Josh Furman, Ex-Wolverine

Tag: Ex-Wolverines

27Jan 2014
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Josh Furman, Ex-Wolverine

Josh Furman blocked this punt against Nebraska in 2011

Safety Josh Furman, who would have been a fifth year senior in 2014, has decided to leave the program one year early, joining running back Thomas Rawls and defensive tackle Richard Ash in departing.

Furman committed to Michigan in December 2009 over teams like Oklahoma and Virginia Tech. I did not write a commitment post for him at the time, as the blog was still in its infancy stages. However, I did write a scouting report on him the previous month. At the time, I assumed he would bulk up and turn into a linebacker, and once he signed with the Wolverines, I thought he would play on the weakside. You may notice that I questioned his coverage abilities and said he would be too stiff to play defensive back in college. Players who move back in a defense (from DE to LB, or from LB to S) tend to struggle more, and Furman is no exception. He had the potential to be a quality linebacker for the Wolverines, but he turned into a below average safety.

Furman never added the weight to become a linebacker and finished his Michigan career as a 6’2″, 202 lb. safety. With starting safety Thomas Gordon suspended to begin the year, Furman made his first career start in the opener and went on to start three games this past season. Altogether, he finished with 11 tackles and 1 pass breakup on the season. In 30 games played over his career, he totaled 29 tackles and the 1 pass breakup. Most of those tackles came on special teams coverage, which was perhaps the best trait he provided to Michigan during his career.

It is unclear where Furman will end up, but most players end up transferring closer to home. Perhaps he’ll end up at Maryland or Temple, or he might even move down a level to play in the FCS. He’s the 19th member of the 27-man 2010 class to depart before running out of eligibility.

Michigan is left rather thin at safety with Furman’s departure and the graduations of Thomas Gordon and Courtney Avery. The Wolverines return one starter in the form of junior Jarrod Wilson, but other contributions will have to come from untested players like redshirt sophomore Jeremy Clark, sophomore Dymonte Thomas, sophomore Delano Hill, position switchers, or freshmen. My initial expectation is that Wilson and Thomas will be the starters at safety next season.

26Jan 2014
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Richard Ash, Ex-Wolverine

Richard Ash (#54)

Rising fifth year senior nose tackle Richard Ash was granted a transfer release and will not return to Michigan in 2014. His destination is unclear at this point, but I would expect him to end up at a MAC level school or at the FCS level.

Ash committed to Michigan in December 2009 after flipping his commitment from West Virginia. He was a 263 lb. player coming out of high school, and I assumed that he would chisel his body into becoming a 5-tech defensive end or perhaps a 3-tech tackle. However, he was 300 lbs. when he arrived on campus, which is obviously a ways away from his high school weight. Recruiting analysts mentioned that he was a better player when he was 240 or so as a junior, so his weight when he arrived in Ann Arbor was an immediate red flag to me. Ash settled in at nose tackle for the duration of his career, but he never made an impact on the field. After redshirting as a freshman, he appeared in 14 games from 2011-2013 and finally made his first (and only) career tackle in the regular season finale against Ohio State.

This departure leaves Michigan somewhat thin at nose tackle with last year’s starter Quinton Washington graduating and presumed new starter Ondre Pipkins coming off a torn ACL. Other options include redshirt sophomore Willie Henry, redshirt freshman Maurice Hurst, redshirt sophomore Ryan Glasgow, redshirt freshman Henry Poggi, and incoming freshmen Brady Pallante and Bryan Mone. Henry has shown the most promise, but he played 3-tech defensive tackle last season. Regardless of which players are on the two-deep at nose tackle, there will likely be some reshuffling on the defensive line. Ash may not have seen significant playing time in 2014, but he was an insurance policy in case of injury.

Along with safety Josh Furman (I’ll have a separate post for Furman), this is the nineteenth (19th!) player to depart from the 27-man class before exhausting his eligibility. Courtney Avery, Jibreel Black, Drew Dileo, and Jeremy Jackson played all four years, so the only remaining members are QB Devin Gardner, P Will Hagerup, TE Jordan Paskorz, and LB Jake Ryan.

25Jan 2014
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Thomas Rawls, Ex-Wolverine

Thomas Rawls (#38) is transferring to Central Michigan

Soon-to-be senior running back Thomas Rawls will not be a senior at the University of Michigan. He has decided to transfer to Central Michigan, which is something that I’ve quietly been suggesting for a while.

Rawls was a late addition the 2011 recruiting class, needing some late academic success to propel him toward a scholarship at Michigan. He was probably headed to CMU if not for the offer to play in Ann Arbor, so this development is approximately three years in the making. My commitment post from February 2011 suggested that Rawls would be in over his head a little bit in the Big Ten, and I gave him a TTB Rating of 68. I always believe that Rawls was too slow and lacked elusiveness, and he didn’t break as many tackles as a 5’10”, 217 lb. running back should.

Rawls played sparingly during his three seasons as a Wolverine behind a variety of mediocre-performing running backs like Fitzgerald Toussaint (who did have a good year in 2011), Vincent Smith, Derrick Green, and De’Veon Smith, among others. His most productive season was as a sophomore in 2012 when he had 57 carries for 242 yards (4.2 yards/carry) and 4 touchdowns; that year included his career highlight, a 63-yard touchdown run late in a blowout win over Illinois. This past season, he had 3 carries for 12 yards and 1 touchdown in the season opener against his future team, but he never saw another snap again at running back and was relegated to special teams duty. He finished his Michigan career with 73 carries for 333 yards (4.6 yards/carry) and 5 touchdowns, plus 1 catch for 6 yards.

This leaves Michigan with four tailbacks on the roster for 2014: redshirt junior Justice Hayes, redshirt sophomore Drake Johnson, and sophomores Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith. The Wolverines have recently sent out offers to Sarasota (FL) Booker’s Marlon Mack and Minneapolis (MN) Washburn’s Jeff Jones, but neither appears to be even planning to visit Michigan, even though Mack decommitted from UCLA as soon as the Wolverines offered him. It would appear to make sense for Michigan to grab a running back before National Signing Day in a couple weeks, but things are quiet on that front right now. The last time Michigan skimped on an important position in a recruiting cycle, they didn’t take a quarterback in the 2012 class, which left them in a bind when Denard Robinson and Russell Bellomy got injured at various points.

Rawls is the eighth member of the 2011 class to depart prior to exhausting eligibility, joining Chris Barnett, Greg Brown, Tamani Carter, Kellen Jones, Antonio Poole, Tony Posada, and Chris Rock.

22Jan 2014
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Damien Harris, ex-Wolverine

Berea (KY) Madison Southern running back Damien Harris officially decommitted from Michigan yesterday, which is the second huge decommitment from Michigan’s 2015 class, following Tarpon Springs (FL) East Lake wide receiver George Campbell. He originally committed to the Wolverines last August after being offered in the summer of 2012 when he camped in Ann Arbor. In fact, he was the first player to be offered by Michigan in the 2015 class. While no definitive reason has been stated for rescinding his pledge, his family was apparently fond of former offensive coordinator Al Borges; with Borges out the door and Michigan’s 15-11 record over the past two seasons, it’s somewhat understandable that the 247 Composite #2 running back would have second thoughts. However, it’s still disappointing for a Michigan fan base who expected that Harris’s love for his childhood favorite would carry him through to National Signing Day in February 2015.

New offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier and running backs coach Fred Jackson visited Harris in his hometown recently, and obviously, Harris wasn’t 100% comfortable with the situation. His mother has told recruiting outlets that the Wolverines are still #1 on Harris’s list, but the vast majority of kids who decommit end up choosing another school.

Michigan has a few options at this point. They immediately responded by offering Princeton (NJ) Princeton 3-star running back Johnny Frasier, who holds a middling offer list. Detroit (MI) Cass Tech runner Mike Weber has had an offer for a while, but he has stated that Michigan wasn’t recruiting him very hard, so it might be hard to get back in the race with him after teams like Michigan State and Tennessee have worked on him. Orlando (FL) Timber Creek’s Jacques Patrick has a cousin who coaches in Detroit, and Plano (TX) West’s Soso Jamabo holds an offer as well, but both of those players seem like longshots.

Despite a couple mediocre seasons, Michigan still has the brand name and the television presence to pull kids in from around the country. Nussmeier has some different connections and some different philosophies, so it will be interesting to see which players get offered next. Two names I plan to keep an eye on are Hubbard (OH) Hubbard’s Larry Scott and East St. Louis (IL) East St. Louis running back Natereace Strong, a teammate of linebacker Kyron Watson, a Kansas commit who was offered in the 2014 class.

For other news on ex-Wolverines, you can check out the Ex-Wolverine Encyclopedia.

9Jan 2014
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Al Borges, Ex-Wolverine

Denard Robinson had some good times with offensive coordinator Al Borges back in 2011.

Michigan head coach Brady Hoke announced on Wednesday that offensive coordinator Al Borges would not be retained for the 2014 season, meaning almost everyone got their wish. Borges sprinkled amazing offensive performances (including record-setting 2013 games against Indiana and Ohio State) in with too many horrific game plans. I said after the bowl loss against Kansas State that heads should roll. Lots of other people called for it earlier, of course, but I wanted to see how 2013 played itself out.

Borges was hired by Hoke at San Diego State prior to the 2009 season, spending the next five seasons (two at SDSU, three at Michigan) together. They had some very good years together in San Diego and things started off pretty well in 2011 when the team went 11-2 and Michigan had two 1,000-yard rushers in quarterback Denard Robinson and tailback Fitzgerald Toussaint. But things started to go south in 2012 when Robinson failed to mature as a passer and the running game festered despite a veteran offensive line. A younger offensive line in 2013 forced the offense to mostly take steps backward again, with historically bad performances against Michigan State and Nebraska.

I hesitate to get into potential replacements, because these things almost never work out like you hope they will. What I would be looking for with the personnel and philosophy Michigan has is an offensive coordinator that has experience with the pistol and multiple tight end sets. As opposed to shotgun, the pistol lends itself more to pro-style and power running, which suits running backs Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith. Meanwhile, Michigan has the horses in Devin Funchess, Jake Butt, Khalid Hill, and Ian Bunting to make multiple tight ends work. Furthermore, quarterback Devin Gardner can run some option looks out of the pistol while still playing in a shotgun type of passing offense that suits his skills. Beyond Gardner, who’s only around for one more year, Michigan has quarterbacks Shane Morris and Wilton Speight in the pipeline, both of whose skills are suited to more of a pistol/shotgun spread look. Michigan has a spate of good receivers on the team and headed to campus, and they don’t have the maulers up front to be Alabama, so meshing Hoke’s power running philosophy with a pistol passing philosophy seems like the best idea to me.

Running backs coach Fred Jackson was Michigan’s offensive coordinator in 1995 and 1996 but is rumored to be nearing retirement, making him an unlikely candidate. Wide receivers coach Jeff Hecklinski has been an offensive coordinator in the past, most recently at Central Missouri State in 2002; he was also the passing game coordinator at Arizona in 2003. Tight ends coach Dan Ferrigno has not been an offensive coordinator since 1986 when he was at Western Michigan. Offensive line coach Darrell Funk has never been more than a position coach at the FBS level.

Michigan’s previous offensive coordinator, Calvin Magee, spent 2011 as Pitt’s offensive coordinator before reuniting with head coach Rich Rodriguez at Arizona in 2012. Before him was Mike Debord, who spent 2011-2012 as the Chicago Bears’ tight ends coach before getting hired as the University of Michigan’s Olympic sports administrator, a position he currently maintains.