moore will be more physically ready than a true freshman coming off an ACL tear. So if Barnett is going to be #3 (let's say he's ahead of Watson in the talent/polish department and Miller in the size department), then do you really want to burn a high-caliber talent's redshirt to give him a #3 tight end's snaps? I'm guessing Watson will be able to do most of the things that Barnett could do, at least in the blocking department.

    Furthermore, I just don't see Denard using the tight ends much. He's short and doesn't throw the ball well over the middle of the field, which is where Barnett would mostly be operating. Koger and Webb caught most of their passes on banana routes, tight end screens, etc. If those are the routes your tight ends are going to use, then Ricardo Miller can run an out route just as well as Chris Barnett. Size doesn't matter a whole lot when you're throwing the ball to a location outside the hash marks.

    Does Michigan need Barnett to play in 2011? Probably not.

    Will he play in 2011? I don't know.

  11. Comments: 21381
    May 18, 2011 at 9:23 PM

    @ David 3:45 p.m.

    I might have been one of those guys. I did have issues with the guys Rodriguez recruited to play linebacker, and I don't think people who criticized Rodriguez for that were necessarily wrong. Currently we've got small-ish linebackers Brandin Hawthorne and Mike Jones backing up the WILL (both of whom were safety/linebacker types in high school), and high school FS Isaiah Bell is playing MIKE.

    Bell and Hawthorne are both buried on the depth chart, and Cam Gordon doesn't really count, since he was recruited as a WR/S. The fact that he's a possible/likely starter at linebacker seems to be more coincidence than anything else. The biggest success story for Rodriguez's linebacker recruiting seems to be Jake Ryan, who just so happened to be one of the few pure linebackers Rodriguez recruited.

    I realize that a lot of teams turn safeties into linebackers, running backs into linebackers, etc. But I think you ought to have a good mix of players who understand run fits, know how to read plays, and have the size to play the position. You might catch lightning in a bottle once in awhile with a position changer (Ian Gold, for example), but you also ought to recruit some linebacker-sized linebackers, too.

  12. Comments: 21381
    May 18, 2011 at 10:02 PM

    Back to the red-shirt thing for a second. One way to think about it is that if you had 20 years worth of scholarships that is (20 x 85) = 1700 scholarship-years to offer. If you redshirt everyone (divide by 5 years) thats 340 players. If you divide by 4 years, thats 425 players. So, you're cycling through up to 25% more players by not red-shirting.

    Now, realistically, its going to be way less than that because of the flexibility (unrenewed 5th years) that you mentioned. But still…

    Some of recruiting is just about getting guys on campus. Its luck-of-the-draw so you want as many lotto tickets as you can get. With some guys the coaches will see that a) he can't help us at all right now and b) he can be really really good long-term; the decision to red-shirt is obvious. Other guys – not so obvious. Maybe when Webb (and people like him) arrive on campus the coaches say – this guy is fine, he'll never be great and he can help a bit on special teams right away which will preserve a starter and keep my lil walk-ons on the bench where they belong; no red-shirt. We'll just add to our recruiting class size in a few years instead of bothering with a redshirt.

    As for Barnett – I agree Moore will be more physically ready, I just suspect he's not as talented. Though he had good offers coming out of high school too, he seems like a moderate bust so far. But the injury concern is a good point.

    Fair point about Denard not throwing in the middle (or to TEs) last year. I question how much the height thing really matters though now that we're a from-center offense — the pocket will arc around denard and be an issue no matter where he throws unless we're talking about quick hitters or roll-outs — which we might be. I guess better put – it'll be an issue no matter where he throws, if he's throwing from the pocket. It's easier to see 6'5 targets than 5'11 targets.

    If you're bringing back bootlegs and phasing out WR screens – the TE will be used a lot more.


  13. Comments: 21381
    May 18, 2011 at 10:41 PM

    Linebacker was an admittedly poor example.

    Cornerback would be a better one, as position switches to corner from something else in high school seem rather common.

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