Review of 2007 Recruiting: Tight Ends

Tag: Martell Webb

25Apr 2014
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Review of 2007 Recruiting: Tight Ends

I sure am glad Aaron Hernandez didn’t accept his scholarship offer to play for Michigan.

Mike Massey, RS Sr.
Andre Criswell, RS Jr.
Chris McLaurin, RS Jr.
Carson Butler, So.

Steve Watson
High school: Denver (CO) Mullen
Ratings: Rivals 3-star, #19 TE
College: Michigan
Other notable offers: Cal, Colorado, Nebraska, UCLA
Scoop: Watson redshirted as a freshman in 2007, then played some on special teams in 2008. As a redshirt sophomore in 2009, Watson moved to linebacker and made 5 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, and 1 pass breakup in limited action. He became a defensive end and even saw some action at defensive tackle in 2010, notching 3 total tackles. With a dearth of tight ends on the team, Watson moved back to offense in 2011 and started four games; he made just 1 catch in his career, but he made it count because it was a 9-yard touchdown against Northwestern. He was not drafted in the 2012 NFL Draft and his football career appears to be finished.

Martell Webb
High school: Pontiac (MI) Northern
Ratings: Rivals 4-star, #29 WR
College: Michigan
Other notable offers: Iowa, Michigan State, Wisconsin
Scoop: Webb played sparingly as a freshman in 2007, mostly as a special teamer but also as a backup tight end. As a sophomore in 2008, Webb mostly sat on the bench behind Carson Butler and Kevin Koger and played in just three games. Still behind Koger in 2009, Webb started just one game but saw more time at tight end and caught 4 passes for 44 yards and 1 touchdown. He started two more games as a senior in 2010 and caught 5 passes for 67 yards and 1 touchdown. Webb went undrafted in the 2011 NFL Draft and has never played in the league, but he has bounced around between the Eagles, Jets, Buccaneers, Cardinals, Colts, Titans, Lions, and now the Indianapolis Colts.

Christian Ballard
High school: Lawrence (KS) Free State
Ratings: Rivals 4-star, #10 TE
College: Iowa
Other notable offers: Georgia, Oklahoma, UCLA
Scoop: Watson played defensive end to start at Iowa, making 15 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, and 2.5 sacks as a freshman backup in 2007. He became a starter in 2008 and made 40 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, and 1.5 sacks, 1 pass breakup, and 1 forced fumble. Ballard grew into a starting defensive tackle by his junior year and had a very good season with 54 tackles, 9 tackles for loss, and 5.5 sacks; he was named Honorable Mention All-Big Ten. As a senior in 2010, he played both defensive end and defensive tackle and made 43 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 3 pass breakups, and 1 forced fumble, once again earning Honorable Mention All-Big Ten. He was drafted in the 4th round (#106 overall) of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings after testing positive for marijuana, which caused his draft stock to fall a little bit. He made two total starts in 2011-2012 for the Vikings and totaled 29 tackles and 1 sack. However, he quit football prior to the 2013 season due to a lack of love for the game.

Aaron Hernandez
High school: Bristol (CT) Central
Ratings: Rivals 4-star, #2 TE, #66 overall
College: Florida
Other notable offers: Connecticut, Iowa, Notre Dame
Scoop: Hernandez started three games as a freshman in 2007, including the Outback Bowl against Michigan; he caught 9 passes for 151 yards and 2 touchdowns that year. He became the starter at tight end as a sophomore and caught 34 passes for 381 yards and 5 touchdowns. As a junior in 2009, Hernandez won the John Mackey Award (given to the nation’s best tight end) with 68 receptions for 850 yards and 5 touchdowns; naturally, he was First Team All-SEC and a First Team All-American. Hernandez left college after his junior year only to drop to the 4th round (#113 overall) of the 2010 NFL Draft, chosen by the New England Patriots. He made the Pro Bowl in 2011 and totaled 175 catches for 1,956 yards and 18 touchdowns from 2010-2012. He also saw some action as a situational running back, running 9 times for 97 yards in his career. However, Hernandez was allegedly involved in a murder and was arrested during the summer of 2013, for which he is still matriculating through the legal process. It’s safe to assume that his football career is over for the foreseeable future, if not permanently.

Blaine Irby
High school: Ventura (CA) St. Bonaventure
Ratings: Rivals 4-star, #6 TE
College: Texas
Other notable offers: Cal, Florida State, Miami, UCLA, USC
Scoop: Irby made 2 catches for 29 yards as a freshman in 2007. As a sophomore in 2008, he caught 10 passes for 95 yards and 2 touchdowns, but he suffered a gruesome knee injury in a game against Rice. He sat out the 2009 and 2010 seasons rehabbing from the injury, which tore his right ACL and MCL and caused nerve damage. Irby returned in 2011 to catch 11 passes for 157 yards and 3 touchdowns. Rather than pursuing a sixth year of eligibility or attempting to make a career out of football, he chose to retire following the 2011 season.

Michigan actually seems to have done quite a good job of identifying talent at the tight end position in the 2007 class. Ballard made a big impact (at a different position), Hernandez turned into arguably the best tight end in college, and Irby seemed well on his way to a good career, if not for the knee injury. Webb has bounced around NFL practice squads and was somewhat hampered by his situation, where he spent his last three years under a coach who didn’t use tight ends very much. Watson, the least accomplished of the bunch, still turned into a mediocre starter and was likely stunted in his development by the Rich Rodriguez offense and bouncing to defense. If he had played tight end his whole career for a coach who valued tight ends more (such as the guy who recruited him, Lloyd Carr, or the guy for whom he finished his career, Brady Hoke).

Biggest miss: Christian Ballard. I suppose the choice here based on talent would be Aaron Hernandez, but his repeated run-ins with the law, failed drug tests, etc. would be a huge black mark on the program. Even if Ballard never played a down at tight end and played defense instead, he turned into a quality player who was NFL-bound.

Biggest bust: Aaron Hernandez. Hernandez had all kinds of talent and could have been one of the most productive tight ends in NFL history, although he might have been limited by Rich Rodriguez’s offense. He was probably better off at Florida than he would have been elsewhere, so he made the right choice. Unfortunately, that appears to have been one of the few good choices he has made in his life. I’m glad to say that Michigan has no real connection to him, but it’s a sad story overall.

Best in class: Rob Gronkowski. Gronkowski, who went to Arizona, caught 28 passes for 525 yards and 6 touchdowns as a true freshman in 2007 and followed that up with 47 receptions for 672 yards and 10 touchdowns as a sophomore. He missed the 2009 season after having back surgery, but his first two seasons were good enough to earn him a 2nd round selection (#42 overall) by the New England Patriots in the 2010 NFL Draft. Despite suffering from various injuries at the pro level, he has caught 226 passes for 3,255 yards and 42 touchdowns during his four-year career and made the Pro Bowl twice.

13Dec 2012
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Former Michigan Athlete of the Week: Jason Avant

It was a strong week for our former Michigan athletes, but no one had a more eye-popping performance than Philadelphia Eagle Jason Avant. His team won 23-21 over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and he finished with seven receptions for 133 yards, including one of the most impressive one-handed grabs you’ll ever see. Avant has 38 receptions for 495 yards through 13 games, and his play looks to be improving alongside that of QB Nick Foles.  Teammate Brandon Graham had two tackles in the win.

Honorable mention:  Stevie Brown picked off Drew Brees twice as his Giants routed the Saints; he returned the two interceptions a total of 91 yards.  Brown is now second in the NFL with seven interceptions and is also the Giants’ new single-season record holder for most interception return yards with 259.  In addition to the picks, Brown had eight tackles, 2 pass breakups, and a forced fumble in the game.


  • Tom Brady and the Patriots beat up on the one-loss Texas by a score of 42-14.  Brady threw for 296 yards and four touchdowns and torched the Texans on play action.  He is quietly having another MVP-caliber season.
  • David Molk, banged up after nearly a full NFL season, was
    placed on the Injured Reserve for the Chargers.  The move cleared up a
    roster spot that was filled by a healthy lineman, fellow Wolverine and current teammate Stephen Schilling. 
  • After being released by the Seahawks, Braylon Edwards re-signed with one of his former teams, the New York Jets.
  • Martell Webb was released from the Colts’ practice squad.
  • Cam Cameron, who coached at Michigan from ’83 to ’93, was fired as the offensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens.
  • David Harris recorded 10 tackles and a sack in a win over the Jaguars.  He has a team-leading 101 tackles through 13 games.
  • Steve Hutchinson was placed on the Injured Reserve for the Titans due to a knee injury.
  • Jonas Mouton recorded his first career tackle against the Bengals earlier in the month.
  • Chad Henne went a dismal 21/43 passing with zero touchdowns and two interceptions in his third start of the year.  Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville’s starter to begin the season, was recently placed on the IR, so Henne should get a few more games to prove he’s starter-quality.   
12Jan 2012
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Former Michigan Athlete of the Week: Mario Manningham

It’s been a rough year for Mario Manningham, especially when considering his lofty preseason expectations. Manningham appeared in only 12 games and battled through a concussion and a lingering knee injury while putting up his worst statistical performance since his 2008 rookie season. But that now seems like the distant past after the Giants’ 24-2 NFC Wild Card game victory over the Atlanta Falcons. Manningham caught four passes for 68 yards in the contest, including a game-clinching touchdown grab midway through the fourth quarter. Super Mario looked impressive on the play (watch it here), beating two defensive backs for the 27 yard catch up the middle.
“The fact that Mario made plays was big,” said coach Tom Coughlin. That was something that we needed to have happen and I am certainly glad it did. When you look at tape of some of these games and you look at previous games of the teams that we are playing, you see [number] 82 making catches and running behind guys, and that’s a good thing”

Honorable Mention: Steelers’ starting free safety Ryan Clark nearly died due to a blood condition the last time he played at Mile High Stadium, so being an upstanding guy, Ryan Mundy kindly stepped into his role. Mundy played 60 minutes of good football, recording five tackles and forcing two fumbles, one of which was recovered by LaMarr Woodley. But unfortunately for Mundy, the game lasted 60 minutes and 11 seconds, and he was caught out of position on the first play of overtime, resulting in an 80-yard touchdown and the quickest end to overtime in NFL history. To be fair, it seemed as if the defensive game plan called for Mundy to stay close to the line of scrimmage, essentially daring Tebow to throw the ball, and Tebow surprisingly rose to the challenge. But still . . .
Miscellaneous: Donovan Warren joins former teammate, Perry Dorrestein, and tight ends coach Mike DeBord in Chicago with the Bears. Travelin’ man Martell Webb signed with the Arizona Cardinals. Adrian Arrington caught his third pass of the season in the Saints’ victory over…well, you know.
30Dec 2011
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Former Michigan Athlete of the Week: Jeff Backus

Jeff Backus [illegally] kicks some Jared Allen ass
Left tackle Jeff Backus has started every Detroit Lions’ game since the team drafted him with the 18th overall pick in 2001. That’s eleven straight years and 175 consecutive games without missing a start, good for the longest streak in franchise history. All has not been sunny for Backus, however, as the Lions have been the laughing stock of the NFL over that time, with fans repeatedly calling for him to be replaced. I’m uncertain as to why Backus developed into everyone’s favorite scapegoat for the Lions’ woes, but it’s nice to see this former Michigan athlete finally get a reprieve from ugly losses and fan criticisms.
Against the Chargers on Christmas Eve, the Lions clinched their first playoff birth since 1999 and Backus played well: he didn’t give up a single sack and paved the way for two third down conversions on third and short. “Detroit Lions offensive tackle Jeff Backus dominant against the San Diego Chargers,” read an Mlive headline after the game while Pro Football Focus wrote,”Jeff Backus has really put together some nice performances as of late. In the last five games, he has graded out as an 8.7 while only allowing one quarterback sack and one quarterback hit.” After a challenging eleven year start to his NFL career, hopefully this is the sign of better things to come for Backus and his Lions.
Honorable Mention: Brady again threw for 300 + yards last week as he lead the Patriots to their 12th victory of the season by overcoming a 17 point first half deficit to defeat the Dolphins, 27-24. Although on pace for much of the year, Tom Brady won’t beak Dan Marino’s 1984 single-season passing record of 5,084 yards because Drew Brees beat him to it, breaking the record on Monday Night Football. But with only 190 yards separating Brady and Brees, it’s still possible for Brady to end this season with the record. Saints coach Sean Payton has a history of resting his starters in the second half of the final regular season game and may do so again with the Division already sewn up and nothing to gain if the 49ers take care of the lowly Rams as is expected.
Miscellaneous: Braylon Edwards caught a nine yard pass on Sunday but was cut by the 49ers after the game. Morgan Trent, now with Jacksonville, recorded his second career interception last week to go along with four tackles. Jake Long returned from his biceps injury against the Patriots but left the game after re-aggravating it. Martell Webb was cut from Tampa Bay’s practice squad. Jake Long, Tom Brady and Charles Woodson were named starters for the 2012 Pro Bowl.
18May 2011
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Martell Webb, #80

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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