National Signing Day Preview

Tag: Tyrone Wheatley Jr.

4Feb 2015
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National Signing Day Preview

Avon (CT) Old Farms tight end Chris Clark will decide early on Wednesday morning

At least three prospects who are strongly considering Michigan have nationally televised official announcements scheduled for National Signing Day, which is today, February 4th. All times are Eastern Standard Time. They include:

  • Chris Clark – TE – Avon (CT) Old Farms: Clark is announcing on ESPNU at 8:30 a.m. between Michigan and UCLA.
  • Roquan Smith – LB – Montezuma (GA) Macon: Smith is announcing at 11:00 a.m. between Georgia, Michigan, Texas A&M, and UCLA.
  • Iman Marshall – CB – Long Beach (CA) Poly: Marshall is announcing on ESPNU at 4:00 p.m. between Florida State, LSU, Michigan, Notre Dame, UCLA, and USC.
In less national announcements, here are the official announcement times of some other targets:

  • Mike Weber – RB – Detroit (MI) Cass Tech at 10:00 a.m.
  • Van Jefferson – WR – Brentwood (TN) Ravenwood at 11:00 a.m.
  • Tyrone Wheatley, Jr. – TE – Buffalo (NY) Canisius at 3:15 p.m.

I have predictions for those guys – and numerous others – in another post I put up over the weekend, although I have updated it a couple times since then (LINK).

Otherwise, I put together a list of in-state players who could get a late call from Michigan in an effort to fill out the class (LINK). Wide receiver Grant Perry has already been the recipient of one of those offers and committed, although it’s very late to count on many other guys getting phone calls from Harbaugh.
There will be no suspense about wide receiver Brian Cole and quarterback Alex Malzone, both of whom enrolled early and are already on campus.

Here’s a look at what positions Michigan is trying to fill, along with the guys who might fill them (commits are highlighted in blue):

  • QB: Malzone, Zach Gentry
  • RB: Karan Higdon, Michael Weber
  • WR: Van Jefferson, Grant Perry
  • TE: Chris Clark, Tyrone Wheatley Jr.
  • OL: Grant Newsome, Jon Runyan Jr., Nolan Ulizio
  • DE: Shelton Johnson, Reuben Jones
  • DT: None
  • LB: Roquan Smith
  • CB: Jarius Adams, Iman Marshall, Keith Washington
  • S: Tyree Kinnel
  • K: Andrew David

Insiders at Scout (Sam Webb) and/or 247 Sports (Steve Wiltfong, Steve Lorenz) have expressed confidence in Michigan landing Karan Higdon, Michael Weber, Van Jefferson, Tyrone Wheatley Jr., and Keith Washington. Unfortunately, it looks like Chris Clark is choosing the sunshine and girls of Southern California (UCLA) over the tight end guru in Ann Arbor, and Iman Marshall is likely to do what everyone expected of him, which is sign with USC.

2Feb 2015
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National Signing Day Predictions

Michael Weber

With National Signing Day coming up soon, here’s a rundown of the uncommitted prospects (2015 Offer Board) on Michigan’s board, plus a few who seem to be on the fence. I’ll make a prediction here for each player, although I reserve the right to change it before NSD if new information comes out during/after official visits, etc.

Dexter Williams – RB – Florida: Notre Dame (+1)

Sotonye Jamabo – RB – Texas: UCLA (+1)

Michael Weber – RB – Michigan: Michigan Ohio State (-1)

Hit the jump for a ton more prospects predictions.

Deontay Burnett – WR – California: Washington State

Ryan Davis – WR – Florida: Florida Auburn (-1)

Van Jefferson – WR – Tennessee: Michigan

DaMarkus Lodge – WR – Texas: Ole Miss (+1)

Kirk Merritt – WR – Louisiana: Oregon (+1)

A.D. Miller – WR – Texas: Oklahoma (+1)

Devante Peete – WR – Florida: Louisville (+1)

Auden Tate – WR – Florida: Florida State

Chris Clark – TE – Connecticut: Michigan UCLA (+1)

Matt Snyder – TE – California: Nebraska (+1)

Tyrone Wheatley, Jr. – TE – New York: Michigan

Patrick Allen – OT – Maryland: Tennessee Georgia (-1)

Darrin Paulo – OT – California: Oregon Utah (-1)

CeCe Jefferson – DE – Florida: Ole Miss

Shelton Johnson – DE – Florida: Florida State

Arden Key – DE – Georgia:
 South Carolina LSU (+1)

Jake Pickard – DE – New Jersey: Wisconsin Syracuse (+1)

Terry Beckner, Jr. – DT – Illinois: Missouri (+1)

Rasheem Green – DT – California: USC

Kendrick Norton – DT – Florida: Florida

Jeffery Holland – LB – Florida: Auburn (+1)

Roquan Smith – LB – Georgia: Georgia UCLA (+1)

Jarius Adams – CB – Florida: Michigan Rutgers (+1)

Damon Arnette – CB – Florida: Ohio State (+1)

Rashard Causey – CB – Florida: UCF (+1)

Javarius Davis – CB – Florida: Florida

Jaylon Lane – CB – Texas: N/A. Lane has run into legal trouble and I doubt he’ll sign anywhere.

Marcus Lewis – CB – Washington, D.C.: Miami Florida State (-1)

Iman Marshall – CB – California: USC

Chris Williamson – CB – Georgia: Florida (+1)

30Jan 2015
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Official Visitors: January 30 – February 1, 2015

Manlius (NY) Canisius tight end/defensive end
Tyrone Wheatley, Jr. (image via MaxPreps)

Jarius Adams – CB – Palm Beach Gardens (FL) Dwyer: Adams is a 5’11”, 180 lb. prospect who has been committed to Rutgers since July. He’s a 247 Composite 3-star, the #127 cornerback, and #1405 overall. Along with Michigan, Florida Atlantic and Wisconsin have also come in with offers in recent weeks. He took an official to FAU but won’t visit Madison, so his decision probably comes down to sticking with Rutgers or flipping to the Wolverines.

Titus Booker – RB – Grayslake (IL) North: Booker is a 5’11”, 172 lb. prospect who has been committed to Wisconsin since mid-November, and he was previously committed to Indiana. The Badgers want him as a cornerback, whereas Michigan is looking at him to run the ball. He’s a 247 Composite 3-star, the #60 running back, and #767 overall. As a senior this past season, he rushed 184 times for 1,931 yards (10.1 yards/carry) and 26 touchdowns based on his 4.4 speed. He appears to be canceling an official visit to Iowa in order to visit Michigan. UPDATE: Booker no longer plans to visit Michigan and says he’s solid to Wisconsin.

Deontay Burnett – WR – Gardena (CA) Junipero Serra: Burnett is a 6’0″, 166 lb. prospect who has been committed to Washington State since last July; he also has offers from Arizona State, Miami, and Utah, among others. He’s a 247 Composite 3-star, the #85 wide receiver, and #686 overall. Burnett just got his offer from Michigan this week, so this is a quickly planned official visit. Junipero Serra produces a lot of high-quality talent, so getting a commitment from Burnett might help to get a foothold in the program.

Karan Higdon – RB – Sarasota (FL) Riverview: Higdon is a 5’10”, 190 lb. prospect who has been committed to Iowa since October; he also has offers from Arizona, Arkansas, South Florida, and Tennessee, among others. He’s a 247 Composite 3-star, the #40 running back, and #478 overall. Higdon is reportedly a high-character kid who originally said he is “all Iowa” after receiving the offer on Saturday morning, but he quickly planned a flight to Michigan for Saturday afternoon.

Van Jefferson – WR – Brentwood (TN) Ravenwood: Jefferson is a 6’2″, 183 lb. prospect who has been committed to Ole Miss for just a few days now; he has also taken visits to Georgia and Oklahoma. He’s a U.S. Army All-American, a 247 Composite 4-star, the #11 wide receiver, and #108 overall. As a senior this past season, he caught 47 passes for 1,224 yards and 13 touchdowns. For those worried about the rumored shady recruiting practices at Ole Miss (and elsewhere in the SEC), I’ll throw this out there: Jefferson’s father is former NFL wide receiver and current wide receivers coach Shawn Jefferson, so the draw of a $500 handshake may not be as enticing to the son of an NFL player and coach. Even so, Michigan is late to the party, but growing up in Michigan (Van used to attend Orchard Lake St. Mary’s while his dad coached for the Lions) may be a draw.

Tyrone Wheatley, Jr. – TE – Manlius (NY) Canisius: Wheatley is a 6’6″, 260 lb. prospect who has listed a top four that includes Alabama, Oregon, UCLA, and USC. He’s a 247 Composite 4-star, the #12 strongside defensive end, and #310 overall. He recently played in the Semper Fi All-American Bowl. Wheatley could also play tight end or offensive tackle at the next level, although most coaches have been saying his highest upside is on defense. He is, of course, the son of former Michigan great Tyrone Wheatley, who went on to a solid NFL career with the Giants and Raiders. There’s also a younger brother, Terius, who is a 2016 prospect with no offers at this point. Tyrone, Jr. maintained for a while that Michigan had not talked to him in a while, the new staff was slot to contact him, and he was not sure if he would visit. Flying under the radar, however, he is taking a mid-week official visit to Ann Arbor, beginning on Tuesday.

10Jan 2015
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Tyrone Wheatley, Wolverine (again)

Tyrone Wheatley

Former Buffalo Bills running backs coach Tyrone Wheatley reportedly signed a contract on Friday to become Michigan’s running backs coach, replacing Fred Jackson.

Wheatley is a Michigan legend, both in high school and college. He grew up in Inkster, attended Dearborn Heights (MI) Robichaud, and was a nine-time state champion in high school (1 football state championship, 7 individual championships in track, and 1 track-and-field team state championship). He graduated in 1991 and moved on to the Michigan Wolverines.

In Ann Arbor under Gary Moeller, Wheatley wore #6 and convinced me that all good college running backs should wear that number. Michigan was the Alabama of the 1980’s and early 1990’s with running backs galore, so Wheatley (86 carries, 548 yards, 6.4 yards/carry, 9 touchdowns) backed up Ricky Powers as a freshman. Things got stirred up in 1992 when Wheatley won the starting job and got an increasing number of carries for the next three years, finishing with a career total of 688 carries, 4178 yards, and 47 rushing touchdowns on 6.1 yards/carry. He also caught 51 passes for 510 yards and 6 touchdowns, plus he averaged 21.7 yards/kickoff return with a 99-yard touchdown return against Houston in 1992. He ranks fifth in Michigan history in rushing yardage, second in touchdowns, and fourth in yards per carry (of players with over 100 career carries). He was all-conference his final three years and named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year in 1992.

Wheatley was also a Big Ten champion in track and field and an All-American in the 110m hurdles while running track for three years in college. Despite being listed at 6’1″ and robust at 215-226 lbs. throughout college, he was a speed demon.

Hit the jump for lots more on Wheatley’s playing and coaching career.

The New York Giants picked Wheatley in the 1st round (#17 overall) in the 1995 NFL Draft, looking at him as an eventual replacement for Rodney Hampton. It’s safe to say that Wheatley lost a little bit of his drive once he hit the NFL, and he was never the same kind of workhorse and outstanding athlete in the NFL. He gained a bit of weight, and his career long run in four years with the Giants was 38 yards. He then moved on to the Oakland Raiders, where had some more success and was their lead back in 1999 and 2000, which included an 80-yard touchdown run. He reached a Super Bowl there and finished out his career in 2004. His final pro stat line was 1,270 carries for 4,962 yards, a 3.9 yards/carry average, and 40 touchdowns. He also caught 125 passes for 900 yards, a 7.2 yards/reception average, and 7 touchdowns.

Wheatley returned to Robichaud to coach football in 2007 (he also coached track) and moved on to Ohio Northern, a D-III school, in 2008. He has been a running backs coach ever since. He jumped to Eastern Michigan in 2009, moved to Syracuse for 2010-2012, and then followed Orangemen head coach Doug Marrone to the Buffalo Bills for 2013-2014. When Marrone chose to leave the Bills after the 2014 season, Wheatley was out of a job and here we are.

I think it’s difficult to judge running backs coaches by raw numbers, because so much depends on raw talent, the offensive line, the play calling, etc. But here we go anyway:

  • Eastern Michigan’s Dwayne Priest had 633 yards, 3.6 yards/carry, and 7 touchdowns in 2009. As a backup the previous year, he had 474 yards, 4.8 yards/carry, and 5 touchdowns. EMU fell from #57 to #88 in the country in rushing yards/game.
  • Syracuse’s Delone Carter had 1,233 yards, 5.3 yards/carry, and 9 touchdowns in 2010. As the starter the previous year, he had 1,021 yards, a 4.3 yards/carry average, and 11 touchdowns. Backup Antwon Bailey had 554 yards and averaged 4.9 yards/carry in 2010. Syracuse jumped from #87 to #76.
  • Bailey took over the starting job in 2011 and had 1,051 yards, 4.4 yards/carry, and 6 touchdowns. Backup Jerome Smith averaged 3.6 yards/carry on 37 attempts. Syracuse fell from #76 to #95.
  • Smith took over the starting job in 2012 and had 1,176 yards, 5.2 yards/carry, and 3 touchdowns. Backup Prince Tyson-Gulley had 825 yards, 5.3 yards/carry, and 9 touchdowns. Syracuse jumped from #95 to #40.
  • The Buffalo Bills’ Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller split carries almost exactly evenly in 2013. Jackson ran for 890 yards and Spiller had 933 with averages of 4.3 and 4.6, respectively, plus 9 and 2 touchdowns. Buffalo jumped from #6 to #2 in rushing.
  • Jackson, the starter, had 525 yards, 3.7 yards/carry, and 2 touchdowns. Spiller had 300 yards, 3.8 yards/carry, and 0 scores in an injury-plagued season. Backup Anthony Dixon had 432 yards, 4.1 yards/carry, and 2 touchdowns. Buffalo fell from #2 to #25 in rushing.
What does it all mean? It means jack squat. Some players got better under his tutelage. Some players got worse. Some teams got better at running the ball. Some teams got worse. There are too many factors involved to make any conclusions.
The running back position comes down to talent. There are guys who have it right off the bat (Wheatley himself, Mike Hart, etc.) and there are guys who don’t and never will. Rarely do you see running backs whose “light comes on” in terms of running the ball. This is not a position – like quarterback, offensive line, defensive line, linebacker, safety, etc. – where experience means a great deal. The only real aspect of the game where experience matters is in pass protection, which is difficult to make guesses on based on statistics alone. We know Mike Hart and Vincent Smith were good pass protectors because we watched them do it, and we know that Derrick Green was not a great pass protector as a freshman. Time will tell if he can improve, though he did get better as a sophomore.
Fred Jackson was a great, great running backs coach. We know this because he coached Tyrone Wheatley, Tshimanga Biakabutuka, Anthony Thomas, Chris Perry, and Mike Hart. The first four of those guys were 1st or 2nd round NFL draft picks, and the last guy is Michigan’s all-time leading rusher.
Fred Jackson was a terrible, terrible running backs coach. We know this because he coached the 2013 football team, where Fitzgerald Toussaint averaged 3.5 yards/carry and Derrick Green averaged 3.3.
The biggest difference between Great Fred Jackson and Terrible Fred Jackson is that the offensive lines under Gary Moeller and Lloyd Carr were awesome, and the offensive line under Brady Hoke was mostly bad. The quarterback play under Moeller and Carr was mostly very good, and the quarterback play under Hoke was mostly bad.
Recruiting talent probably has something to do with Wheatley, since it will be his position. Jim Harbaugh has previously had his coaches recruit their positions, so Wheatley will likely be the point man on guys like Kareem Walker, Kentrail Moran, etc. But overall, scholarship offers are generally sent out after the majority of the staff – including the head coach – evaluates a player’s film or camp performance. Here’s what I would like to see out of Wheatley:
  • Teach players how to identify blitzers, pass protections, etc. This should not be a problem with Wheatley’s extensive experience playing and coaching the position at all levels.
  • Be a good leader. Wheatley has not always been a consummate teammate. He held out for 17 days as a rookie. He was known at different times for getting a little out of shape, falling asleep in meetings, and being surly with coaches. He also struck a photographer and was tangentially involved in the BALCO doping scandal.
  • Recruit well. Regardless of how Michigan splits up recruiting duties or sends out offers, Wheatley needs to use his college and NFL pedigree to convince high school players to come to Michigan.
As for that last point, Wheatley was in charge of recruiting running backs and the midwest during his time at Syracuse. Players he reeled in while coaching for the Orangemen (according to Rivals):
  • Colorado 3-star RB Adonis Ameen-Moore
  • Michigan 2-star DT Eric Crume
  • Michigan 2-star WR Eric Foster
  • Georgia 3-star RB George Morris
  • Michigan 3-star TE Ron Thompson
It’s important to remember that Syracuse’s average star rating was 2.62 in 2012 and 2.46 in 2011, so that’s right on par with where Syracuse is at as a program. Still, it looks like Wheatley did a solid job in the state of Michigan. Ameen-Moore averaged 5.4 yards/carry this season; Crume made 38 tackles, 9 tackles for loss, and 2 sacks; Foster left the team; Morris averaged 2.9 yards/carry; Thompson is a defensive end now and made 11 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, and 2 sacks in 2013. None of his recruits is spectacular, but some have done fairly well there.
Wheatley’s first recruiting job at Michigan will be convincing his son, Tyrone Jr., to play at Michigan. Tyrone the Younger is a 4-star tight end/defensive end finishing out his senior year in New York; he has had an offer from Michigan for a while and has also fielded offers from Alabama, USC, and numerous others. Another son, Terius, is a junior at Orchard Park (NY) Orchard Park; Terius had 5 touchdowns in a game this fall (runs of 83, 72, 52, 48, and 30 yards). I have yet to find highlights of Terius, but he may be joining an Ann Arbor-area team this coming fall after his family moves to Michigan. So far Terius has yet to engender a ton of recruiting hype, from what I can tell.