Review of 2007 Recruiting: Linebackers

Tag: Brandon Herron

14Nov 2014
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Review of 2007 Recruiting: Linebackers

Brandon Herron was the star of the class! (here being chased by former Michigan tackle Dann O’Neill, #68)

Shawn Crable, RS Sr.
Chris Graham, Sr.
John Thompson, Sr.
Brandon Logan, Jr.
Obi Ezeh, So.
Jonas Mouton, So.

Marell Evans
High school:
 Richmond (VA) Varina
Ratings: Rivals 2-star outside linebacker
College: Michigan Hampton Michigan
Other notable offer: Temple
Scoop: Evans had quite the circuitous journey through college football. A high school teammate of Brandon Minor (who would end up as Michigan’s starter at running back), Evans was a very under-the-radar recruit. He played sparingly in five games on special teams as a freshman in 2007, and then he made one start under Rich Rodriguez in 2008, finishing his sophomore year with 4 tackles, .5 tackles for loss, and .5 sacks. He left Michigan in 2009 and transferred to Hampton in 2010, but he sat out that season due to injury. He then returned to Michigan in 2011 and was purported to be starter-level material on a team with questionable linebackers, but apparently his academic situation left him unable to compete in games; he remained on the team and played as a scout linebacker. He participated in Michigan’s pro day, but he never got a shot in the NFL.

Brandon Herron
High school: Sugar Land (TX) Dulles
Ratings: Rivals 3-star, #25 outside linebacker
College: Michigan
Other notable offers: Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech
Scoop: Herron (a high school teammate of defensive back Troy Woolfolk) redshirted as a freshman in 2007. He made 7 tackles as a special-teamer in 2008. He saw more time on defense in 2009, when he made 20 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, and 1 fumble recovery. As a redshirt junior in 2010, he made 7 tackles and 1 pass breakup. He broke out in a big way as a fifth year senior in 2011 when he earned his first start against Western Michigan; Herron responded with 8 tackles, 1 fumble recovery (returned 29 yards for a touchdown), and 1 interception (returned 94 yards for a touchdown). Interestingly, he was barely heard from again, as he played just five more games that year and never started again; a nagging leg injury after week one may have contributed to that. He was not drafted in the 2012 NFL Draft, and his career ended despite a solid showing at Michigan’s pro day (4.59 forty, 26 bench press reps, a 37.5″ vertical, etc.).

Austin Panter
High school:
 El Dorado (KS) Butler County Community College
Ratings: Rivals 4-star inside linebacker
College: Michigan
Other notable offers: Minnesota
Scoop: A rare foray into the junior college transfer ranks for Michigan, Panter played immediately with junior eligibility in 2007. He made 7 tackles and 1 tackle for loss that year. Then in 2008 he made 8 tackles, .5 tackles for loss, .5 sacks, and 1 fumble recovery. An ineffective Big Ten player, he was not drafted in the 2009 NFL Draft and his career never got off the ground.

Hit the jump for the guys that Michigan took a swing at and missed.

Manny Abreu

High school:
 Union City (NJ) Union City
Ratings: Rivals 4-star, #11 outside linebacker
College: Rutgers
Other notable offers: Florida, Florida State
Scoop: Abreu played in one game and made 1 tackle before taking a redshirt for the 2007 season. As a redshirt freshman in 2008, he had 33 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, and 1.5 sacks. He made 18 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss in 2009. He became a starter as a redshirt junior in 2010, making 48 tackles and 5 tackles for loss. Prior to the 2011 season, he switched from outside linebacker to defensive end and played at 260 lbs. He finished the year with 29 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, and 3 sacks. He was not drafted in the 2012 NFL Draft and failed to latch on with an NFL team, after which it appears his career ended.

Chris Colasanti
High school: Bloomfield Hills (MI) Brother Rice
College: Penn State
Other notable offers:
Scoop: Colasanti played as a backup during the second half of his freshman year, making 3 total tackles. He was the backup middle linebacker in 2008 and made 16 tackles on the year. As a junior in 2009, he made 18 tackles and 1 sack. He finally became a starter as a senior in 2010, when he flourished with 112 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, and 1 pass breakup. He went undrafted in the 2011 NFL Draft, and while he signed with the Indianapolis Colts as a free agent, he never played in the NFL.

Scotty Cooper
High school:
 Lake City (SC) Lake City
Ratings: Rivals 4-star, #5 outside linebacker
College: Clemson
Other notable offers: LSU, Penn State, South Carolina, Virginia Tech
Scoop: Cooper was a backup linebacker as a freshman but managed 21 tackles and .5 tackles for loss. He made 30 tackles as a sophomore and then 12 as a junior, but he never earned a starting gig. He went through a couple knee surgeries and a neck injury, and he finally quit football before his 2010 senior season due to the mounting injuries. Cooper coached college football at Evangel University in Missouri during the 2012 season before joining the U.S. Army (LINK).

Lorenzo Edwards
High school:
 Orlando (FL) Edgewater
Ratings: Rivals 4-star, #6 outside linebacker
College: Florida
Other notable offers: Clemson, Miami, Notre Dame
Scoop: Edwards played a bit as a freshman and made 3 tackles on the season. As a sophomore in 2008, he made 27 tackles as a backup and special-teamer. He made 13 tackles as a backup in 2009 and then 14 in the same role in 2010. He was not drafted in the 2011 NFL Draft, and it appears his football career ended.

Brian Ellis
High school:
 Visalia (CA) College of the Sequoias
Ratings: Rivals 4-star inside linebacker
College: Purdue
Other notable offers: Arkansas, Auburn, South Carolina
Scoop: Ellis signed with Florida out of high school but didn’t qualify. As a junior college all-American, Ellis then signed with Purdue in the 2007 class. He never made it to Purdue, either, and it appears his college football career fizzled out.

Brandon Hicks
High school:
 Jacksonville (FL) Forrest
Ratings: Rivals 4-star, #8 outside linebacker
College: Florida
Other notable offers: Auburn, Florida State, Miami
Scoop: As a freshman in 2007, Hicks made 13 tackles, .5 tackles for loss, .5 sacks, and 2 pass breakups as a special teams player and backup linebacker. He became a part-time starter in 2008 and made 34 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, and 4 pass breakups. As a junior in 2009, he made 32 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 1 forced fumble, and 2 pass breakups. Then as a senior, he topped off his career with 38 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, and 1 interception. He went undrafted in the 2011 NFL Draft, and while he was signed by the Bills and Steelers, he never played in the NFL.

Jermale Hines
High school:
 Cleveland (OH) Glenville
Ratings: Rivals 4-star, #10 outside linebacker
College: Ohio State
Other notable offers: Iowa, Michigan State, West Virginia
Scoop: As a freshman in 2007, Hines made 3 total tackles as a backup and special teamer. In a larger role as a sophomore, he notched 31 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 3 pass breakups, and 1 fumble recovery, which he returned 48 yards for a touchdown. He became a starter at free safety in 2009, making 57 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 2 interceptions (with 48 yards and a touchdown), and 3 pass breakups. Finally, as a senior in 2010, he made 66 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, .5 sacks, 1 interception (returned for 23 yards), and 5 pass breakups; for that performance he was named First Team All-Big Ten. He was drafted in the 5th round (#158 overall) by the Indianapolis Colts in the 2011 NFL Draft. Hines made 6 total tackles in 2011 for the Colts and Carolina Panthers, but he did not play in the NFL after that.

John Jones
High school:
 Sarasota (FL) Booker
Ratings: Rivals 3-star, #30 outside linebacker
College: Florida
Other notable offers: Alabama, LSU, Notre Dame, South Carolina
Scoop: As a freshman in 2007, Jones made 10 tackles – mostly on the kickoff team – and 1 tackle for loss. He made 18 tackles and 1 pass breakup as a backup in 2008. He then transferred to to Tennessee State, where he became a starting linebacker; he made 70 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 1 fumble recovery, and 6 pass breakups as a junior in 2009. He was injured and sat out the 2010 season but returned to the field in 2011, when he made 47 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, and 10 pass breakups. He was not drafted in the 2011 NFL Draft and his career seems to have ended there.

Steve Paskorz
High school:
 Pittsburgh (PA) Hampton
Ratings: Rivals 4-star, #29 athlete
College: Notre Dame
Other notable offers: Iowa, Pitt, West Virginia
Scoop: Paskorz – whose younger brother, Jordan, played linebacker/defensive end/tight end at Michigan – redshirted as a freshman in 2007. He played sparingly as a backup fullback as a redshirt freshman and redshirt sophomore in 2008 and 2009. He missed the entire 2010 season due to a knee injury, and he transferred to West Virginia prior to 2011, but I do not believe he ever stepped on the field for WVU. He was not drafted in the 2012 NFL Draft, and it appears his football career ended.

Barquell Rivers
High school:
 Wadesboro (NC) Anson
Ratings: Rivals 3-star, #63 outside linebacker
College: Virginia Tech
Other notable offers: South Carolina, Virginia
Scoop: Rivers redshirted as a freshman in 2007. He made 10 tackles as a backup middle linebacker in 2008 before becoming a starter in 2009, when he notched 96 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, and 4 pass breakups. He tore his left quadriceps after the season and barely played in 2010. As a fifth year senior in 2011, he worked his way back into being a part-time starter and finished the year with 16 tackles, .5 tackles for loss, and 1 interception. He was not drafted in the 2012 NFL Draft, and it appears his career was over.

Malcolm Smith
High school:
 Woodland Hills (CA) Taft
Ratings: Rivals 4-star, #8 athlete
College: USC
Other notable offers: Notre Dame, Penn State
Scoop: Smith is the brother of former USC wide receiver Steve Smith, who also went on to play in the NFL, most notably with the New York Giants. As a freshman in 2007, Malcolm Smith made 6 tackles, 1 forced fumble, and 1 fumble recovery, which he returned for 31 yards. He was a backup again in 2008, making 18 tackles and .5 tackles for loss. He became a starting weakside linebacker in 2009 and made 72 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, 1 interception (returned for a 62-yard TD against UCLA), 1 forced fumble, and 3 pass breakups. As a senior in 2010, he made 78 tackles, 8 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 2 forced fumbles, and 2 pass breakups. He was drafted in the 7th round (#242 overall) by the Seattle Seahawks in the 2011 NFL Draft. So far he has 111 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles, and 6 pass breakups for the Seahawks as a part-time starter, including eight starts during their Super Bowl-winning season in 2013.

Chris Walker
High school:
 Memphis (TN) Christian Brothers
Ratings: Rivals 4-star, #14 outside linebacker
College: Tennessee
Other notable offers: Alabama, Florida State, LSU, Miami
Scoop: As a freshman in 2007, Walker made 3 tackles in limited time as a backup. As a backup again in 2008, he made 15 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles. He became a starter at defensive end as a junior, when he totaled 42 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, a team-leading 6 sacks, a team-high 2 interceptions (one of which he returned for a touchdown), 1 forced fumble, and 3 pass breakups. As a senior in 2010, he finished with 45 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 1 forced fumble, and 1 pass breakup. He was not drafted in the 2011 NFL Draft, and while he signed an undrafted free agent contract with the Baltimore Ravens at one point, he never played in the NFL. Walker was one party in a lawsuit against the NCAA for failing to provide adequate protection against concussions.

This was a pretty poor recruiting effort on Michigan’s part. With some mediocre talent on the team and not much in the way of numbers, Michigan infused the linebacker position with a JUCO guy, a 3-star with a halfway decent offer list, and a no-name 2-star. That partly explains Michigan’s defensive struggles from 2008-2010, when the Wolverines didn’t get a ton of production from their various defensive alignments.

Biggest miss: Malcolm Smith. Smith had a decent college career and was the only one to make it to the NFL. He would have improved the speed and talent level on the defense, but likely wouldn’t have been a huge difference-maker for the team in general.

Biggest bust: Brian Ellis. Ellis had two chances to make in college football (Florida and Purdue) and never made either happen.

Best in class: Melvin Ingram. Ingram was a 4-star outside linebacker from Hamlet, North Carolina, who chose the South Carolina Gamecocks. In his last two years in Columbia, he totaled 76 tackles, 26 tackles for loss, and 19 sacks, and he had a ridiculous game against Georgia when he scored 2 touchdowns, including a 68-yard fake punt run. He was drafted in the 1st round (#18 overall) by the San Diego Chargers in the 2012 NFL Draft after being named a Consensus All-American. He only has 57 tackles, 3 sacks, and 3 forced fumbles in his pro career, although his 2013 season was shortened by a recovery from an ACL tear.

14Aug 2012
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Brandon Herron Answers Your Questions

You may remember this.
 (Image via the Toledo Blade.)

Brandon Herron started only one game in his college career, yet few Michigan faithful will ever forget his name.  Herron put on an electric performance in Brady Hoke’s Michigan head coaching debut by becoming the only player in program history to record two touchdowns on defensive returns in a single game.  He also set the record for the longest interception return for a touchdown in Michigan history in the contest with his 94-yard bolt up the sideline in addition to recording eight tackles.  Now that’s a hell of a game.

However, with a career total of 42 tackles, 37 game appearances, two fumble recoveries, and an interception over a five year career, it’s obvious that Herron’s contributions to the football program extend far beyond those magical three quarters of football.  Brandon was recently kind enough to take a few minutes out of his weekend to talk very candidly about his Michigan memories and answer several reader questions.

The WMU game:  “It was an exciting point in my career; I never thought something like that would happen to me.  But as they say, hard work pays off, and I worked my tail off that summer and played a role to become a starter. . . .  A lot of people didn’t realize I had the speed to take it 94 yards, so that was a play that really showcased my speed.”

The injury:  “I can’t blame anyone but myself, but obviously during the game I was holding the ball wrong, and my coach actually had me hold the ball while we were running the next day.  And I was a little sore, but in my mind, I was trying to get better, and I ran a little hard, harder than expected, and I ended up tearing my hip flexor. . . . It happened the day after the Western Michigan game, and it took me awhile [to heal]. . . .

Weight:  “I’ve struggled with weight my entire life, and I really wasn’t an eater.  I didn’t have to worry about it in high school; it’s just when I got to college that it was like, ‘Okay, you need to put on a certain weight.’  And with the training staff, if you didn’t make weight, you couldn’t work out.  That was the only punishment.  Well, it wasn’t really a punishment – if you wanted to get better, you’d make the weight.”

Humor:  “When you’re on the sidelines, everyone’s pretty much in the zone.  I don’t think I have any funny moments on the sideline, but I can tell Purdue probably has some funny fans.  They know a lot about you.  It surprises you because they know your girlfriend’s name and everything else.  I don’t know how they know that stuff; they’ll say some nasty things, but it’s really funny. . . . I looked forward to Purdue because I looked forward to hearing what they had to say. . . . Kelvin Grady probably had the best humor [on the team].”

Special teams:  “Well, I didn’t come to Michigan to be a special teams player.  I came to Michigan to become that player, that starter.  But due to a lot of injuries, that became my role, and I had to accept that role.  I had to use the special teams to step up and become a starter because that’s how it’s usually done.  You prove to the coaches that you want to play when you get it done on special teams.”

Differences between the coaching staffs:  “Coach Hoke and Coach Carr, they were both – and even Coach Rod is a wonderful coach.  But Coach Rod went about doing things different, which is okay, but going from a Big East school to a Big Ten school where it’s all about tradition, it’s just one of those things.  Michigan is one of those schools that lives off of tradition, and if you try to break it and players know that, then sometimes players can go against the grain. . . . The thing people fail to realize is when we get going with the game, there are certain ways how to approach kids, and if you’re coming at them from the wrong way, then they’re going to respond differently.  It’s one of those things that happened to where Coach Rod approached us the wrong way, and it kind of divided up the team, and players began playing for themselves rather than playing for the team. . . . Coach Hoke and Coach Carr were likable coaches that people want to be around them.  They are very warmhearted and just want to help others out.  I’m not saying that Coach Rod didn’t want to help anybody, but there are certain people that you can be around where they don’t have to say anything, but you can read them, and you know that they want to help you.”

Three and Out:  “No, I haven’t had a chance to read it, but I know he [John U. Bacon] isn’t welcome in the building anymore.  I’m sure he said something about Coach Carr, and he didn’t like it or took it the wrong way, so he’s not allowed in Schembechler hall. . . . People are interested and want to know what we do, which is fine, but just being under Coach Carr and Coach Hoke – and after a while Coach Hoke put locks on the doors and codes for us because he doesn’t want everyone in the building knowing our business. . . . The more people that know your business, the more trouble you’ll have.”

Free Press Report:  “Oh, are you talking about the 20-hour rule?  Well, honestly, everybody breaks the 20-hour rule.  It’s okay to break the 20-hour rule.  But in my opinion, there’re times when things become a little too much, and players and our bodies are starting to break down and everything else.  Former players that went under Michigan and were able to speak – they were looking out for us.  And they’re the ones that went to the NCAA and told them that our bodies were going through some things.   And not to knock anybody down, but I’m not going to lie.  Even though it was tremendously hard and football is hard in general, but just during that time in my career, I went through a ride, and it made me a better person and a better man, and it made me appreciate things a lot more in life.  So when those allegations happened, I can say that maybe it was a sigh of relief that we were going to change some things up a little bit, or we were forced to change things up.  But actually it was better for us; it was better for the health of players.”

8Aug 2012
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Ask a Question: Brandon Herron

Linebacker Brandon Herron picks up a fumble and returns it 29 yards for a touchdown as
former Wolverine Dann O’Neill (#68) chases from behind

Bronco buster Brandon Herron has volunteered his time for an interview.  If you have any questions for him, leave them in the comments section and I’ll try to get to them when we talk.

7Sep 2011
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Snapshots: Brandon Herron’s 94-yard Interception Return

I’m not sure if you Michigan fans (or Western Michigan fans, if any Broncos have stumbled upon this site) remember this play from Saturday’s 34-10 victory, but it’s the one that went a long way toward earning linebacker Brandon Herron the Walter Camp Defensive Player of the Week honors.  It was also the longest interception return in Michigan football history at 94 yards.  It was kind of a big deal.
To set up the play, WMU has driven down to the Michigan 4.5 yard line with the score tied 7-7 and just over seven minutes remaining in the first half.  It’s 2nd-and-goal.  The Broncos come out with an Ace package (two tight ends, two wide receivers, one running back).  Despite the proximity to the goal line, defensive coordinator Greg Mattison knows that the Broncos like to throw the ball and counters with his basic nickel package: an Okie front with three down linemen, three linebackers, two cornerbacks, and three safeties.
SAM linebacker Jake Ryan has bumped down inside over WMU’s right guard.  On one side of him is Mike Martin in a 0-tech (nose tackle) and on the other is Craig Roh in a 5-tech (outside shoulder of offensive tackle).  Herron is aligned in a 3-off (outside the left guard’s shoulder and off the ball). 

As WMU quarterback Alex Carder hits the first step of a three-step drop, he sees that Michigan is running the exact same coverage that he probably saw in his pre-snap read – Man Free.  Each of the cornerbacks is locked up on a wideout, strong safety Jordan Kovacs and nickel corner Thomas Gordon each have a tight end, and free safety Carvin Johnson patrols the middle of the field; Herron is tasked with picking up the running back out of the backfield, and middle linebacker Kenny Demens is coming up to blitz.  With the left tight end releasing and the right tight end staying in to block, WMU’s offensive line correctly slides its protection to the left; therefore, each offensive lineman is responsible for the gap immediately to his left.  In theory this should work, unless the defense sends multiple defenders to one gap.  They don’t.

As Carder hits his third step, his options are limited.  Cornerback Courtney Avery has blanketed the receiver to the bottom of the screen while the releasing tight end is running straight into the juggernaut known as Jordan Kovacs.  At the top of the screen, cornerback J.T. Floyd awaits the backside receiver.  Nickel corner Thomas Gordon waits at the line of scrimmage for the running back to release, which the RB never does; instead he steps up to block the 250 lb. Demens.  The LT successfully single blocks DE Ryan Van Bergen, the LG and C struggle to hold off NT Mike Martin, and the remaining TE single blocks DE Craig Roh.

The problem is that everybody forgot about Jake Ryan, who rushed at the snap.  The RG blocked him initially, but when Ryan stepped back to the RG’s other side, the RG correctly left him to RT Dann O’Neill.  O’Neill has nobody else to block and stands still so everyone can admire his long blonde hair.  Carder just hit his back foot and might want to release the ball soon, since a 230 lb. man is two yards away and approaching fast.

As Carder releases the ball, Ryan does his best impression of Dikembe Mutombo and swats the pass, which looks to be intended as a back shoulder throw to CB Avery’s wideout.  The pass is probably a bad idea no matter what, since nobody’s open except FS Johnson and LB Herron.  In retrospect, Carder’s thinking he should have eaten it and taken the sack.  At the time, Carder was probably thinking, “Maybe if I throw it, the bad man won’t hit me anymore.”  He was wrong.

Herron intercepts the deflected ball at the 5-yard line while Carder lies on his back.

Herron, who was planning to step out of bounds and enjoy raucous cheers and pats on the butt from the cheerleaders, hears a screeching voice coming from the vicinity of my couch yelling “Stay inbounds!”  Spurred on by the urgency of my screams, he eludes the WMU left tackle and runs as fast as he can.

O’Neill, who at this point feels monumentally guilty for leaving Michigan and for growing hair like Kyle Turley’s, pretends to trip over Kenny Demens’ foot so he won’t have to run anymore.  Meanwhile, Herron’s convoy includes the 300 lb. Mike Martin and the 290 lb. Ryan Van Bergen, neither of whom are needed but both of whom make the effort anyway; the 230 lb. Ryan, who batted the pass to Herron and the quarterback to the ground, also runs interference downfield.  (Watch this full speed and take a gander at Van Bergen, who puts his head down and sprints his ass off despite knowing that he’s a brontosaurus chasing . . . some other type of faster -saurus.)

Herron, a 221 lb. linebacker, crosses the goal line five yards ahead of 195 lb. free safety Carvin Johnson.  Momentum has shifted.  The band plays a song.  The people rejoice.  Somewhere, a child is born.  Probably.

Herron caught the ball at 7:09 and crossed the goal line at 6:58, meaning he took roughly 11 seconds to travel 95 yards wearing football pads and dodging offensive linemen.  Remember all those practice reports saying that Herron was a physical freak but lacking in football instincts?  This confirms the former, but the latter might be in question now.  Combine this play with his 29-yard fumble return for a touchdown later in the game, and Herron had 8 tackles, 1 interception, 1 fumble recovery, 123 yards of returns, and 2 touchdowns.  Not bad for a guy who was a late addition to the starting lineup after beginning the week as the #2 weakside linebacker.  I wonder if Herron will start next week . . .

Go Blue!

(The above play begins at 1:53 of the video below.)