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New in Blue: 2017 OL Kai-Leon Herbert

July 6th, 2016 by Justin Potts


Kai-Leon Herbert (247 Sports)

Kai-Leon Herbert – OT | 6-5, 284| Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (American Heritage)
ESPN4-star, #15 OT Rivals: 4-star, #10 OT 247: 3-star, #72 OT Scout: 4-star, #22 OT
247 Composite: 4-star #22 OT
Other top offers: Florida, Miami, Auburn, Ole Miss, LSU, Georgia, Tennessee, UNC, WVU

Michigan’s 2017 recruiting momentum continued on Wednesday afternoon with a commitment from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. offensive tackle Kai-Leon Herbert. With commitment videos all the rage these days, Herbert may have topped them all with a zombie-themed video on Bleacher Report.

He followed that up with an announcement via Twitter.

Herbert is a four-star recruit according to Rivals, Scout, and ESPN, and a three-star according to 247. Rivals ranks him the highest as the 10th-best offensive tackle in the 2017 class. ESPN ranks him 15th, Scout 22nd, and 247 is the outlier at 72nd. Nationally, Rivals ranks him as the 61st overall prospect in the class, while ESPN has him 106th, Scout 183rd, and 247 683rd. Per the 247 Composite, he’s a four-star, ranked as the 22nd-best offensive tackle and 166th-best overall player in the class.

Scout compliments his arm length, body control and balance, feet, flexibility, and intelligence, while noting his areas to improve as pad level and power and strength. They expand on that as well.

“Herbert is an offensive tackle with a great frame. His length stands out immediately and he has good feet to go with that. He has the body that is developing and with that, he will add mass and more power to his game. He can really move and get into his pass sets well. From his sophomore year to the end of his junior year, he added good weight, he played with more aggression, and he has really started to separate himself as one of the best in Florida. He is a very smart player and he is always working to get better. His flexibility is good and his punch has improved a lot. He could be a true left tackle on the next level.”

Herbert chose Michigan over home-state Florida and Miami. He also held offers from LSU, Auburn, Ole Miss, Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina, to name a few. Michigan originally offered the 6-foot-5, 284-pounder on May 1 of last year and he attended Michigan’s satellite camp at St. Thomas Aquinas High School last month. He followed that up with an unofficial visit to Ann Arbor the weekend of June 17 and from then on it was all Michigan.

Herbert is the 18th member of the 2017 class and the third offensive lineman to commit to Michigan in the past two weeks, joining Andrew Stueber and Joel Honigford, as well as Ja’Raymond Hall, who committed in December. Herbert is currently in Oregon competing in The Opening finals.

Predicting Michigan 2016: The running backs

July 5th, 2016 by Derick Hutchinson


Predicting Michgian 2016-RunningBacks

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Previous: Quarterbacks

The Michigan rushing attack showed improvement in some areas under Jim Harbaugh in Year 1, but it still has a long way to go if the Wolverines hope to compete for a Big Ten East title.

Michigan returns each of its three most experienced running backs from last season, but none of them have an iron grip on the starting job.

Returning Starters

Barring something unforeseen, senior De’Veon Smith will top the running back depth chart when Michigan breaks camp. Smith spent most of the last two seasons as the starting running back and did a solid job, though he struggled in conference play.

Drake Johnson

(AP photo)

In five games against nonconference opponents last season, Smith thrice ran for over 100 yards and scored a combined four touchdowns. In seven conference matchups, he rushed for fewer than 45 yards per game and got shut down in big games like Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan State.

There’s a reason Smith carried the ball 180 times last season. Because of Michigan’s struggles with run blocking, Smith gave the offense its best chance to break tackles and pick up yards after contact. He was extremely difficult to bring down in the open field and found the end zone in goal line situations.

But Smith’s big play potential is limited. There were times throughout the season when the offensive line created a hole and Smith wasn’t able to adjust in time to hit it, instead running into tacklers or even the backs of his linemen.

Smith is the all-around best proven option for Michigan this fall, but there are other players with more upside. Smith will likely be the starter against Hawaii, but he’ll need to keep earning that role to stay ahead of the pack.

Drake Johnson is the other running back with starting experience in the Maize and Blue. Johnson took the job from Smith late in 2014 and averaged six yards per carry despite sitting out against several of Michigan’s weaker opponents.

The Ann Arbor Pioneer product was carrying an undermanned Michigan offense in the Horseshoe on Nov. 29, 2014 before an injury cut his season a few minutes short. He picked up 74 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the ground against Ohio State and had the Wolverines in position for a massive upset.

When he went down, so did Michigan’s chances.

Johnson was an afterthought for much of the 2015 campaign despite showing promising signs when he did get in on the action. When Michigan struggled to run the ball against Maryland, Johnson earned 13 carries and turned them into 68 yards and a touchdown. He also took a screen pass 31 yards for a touchdown that basically put the game away.

Since his injury, Johnson has largely fallen off the radar. But in his final year of eligibility, he figures to play a significant role in the Michigan backfield.

Projected Stats – Smith
Rushing Attempts Rushing Yards YPC TDs YPG Receiving Yards
160 700 4.4 5 53.8 95
Career Stats
2015 180 753 4.2 6 57.9 159
2014 108 519 4.8 6 43.3 26
2013 26 117 4.5 0 9.8 0
Totals 314 1,389 4.4 12 37.5 185
Projected Stats – Johnson
Rushing Attempts Rushing Yards YPC TDs YPG Receiving Yards
50 300 6.0 3 23.1 2
Career Stats
2015 54 271 5.0 4 22.6 96
2014 60 361 6.0 4 30.1 11
2013 2 9 4.5 0 9.0 0
2012 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Totals 116 641 5.5 8 25.6 107
Returning contributors

Last season Michigan had two former five-star running backs on its roster. Neither of them have come anywhere near their expected potential and neither made a major impact on the 2015 season.

(Rick Osentoski, USA Today Sports)

(Rick Osentoski, USA Today Sports)

Now Derrick Green is gone and Ty Isaac is surrounded by uncertainty. He wasn’t bad last season, but he wasn’t good enough to stay in Harbaugh’s rotation.

Isaac’s first year in Ann Arbor was defined by one 76-yard touchdown dash against UNLV, but he also averaged a solid 4.4 yards per carry the other 29 times his number was called. He fell out of the rotation for one reason: fumbles.

Isaac’s role on the team basically evaporated after a near-disastrous goal line fumble in Maryland. Michigan was backed up inside its own five-yard line when Isaac coughed up the ball in a one-possession game. The Wolverines recovered, but it was the last straw for Harbaugh. Isaac received only four touches the rest of the season.

The talent is there, and there’s definitely a spot for Isaac in Michigan’s backfield. But he’s running out of time to make the most of it.

Karan Higdon is the only other returning running back who received double digit carries last season. As a true freshman, Higdon impressed Harbaugh enough to earn playing time against ranked opponents in Northwestern and Michigan State. He figures to be similarly buried on the depth chart this season, but with so many big, bruising running backs fighting for carries, Higdon will be a potential change of pace.

Projected Stats – Isaac
Rushing Attempts Rushing Yards YPC TDs YPG Receiving Yards
50 240 4.8 2 18.5 25
Career Stats
2015 30 205 6.8 1 29.3 0
2014 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
2013 40 236 5.9 2 16.9 57
Totals 70 441 6.3 3 21.0 57
Projected Stats – Higdon
Rushing Attempts Rushing Yards YPC TDs YPG Receiving Yards
20 60 3.0 0 4.6 7
Career Stats
2015 11 19 1.7 0 6.3 3
Totals 11 19 1.7 0 6.3 3
New Faces

Michigan brought in a pair of huge running backs this offseason, including one of the top overall recruits in the nation.

Kareem Walker was one of the most valuable commitments in recent Michigan history after he flipped from Ohio State, not only because he helped recruit guys like Rashan Gary and Michael Dwumfour, but also because he’s a five-star talent who fits the Harbaugh offense perfectly.

Walker is a powerful inside runner and makes a living abusing tacklers one-on-one. Michigan fans got their first look at the freshman when he blew up two tacklers on a red zone run in the Spring Game.

Though he admits he doesn’t want to be a back who carries the ball 30 times per game, Walker expects to be in the rotation from Day 1. At this point, there’s no reason to doubt he will be.

The other, less heralded running back commit is Kingston Davis, who snubbed a handful of SEC schools to make the trip north to Ann Arbor. The Alabama native fits into the same category as Smith and Walker. He’s a huge body who welcomes contact and runs between the tackles.

Harbaugh loves big running backs. Now, he has plenty of them.

Projected Stats – Walker
Rushing Attempts Rushing Yards YPC TDs YPG Receiving Yards
70 350 5.0 5 26.9 35
Projected Stats – Davis
Rushing Attempts Rushing Yards YPC TDs YPG Receiving Yards
20 80 4.0 1 6.2 4
Meet the Rest

Wyatt Shallman: Senior, 6-3, 245, from Hartland, Mich. (Detroit Central Catholic)
Career stats: 4 attempts for 14 yards, 0 TDs
Joe Hewlett: Junior, 6-0, 195, from Novi, Mich. (Northville)
No career stats

Join Rent Like a Champion at Bar Louie this Thursday

July 3rd, 2016 by Justin Potts


Do you live in Ann Arbor? Would you like to earn some money during Michigan football weekends? If so, join our partner, Rent Like a Champion, for a happy hour on the back patio of Bar Louie this Thursday to learn how.RLAC happy hour ad

The Rent Like a Champion team will be on hand with some appetizers, an open bar, and a casual meet-and-greet from 5pm to 8pm. They’ll be able to answer any questions you have about how to make money by renting out your home to Michigan fans and alums this fall. Current Rent Like a Champion homeowners will also be there to share their experience.

Rent Like a Champion runs a home rental platform similar to that of Airbnb, but focuses on college towns with major football programs. Homeowners can make an average of $1,300 per weekend to rent out their house to football fans, while fans and alums coming to town for fall football weekends can avoid the hassles and discomfort of hotels by renting homes that allow their entire party to stay together under one roof with all the amenities of home.

Rent Like a Champion won an investment from Dallas Maverick’s owner Mark Cuban and billionaire Chris Sacca on ABC’s “Shark Tank” in 2015.

If you have any questions, you can contact Rent Like a Champion at 312-720-2070 or email info@rentlikeachampion.com.

Predicting Michigan 2016: The quarterbacks

June 22nd, 2016 by Derick Hutchinson


Predicting Michgian 2016-Quarterbacks
John O'Korn
(Melanie Maxwell, MLive.com)

The 2015 offseason turned over a new page for Michigan quarterbacks as a talented coaching staff came in and the team moved on from embattled signal caller Devin Gardner.

Most of last year’s candidates were relative unknowns. Shane Morris hadn’t shown much promise in his limited reps as a sophomore and Jake Rudock hadn’t arrived in Ann Arbor for the spring game. Fans really didn’t know what to expect.

It didn’t start off well. Rudock won the job late in the summer and made an awful first impression in Utah. He threw three interceptions — including a pick-six — in an opener that the Wolverines otherwise might have won. It was a rough start to the Jim Harbaugh era, but it didn’t last long.

By the end of the year, Rudock was one of the best quarterbacks in the Big Ten. Just months after Iowa had tossed him in the recycling bin, Rudock heard his name called in the sixth round of the NFL Draft.

That’s what Harbaugh can do with a little bit of talent. This offseason, he has a wealth of it.

Starting candidates
Wilton Speight

(Jesse Johnson, USA Today Sports)

While Michigan’s roster holds several capable players under center, there are only two serious candidates to start the season atop the depth chart. Heading into July, the frontrunner appears to be redshirt sophomore Wilton Speight (6-6, 239).

Speight served as Rudock’s backup in 2015, a role that turned out to be extremely important to Michigan’s season. On Halloween in Minnesota, with Rudock sidelined by injury, Speight inherited a five-point deficit midway through the fourth quarter. He looked shaky during his first few drives, but on Michigan’s last possession of the game, Speight completed all three of his passes for 29 yards and the eventual game-winning touchdown.

Speight’s contribution wasn’t entirely out of the blue. The former three-star prospect flashed great arm talent during the Elite 11 camp in San Francisco. His size and arm strength were, and still are, his primary calling cards. He wouldn’t be the frontrunner this late in the process without big time ability.

The other starting candidate is Houston transfer John O’Korn (6-4, 209), who announced his commitment to the Wolverines shortly after Harbaugh became head coach. O’Korn dazzled during his freshman campaign at Houston, throwing for over 3,000 yards, completing 58.1 percent of his passes and tossing 28 touchdowns compared to 10 picks.

But the sophomore slump hit O’Korn hard. He lost his starting job to Greg Ward Jr. just five games into the 2014 season after throwing eight interceptions and completing only 52 percent of his passes.

How could O’Korn save his career? He went to Harbaugh.

The redshirt junior impressed fans at the spring game on April Fool’s Day. He completed only six of 14 pass attempts, but showcased his downfield arm strength for a pair of big completions and finished with 93 yards and a touchdown. He also ran the ball exceptionally well on broken plays, scrambling seven times for 28 yards.

Who has the edge to start against Hawaii on Sept. 3? For now, I’ll go with O’Korn. Though he’s only thrown one live pass in the last 20 months, O’Korn appears to fit Michigan’s 2016 roster perfectly. He can throw the ball downfield to playmakers like Jehu Chesson, Amara Darboh, and Jake Butt and he adds an extra dimension to the offense with his legs.

Speight has also proven his ability to jump in off the bench and help in a backup role, which might factor into the decision.

At this point in the summer, the battle appears to be neck and neck. No matter what happens, fans can be sure that Harbaugh will have both guys ready to go when September rolls around.

Projected Stats – O’Korn
Passing Yards Pass TD INT Comp % Rush Yards Rush TD
2,500 22 10 59.5% 200 2
Career Stats
2014 951 6 8 52.0% 18 1
2013 3,117 28 10 58.1% 104 1
Totals 4,068 32 18 56.4% 122 2
*All at Houston
Projected Stats – Speight
Passing Yards Pass TD INT Comp % Rush Yards Rush TD
500 3 1 62.0% 175 2
Career Stats
2015 73 1 1 65.7% 2 0
2014 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Totals 73 1 1 65.7% 2 0
Potential contributors

Below the top dogs on the depth chart, Michigan has a pair of quarterbacks who were once considered excellent prospects, but who have taken a back seat on the hype train since arriving in Ann Arbor.

(Christian Peterson, Getty Images)

(Christian Peterson, Getty Images)

The first, and most obvious, example is Shane Morris (6-3, 208), who defines the term ‘roller coaster career.’

Once an elite five-star prospect, Morris’ arrival at Michigan was somewhat dampened when he missed his senior season at De La Salle due to a battle with mononucleosis. From there, Morris played a reserve role behind Gardner until the 2013 Buffalo Wild Wings bowl. The freshman started the bowl game and fared pretty well, completing 24 of 38 passes for 196 yards and an interception. Though offensive coordinator Al Borges didn’t really unleash Morris during the game, his arm strength shone through.

Unfortunately, 2014 was a disaster for Michigan and Morris. Not only did the sophomore complete just 14 of 40 passes for three picks and no touchdowns, he also found himself smack dab in the middle of a concussion protocol controversy when Brady Hoke left him in after a hard hit against Minnesota.

Since that game, Morris has thrown just one pass for the Wolverines. Harbaugh decided to redshirt the junior last season.

Morris frequently lined up at wide receiver in the spring game, and Michigan has shown a growing tendency to move players around and tinker with special packages. Guys like Jabrill Peppers have been used in unconventional roles and former quarterback recruit Zach Gentry has already made a switch to tight end.

Morris’ future will be one to watch closely.

Alex Malzone (6-1, 222) has similarly seen his stock fall since the beginning of his college career.

The former four-star recruit jumped right into the action last offseason, starting for the Maize Team in the 2015 spring game. Malzone completed 15 of 27 passes, but threw for only 95 yards and two picks in the 7-0 loss.

The redshirt freshman has recently been in the spotlight off the field for allegedly altering his driver’s license, an issue Harbaugh promised would be addressed.

Morris and Malzone are both very talented players, but Harbaugh is accruing an embarrassment of riches at the quarterback position. The current plan doesn’t appear to have a major role in store for this duo. But if the injury bug hits hard, or something unforeseen pops up, Michigan has serviceable options lurking on the sideline.

Projected Stats – Morris
Passing Yards Pass TD INT Comp % Rush Yards Rush TD
100 1 0 55.5% 12 0
Career Stats
2015 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
2014 128 0 3 35.0% 28 0
2013 261 0 2 61.7% 40 0
Totals 389 0 5 49.4% 68 0
Projected Stats – Malzone
Passing Yards Pass TD INT Comp % Rush Yards Rush TD
0 0 0 N/A 0 0
Career Stats
Redshirted in 2015
Newcomer

Michigan did bring in one quarterback recruit this offseason, and it’s one that fans should be extremely excited about: Brandon Peters (6-5, 205).

Peters has the highest upside of any quarterback on the roster despite never having taken a college snap.

A four-star recruit and one of the top five quarterbacks in his class, Peters committed to Harbaugh in April of 2015 and never wavered. The 6-foot-4 Avon, Ind. product is athletic and has a quick release, but his accuracy and arm strength stole the show at the spring game.

Peters didn’t look like a freshman during his reps, staying in the pocket and making accurate throws around the field. Two passes that really stood out were a 19-yard dart to Gentry over the middle and a rollout play in which he hit Grant Perry while on the run.

Harbaugh has the luxury of redshirting Peters this season, which will give him a year of tutelage and strength building. I think that’s the preferred plan for 2016. But by 2017, even with O’Korn and Speight returning and current commit Dylan McCaffrey likely joining the mix, look for Peters to have a say in the battle for the starting job.

Projected Stats – Peters
Redshirt
Meet the Rest

Garret Moores: Senior, 6-3, 214, from Northville, Mich. (Detroit Central Catholic). No career stats

New in Blue: 2017 DT Aubrey Solomon & 2018 S Otis Reese

June 20th, 2016 by Justin Potts


Aubrey Solomon(Chris Kirschner, AJC)

Aubrey Solomon – DT | 6-3, 305 | Leesburg, Ga. (Lee County)
ESPN4-star, #6 DT Rivals: 4-star, #4 DT 247: 4-star, #14 DT Scout: 4-star, #9 DT
247 Composite: 4-star #6 DT
Other top offers: Alabama, Auburn, Ohio State, Ole Miss, Florida State, Georgia, Florida, UNC

Michigan picked up a pair of surprise commitments from SEC country over the weekend in the form of 2017 defensive tackle Aubrey Solomon and 2018 linebacker Otis Reese. Both were in attendance for Jim Harbaugh’s satellite camp at their high school in Leesburg, Ga. on June 2, and were also in Ann Arbor this weekend for Michigan’s annual summer football camp.

Solomon has long been considered a Georgia or Alabama lean as he lives less than 200 miles from Athens and 250 miles from Tuscaloosa, but the 6-foot-3, 305-pound senior-to-be decided to head north instead.

“I was in love with the football aspect of Georgia,” Solomon said. “I was cool with players there, but at the end of the day, it comes down to what will help me 10 years, 20 years after football and Michigan provides the best opportunities for me.”

Solomon is a consensus four-star recruit according to the four major recruiting services. Rivals ranks him the highest as the fourth-best defensive tackle in the 2017 class, while ESPN ranks him sixth, Scout ninth, and 247 14th. Nationally, ESPN has him the highest as the 61st-best recruit in the class. Rivals lists him 91st, Scout 127th, and 247 207th. The 247 Composite has Solomon 94th overall and sixth-best defensive tackle.

Scout lists his strengths as athleticism, lateral range, quickness off ball, and suddenness, while listing his area to improve as pad level. They elaborate on that as well.

“An athletic defensive lineman who knows how to get off the ball. He is most effective with his quickness. He has good anticipation and he reacts quickly in the trenches. Really gets up the field. Can make plays in the backfield. Gets consistent penetration. Can use his hands, but needs to improve that, and his moves to counter offensive linemen. When he struggles, he tends to play high, so he can work on bettering his pad level. Just a quick defensive lineman who can make plays. Plays hard and plays fast for a guy his size.”

Solomon boasted offers from most of the major powers in the south, including Alabama, Georgia, Auburn, Florida State, Florida, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and more. He’s the second defensive tackle in the class, joining Phillip Paea, and the 15th commitment overall.

Otis Reese(Scout)

Otis Reese – S | 6-2, 195 | Leesburg, Ga. (Lee County)
ESPN: N/A RivalsN/A 247: 4-star, #11 S Scout: 4-star, N/A
247 Composite: N/A
Other top offers: LSU, UCLA, Louisville

Reese is Solomon’s teammate at Lee County High School in Leesburg, Ga., but is a year behind and will be entering his junior year this fall. He attended Michigan’s summer football camp over the weekend with Solomon.

Reese is a four-star recruit according to the only two recruiting services who have rated the 2018 class thus far, Scout and 247. Only 247 has ranked position groups and they have Reese as the 11th-best safety and the 117th-best overall player in the class.

Scout compliments Reese’s blitzing ability, closing speed, frame, size, and tackling ability while noting his areas to improve as backpedal quickness and hip flexibility. They expanded on that with a sophomore evaluation.

“Reese is a physical football player. He played varsity as a freshman and has improved regularly since. His size has stood out from the beginning, and by the time he reaches college, he may be playing inside the box on a regular basis as a linebacker. He is a real field general and he is used in coverage, in run support, and he blitzes off the edge as well. He is a little tight in the hips and he can improve in coverage. At his best when coming down hill in attack mode. He can close well and he makes solid tackles.”

Reese only shows offers from LSU, UCLA, Louisville, Troy, and Central Michigan at this time, but with two years of high school ball left to play he was surely on track to earn many more.

Michigan now has four members of its 2018 class, including fellow Georgian offensive guard Jalil Irvin and Springfield, Ohio teammates Leonard Taylor (DE/TE) and Antwuan Johnson (LB).

New in Blue: 2017 DE Luiji Vilain

June 12th, 2016 by Justin Potts


Luiji Vilain(247 Sports)

Luiji Vilain – DE | 6-4, 240 | Alexandria, Va. (Episcopal)
ESPN4-star, #11 DE Rivals: 4-star, #10 WDE 247: 4-star, #5 WDE Scout: 4-star, #10 DE
247 Composite: 4-star #8 WDE
Other top offers: Alabama, OSU, MSU, Ole Miss, USC, Georgia, Florida, UCLA, UNC, Tennessee

Just 10 days after landing four-star defensive end Corey Malone-Hatcher, Jim Harbaugh’s staff has secured a commitment from another one, this time Alexandria, Va. product Luiji Vilain. He announced his commitment to the Wolverines on Twitter via Sunday afternoon.

Vilain is a consensus four-star recruit in the 2017 class according to the four major recruiting services. 247 Sports ranks him the highest as the fifth-best weakside defensive end in the class. Rivals ranks him as the 10th-best, while Scout lists him as the 10th-best defensive end and ESPN as the 11th. Nationally, 247 and ESPN both have him inside their top 100 at 94th and 95th, respectively. Scout ranks him 138th and Rivals 180th. According to the 247 Sports Composite, Vilain is the eighth-best weakside end and 102nd-best player in the class.

Scout lists Vilain’s strengths as athleticism, speed, and strength — all of which are extremely desirable for a pass rusher — while noting his areas to improve as techniques and moves, which can be taught at the college level. Scout’s analysis will have Michigan fans salivating for his arrival on campus.

“Vilain is explosive off the edge. He’s extremely athletic and very strong. Vilian changes directions well, has great speed and is good in pursuit. He is very good against the run and the pass. Vilain also has a high motor and plays very hard. He needs to continue to work on his technique and develop some moves, but he has a very high ceiling and the potential to become a dominant player at the collegiate level.”

Vilain chose Michigan over USC and Virginia Tech, but he also held offers from most of the other major programs in the country including Alabama, Ohio State, Michigan State, Ole Miss, Georgia, and UCLA, to name a few. Originally from Canada, Vilain moved to Virginia prior to last season where he exploded onto the scene. He visited Michigan almost a year ago to the day while he was in town for Sound Mind Sound Body, and received an official offer this past March. He visited Ann Arbor again on May 21 and it was enough to solidify his decision to commit.

Vilain is the 14th member of the 2017 class, joining Malone-Hatcher, quarterback Dylan McCaffrey, running backs Kurt Taylor, O’Maury Samuels, A.J. Dillon, and Chase Lasater, tight end Carter Dunaway, offensive tackle JaRaymond Hall, defensive tackle Phillip Paea, linebacker Ben Mason, and defensive backs Benjamin St-Juste and J’Marick Woods. Vilain is the second-highest rated player in the class behind McCaffrey and his commitment vaults Michigan from seventh in the 247 Sports team rankings to fourth behind only Ohio State, Alabama, and Oklahoma.

New in Blue: 2017 DE Corey Malone-Hatcher

June 2nd, 2016 by Justin Potts


Corey Malone-Hatcher(247 Sports)

Corey Malone-Hatcher – DE | 6-3, 246 | St. Joseph’s, Mich. (St. Joseph’s)
ESPN4-star, #20 DE Rivals: 4-star, #13 SDE 247: 4-star, #12 WDE Scout: 4-star, #24 DE
247 Composite: 4-star #16 WDE
Other top offers: Alabama, OSU, MSU, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Tennessee, UCLA, Iowa, Wisconsin

Jim Harbaugh’s summer satellite camp tour just started, but he has already picked up a commitment. Rather than coming as a result of a camp, it came from his own backyard in the form of St. Joseph’s, Mich. defensive end Corey Malone-Hatcher. The 6-foot-3, 246-pound senior-to-be announced his commitment on Thursday afternoon.

Malone-Hatcher is a consensus four-star recruit accoridng to the four major recruiting services. 247 Sports ranks him the highest at his position as the 12th-best weakside defensive end, while Rivals has him as the 13th-best strongside end. ESPN and Scout list him 20th and 24th, respectively. Nationally, 247 has him the highest as the 169th-best overall player in the 2017 class. ESPN ranks him 254th, Scout 287th, and Rivals doesn’t have him in their top 300. According to the 247 Composite, he’s the 247th-best player, 16th-best weakside end, and sixth-best player in the state of Michigan.

Scout lists Malone-Hatcher’s strengths as backside pursuit, pass rushing skills, and techniques and moves, while noting his area to improve as injury history. A foot injury — and ultimately surgery — ended his junior season last fall. Scout expanded on their analysis.

“Great pass rusher who can dip his shoulders, bend the corner and get around offensive tackle. Agile kid who does a good job with his hands as well. Closes on quarterbacks quickly and has improved on his ability in coverage but can continue to work in that department. Main concern are a couple of injuries the last few years, but when he’s been on the field, he’s made an impact.”

Malone-Hatcher chose Michigan over a top ten that he released on Sunday that also included Ohio State, Michigan State, Alabama, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Tennessee, UCLA, Wisconsin, and Penn State. According to the 247 Crystal Ball, Michigan has always been the favorite, while Alabama had a few votes. But since he tweeted out his top ten, 10 crystal balls were given in Michigan’s favor and by Wednesday night the Wolverines were the 100 percent favorite.

Michigan already has two of the state of Michigan’s top six — offensive tackle JaRaymond Hall (third) and inside linebacker Josh Ross (fourth) — and Malone-Hatcher’s commitment would give them a third. The biggest prize, receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones, who ranks sixth nationally, is considered a Michigan lean, but the Wolverines still have to fight off Ohio State and Michigan State for his commitment.

Malone-Hatcher is the 13th commitment in the class, joining Hall, Ross, quarterback Dylan McCaffrey, running backs Kurt Taylor, O’Maury Samuels, A.J. Dillon, and Chase Lasater, tight end Carter Dunaway, defensive tackle Phillip Paea, linebacker Ben Mason, and defensive backs Benjamin St-Juste and J’Marick Woods.

42 years later: Steve Strinko recaps graduation, recalls 12-year old Harbaugh, and looks forward to helping others

May 13th, 2016 by Justin Potts


Strinko and Harbaugh

Forty-two years after leaving Michigan for the National Football League, Steve Strinko can finally call himself a Michigan graduate. On April 29, Strinko donned his cap and gown and joined current U of M seniors in receiving a diploma. But he looked a little bit different than the other 110 student-athletes that walked with him.

“I got this wild idea on Wednesday because I don’t use a walker that often — only when I’m traveling and might walk a long distance,” Strinko said. “I got this idea to paint it maize and blue. Then I found a way to stencil an M on the seat. So as I walked across the stage I was pushing my Michigan walker along.”

Strinko with his Michigan walker

Strinko with his Michigan walker

While the age difference — and the toll it has taken on his body — set him apart, the 1974 Michigan football most valuable player was welcomed with open arms by the current team.

“Jehu Chesson came over and tapped me on the shoulder while all the seniors were getting to their seats and said ‘hey man, did you play football?'” Strikno recalled. “I said yeah, and he said we’ve got a spot over here with the team. So I went over there and sat with him and his roommate (fullback Sione Houma, who recently signed an undrafted free agent contract with the New Orleans Saints). He’s Tongan and had a leather skirt underneath his gown, which I thought was hilarious. I said ‘you’ve got to be pretty confident about your sexuality to wear a dress around’ and he started laughing and said ‘yeah, I’m pretty confident.'”

Strinko relished the comradre he shared with the current players who were joining him in graduation on a weekend in which he also reunited with some of his former teammates.

I was humbled with the number of people that showed up. Both of my roommates from college were there. Dave Metz was my roommate the first two years and he played guard. Mark Elzinga was a backup quarterback; he was my roommate for my junior and senior year.”

After receiving his degree, Strinko, who once watched a Super Bowl in Woody Hayes’ living room, was courted by Bear Bryant, and played for Bo Schembechler, was greeted by current Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh.

“I went up to him and he said ‘Strinko, congratulations.’ And I said ‘better late than never. It only took me 42 years.'”

Strinko recalled his fondness of the Harbaughs, which spans nearly a half century. In 1969, Jim’s dad, Jack, tried to recruit Strinko to Bowling Green and was the first college coach to shake his hand and tell him he wanted him to come play for him. Strinko, of course, signed with Schembechler, and Harbaugh told him “you’re going to get lost in the shuffle because it’s such a huge school, such a big program.”

“The funny thing is in 1973, he shows up as an assistant,” Strinko said. “I will never forget going up to him and saying ‘coach, aren’t you afraid you’re going to get lost in the shuffle here?'”

As for Jim, Strinko remembers him as being a “12-year old kid bouncing off the walls when I played.”

“Jimmy was somewhat of a pest — he and his brother, both. I remember on several occasions when they duck-taped Jimmy to a locker just to curb his enthusiasm,” Strikno recalled, laughing. “It was clearly obvious at that age that he was passionate about the game. It was incredible.”

And here they are, decades later, at different stages in life, but both having returned to Ann Arbor. While Harbaugh is hard at work trying to bring Michigan back from years of malaise, Strinko can afford to pat himself on the back for overcoming hardship and achieving his degree.

Strinko and his brother, Greg, with Jehu Chesson

Strinko and his brother, Greg, with Jehu Chesson

“All my life, with what I had gone through with getting addicted to substances, it was a big deal for me to start at point A and have a point B out there somewhere in the future and actually get to that point. It gave me confidence that there may be some value to this old fart after all.”

Taking after Harbaugh’s enthusiasm unknown to mankind, Strinko isn’t stopping at just a Bachelor’s degree. He’s currently working on his Master’s degree via online courses through Liberty University. He admitted part of the reason for continuing his education was that he took so many classes that he wanted to make absolutely certain that he had enough credits to graduate from Michigan.

Strinko also looks forward to trying to help other former Michigan football players overcome the same types of struggles that tripped him up after his football career. His Foundation for Athletes in Need is in the process of obtaining 501c3 status in Missouri, where he currently lives, and he’s also in talks with fellow U-M football alum Jim Betts about pairing with the Michigan Football Alumni Network’s Team Big House, which Betts, Jim Brandstatter, and John Wanlger are organizing.

“I know we’ve got guys out there who are hurting,” Strikno said. “I know we’ve got guys out there addicted to Oxytoxins. I think it would be naive to think that kind of stuff isn’t happening on a regular basis, and if it’s happening with guys at Michigan that are former football players, then obviously it’s happening elsewhere.

“We want to create something at Michigan where we can have an organization that we get together when home games are in town and provide one free ticket to home games for all former players for the rest of their life and we step up to help when they’re struggling financially or otherwise.”

It has been a long and bumpy road for Strinko, but like the hard-hitting linebacker he once was, he prefers to charge ahead rather than dwell on the past. Now he can do so as a University of Michigan graduate.
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Click to read Part 1 and Part 2 of the backstory.

New in Blue: 2017 LB Ben Mason

May 3rd, 2016 by Justin Potts


Ben Mason(H John Voorhees III, Hearst Connecticut Media)

Ben Mason – LB | 6-2, 247 | Sandy Hook, Conn. (Newtown)
ESPNN/A Rivals: 3-star, N/A 247: 3-star, #28 ILB Scout: 3-star, #32 ILB
247 Composite: 3-star #35 ILB
Other top offers: Wisconsin, Cal, Pittsburgh, Duke, Syracuse, Navy, Uconn, Boston College, Temple

Michigan picked up a 12th member of its 2017 recruiting class on Tuesday evening when Sandy Hook, Conn. linebacker Ben Mason picked the Wolverines during a ceremony at Newtown High School.

Mason is a three-star recruit according to 247, Rivals, and Scout, and the 247 Composite. ESPN hasn’t ranked him yet. 247 ranks him as the 28th-best inside linebacker in the class, while Scout ranks him 32nd. ESPN and Rivals haven’t released their position rankings to date.

Mason holds offers from Wisconsin, California, Pittsburgh, Duke, and Navy, to name a few, and feigned picking a Cal hat before he selected the Michigan one during the ceremony. He said he could play either linebacker or fullback for the Wolverines. He joins fellow linebackers Josh Ross and Chase Laseter in the class.

The 6-foot-2, 247-pounder recorded 113 tackles, 11 for loss, four sacks, and four interceptions last season. As a sophomore in 2014, he tallied 110 tackles, six for loss, 5.5 sacks, two fumble recoveries and a pick. Adding in his freshman season, Mason has already amassed 290 tackles and could surpass 400 with another similar season this fall before moving to Ann Arbor.

U-M great Steve Strinko’s long path to graduation ends tonight

April 29th, 2016 by Justin Potts


Steve Strinko banner(Photos provided by Steve Strinko)

Last week we brought you a preview of our partner, Rent Like a Champion’s story of former Michigan linebacker Steve Strinko graduating from Michigan more than 40 years after he left Ann Arbor early for the NFL. Today, with the University of Michigan’s commencement upon us, we bring you part two of Strinko’s long journey from football star to Michigan graduate.

Strinko left Michigan for the 1975 NFL Draft after being named first-team All-Big Ten, second-team All-America, and the team’s Most Valuable Player during the 1974 season. But a knee injury that he suffered during that season, in which Michigan went 10-1, tied with Ohio State for the Big Ten title, and finished ranked third nationally, doomed his NFL career.

The Detroit Lions selected Strinko in the ninth round, 219th overall, but complications from an off-season knee surgery landed him on the injured reserve list. When it didn’t heal properly, the Lions refused to sign him, despite his attempts to play through the injury and make the team. By the end of 1975, his NFL career was already over and he had never played a down in the league.

Without a degree and facing the sting of the end of his football career, Strinko “went on a wild hair chase,” moving to Florida and living for some time on his unemployment check from the Lions. He bounced around to Houston, Denver, Washington, D.C., and then back to Florida, working various jobs and battling addiction. He got married and moved to Fort Worth, Texas, where he lived for more than 20 years. He had “a few business successes but would tend to self destruct.”

In 2007, Strinko was deemed 100 percent disabled by the Social Security Administration and a few years later, finally entered recovery for his addictions.

“I can tell you unequivocally that coming to the place where I realized that I had to humble myself and surrender it all to God was the single most important decision I made,” Strinko told Maize and Go Blue on Wednesday night. “I had to dismiss all preconceived thoughts and ideas that I was in control of my life. I made a commitment to honor God and my family and I worked with experienced professionals who helped guide me through the process. I committed to a one-year residential treatment program that I chose and set in my mind that I was going to do whatever necessary to put my addiction behind me once and for all.”

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With the addictions behind him, Strinko set his sights on finishing his degree. He enrolled in online classes in the fall of 2014 and completed the necessary coursework to earn his Bachelors of General Studies degree.

So why, after all these years, did he go back and finish his degree?

“Really it was a combination of things,” Strinko said. “First, I had always had the desire to finish in the back of my mind. Second, being contacted by Sara Rechnitzer who works in Michigan’s Athletic Department and her explaining the Degree Completion Program and how UM would reimburse me for the costs associated with getting my degree. Finally, knowing I could complete all of my coursework through the accredited Liberty University was the deal clincher.”

Strinko admits that it wasn’t easy to resume course work after so many years.

“Getting accustomed to online courses was a little challenging in the beginning. I had taken three, four credit hour courses at Miami Dade College in 2010 so I had already had a little bit of an idea of what would be required. I have to tell you that at 60 years of age you get pretty set in your ways and spending hours upon hours reading and writing was the hardest aspect of the challenge.”

When Strinko returns to Ann Arbor this weekend, it won’t be the first time he’s been back since his playing days — he said he came back in 1989 for a Bo’s Boys 20 year celebration and a few more times over the past two years — but this visit will certainly be the most significant. He’s looking forward to sharing the occasion with his family, several out of town friends from high school who will be making the trip up, and several former teammates.

As he readied himself for the emotional trip, Strinko looked back on his playing days and counted the comradery with his coaches and teammates to be his fondest memory.

“The comradery, hands down,” he said. “Playing four years and only losing 3 games and the closeness that kind of success promotes is not doubt the best feeling one can have. Also, running out of the tunnel on game day in front of 100,000 fans is like no-other feeling one can get anywhere.  Finally, the friends beyond the team and the people in Ann Arbor are incredible.”

He also recalled one of his favorite stories about his coach, the great Bo Schembechler.

“In the summer preceding my senior year I had to take a summer school class in order to remain eligible. Unfortunately, my professor for that course went to Europe before officially entering the grade. Therefore, when we reported for two-a-days I was not eligible. The reason this was a big deal is that every senior is eligible to be voted on for captain.

“Bo called me into a separate meeting room before the announcement that we were voting for captains. He said, ‘Strinko, you cannot be considered for captain of this squad because you are as of right now not eligible.’ Of course I explained I had been given a four-hour “A” but to no avail. Not sure I would have been voted as captain but we will never know.

“This incident so irked Bo that he made me run ten, 100-yard dashes against him after the morning and afternoon two-a-day practices. He even gave himself a 10-yard head start. I will never forget on the first day as we lined up to race he turned and looked at me and said ‘for every one that I beat you, you will have to run ten more.’ He never beat me.”

Tonight, when Strinko receives his degree during the student-athlete ceremony at the Crisler Center, Bo will undoubtedly be looking down from above on the linebacker from Middletown, Ohio, who he once stole away from Woody Hayes. And despite the 42 year gap, Strinko isn’t about to look back and wish he had done things differently.

“I have never been one to have regrets about what I did or did not do in the past. I prefer to consider that wherever the journey took me, it was necessary for me to get to where I am today. Dwelling on what could’ve or should’ve been is a waste of time and energy.

“The reason the rear view mirror is so much smaller than the windshield is that it is much more important to have a vision of where one is going than to dwell on what is behind us. I will say that there is merit in learning from your past mistakes but only as those mistakes are used as a guide of what not to do in the future. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Next week, we will finish this three-part series with a recap of Strinko’s graduation weekend experience and a look ahead at his current venture, FAN, Inc., which is helping the Michigan Football Alumni Network avoid the same pitfalls that tripped him up after his football career.