Archive for the ‘Recruiting’ Category

Recruiting profile: 2015 OL signee Jon Runyan Jr.

Friday, February 20th, 2015


Runyan(MaxPreps)

Previously: 2015 TE Chris Clark, 2015 CB Iman Marshall, 2015 QB Zach Gentry, 2015 RB Karan Higdon

Jon Runyan Jr. – OL | 6-4, 276 | Philadelphia, Pa. – St. Joseph’s
ESPN: 3-star, #96 OT Rivals: 3-star, #45 OG 247: 3-star, #163 OT Scout: 3-star, #39 OG
Other top offers:

The son of the former Michigan and NFL offensive tackle of the same name, Jon Runyan Jr. committed to the Wolverines nearly two years ago, coming off just his junior year of high school. Runyan Jr. is significantly smaller than his father and is no lock to remain at offensive tackle in college (his frame profiles better on the inside), but he possesses the tools of a future Big Ten starter. Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Tim Drevno stress physical and tough offensive line play, two things which Runyan Jr. has plenty of.

Athleticism

Athleticism - Jon Runyan JrRunyan Jr. doesn’t just have the frame of a big tight end, he has the athletic ability of one too. He has the quickness out of his stance and the overall movement skills that would be coveted by a team that is heavy on zone blocking schemes. Runyan Jr. moves very well laterally and downfield and his athletic talent aids him best as a moving run blocker more so than as a pass protector. He was used as an eligible receiver at times with St. Joseph’s and could be used in the same capacity with the Wolverines, either as an extra blocker or on a tight end screen. If Runyan Jr. can continue to improve his body and add strength without sacrificing much quickness, he will have an excellent physical base from which he can develop as a blocker.

Pass Blocking

Pass Blocking - Jon Runyan JrWhile he might have manned the blind side as a prep last season, don’t expect Runyan Jr. to do so at the next level, nor would he be expected to with Mason Cole holding down the job last year as a true freshman. Runyan Jr. simply doesn’t have the length or power to hold up at left tackle, and would be better served as an interior lineman or as a right tackle. His ability to anchor is a serious question considering he is a lightweight at this point in time and did not show any dominant ability to stonewall pass rushers. His height and arm length are also red flags and are below average for an offensive tackle. If Runyan Jr. can take full advantage of the strength and training program when he gets on campus he will be able to become an at least average pass protector and could contribute after a redshirt season.

Run Blocking

Run Blocking - Jon Runyan JrDon’t let his underwhelming size fool you, Runyan Jr. is a dominating run blocker. His ability to fight through the whistle and to block opposing defenders five yards downfield is impressive and should catch the eye of this coaching staff which will seek to impose a tough and physical mindset in the offensive trenches. Runyan Jr. gets into his blocks quickly and can generate movement off the line with sheer fight and effort. Even more impressive, however, is his ability to block on the move, which includes releasing off of double teams and getting out to the second level, and coming around the opposite side of the line on pulls. Runyan Jr. has an impressive ability to latch on to targets in space and is difficult to disengage from in the running game. His ability to open up holes and seal off defenders in the running game should allow him to play any of the four positions to the right of the blindside spot.

Technique

Technique - Jon Runyan JrFew offensive linemen come out of high school with good technique, let alone college prospects moving up to the pros, but Runyan Jr. shows solid technique for his level of play at this stage. Quick hands, balance, and leg drive allow him to maintain good positioning and engage with his opponents. He also shows clean footwork and solid angles to block on the move and at the second level. The biggest areas that Runyan Jr. needs to work on are his ability to maintain leverage and proper pad level, and better hip snap into contact. Overall, the fact that he is the son of a former offensive lineman is apparent in his play.

Bottom Line

The Wolverines have suffered from subpar offensive line play for the past few seasons and should be welcoming any new blood that can help shore up this area of weakness. However, Runyan Jr. is still at least a year away from contributing and needs some serious work in the weight room before he is physically up to snuff. I may only be giving Runyan Jr. a two star grade, but this an indication of what he can do now, and not necessarily what he can do in the future. From what I have seen, he could play a very good offensive guard or center, but as I have stressed, a lot of this comes down to the assumption that he can get bigger and stronger with a redshirt. All things considered, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Runyan Jr. crack a spot in the starting lineup as a sophomore.

MG&B Grade (out of 10)
7.8 (2-star)

Alex is currently a senior at UM-Dearborn and has a background in scouting and player evaluation, having learned from some of the best in the business. He contributes a weekly recruit profile/evaluation piece each Friday. Visit our Meet the Staff page to read more about Alex.

Recruiting profile: 2015 RB signee Karan Higdon

Friday, February 6th, 2015


Karan Higdon

Previously: 2015 TE Chris Clark, 2015 CB Iman Marshall, 2015 QB Zach Gentry

Karan Higdon – RB | 5-10, 190 | Sarasota, Fla. – Riverview
ESPN: 3-star, #70 RB Rivals: 3-star, #45 RB 247: 4-star, #29 RB Scout: 3-star, #84 RB
Other top offers: Iowa, Arizona, Tennessee, Arkansas, Syracuse, South Florida, Kentucky, Nevada

One of the first commits flipped to Michigan on National Signing Day, Karan Higdon swapped Hawkeye black and gold for the maize and blue of Michigan in the early hours of Wednesday morning. The diminutive running back out of Riverview High School in Sarasota, Fla. offers eye-brow raising athleticism to a Michigan backfield that is stocked with powerful runners the likes of Derrick Green, Ty Isaac, De’Veon Smith, and possibly Drake Johnson. Higdon brings a different dimension to the Wolverines’ stable of backs, but may not have the overall ability to make much a difference in his collegiate career.

Inside Running

Inside Running - Karan HigdonHigdon measures in at approximately 5’9” and 185-pounds, by no means an intimidating, downhill runner. Higdon shows very good burst out of his stance and getting through holes between the tackles. However, he rarely is able to break one-on-one tackles and relies on his ability to dance away from defenders than to run through them. Higdon is able to lower his pads into contact and shows the determination to run his legs on contact, but will have to make his mark outside of the tackles to be an impactful running back.

Outside Running

Outside Running - Karan HigdonHigdon’s athletic ability as an outside of the box runner made him dangerous at the high school level and he shows the ability to transition that ability into forcing opposing defenses to respect his ability to make plays on the outside. Higdon has very good jump-cutting ability and impressive stop-start transition to elude would-be tacklers. While he has good speed, Higdon won’t make anyone forget about the likes of Chris Rainey and LaMichael James, both of whom had electric speed to outrun angles and take the perimeter with ease. Higdon will need to improve his ability to read blocks and find running lanes in order fully take advantage of his athletic gifts.

Catching

Catching - Karan HigdonThough rarely used in the passing game, Higdon showed flashes of pass catching ability at Riverview High. Higdon has a small catching radius, but is able to catch the football outside of his frame and has the quick acceleration to pick up big yards after the catch.

Blocking

Blocking - Karan HigdonFew running backs the size of Higdon are effective pass blockers at the collegiate level and Higdon is no exception. While he shows a willingness to get in the way and will get out in front of his quarterback when scrambling, Higdon simply lacks the strength and stature at this point to fill the third down back void left by the departure of graduate transfer Justice Hayes.

Bottom Line

Michigan has several running backs on scholarship who have the potential to become above average rushers at the collegiate level, and Karan Higdon is one of them. However, Higdon is somewhat of a one-trick pony who relies on his speed and athleticism to make plays with the ball in his hands and doesn’t have the tools to succeed between the tackles. Look for Higdon to become a complementary piece in the backfield within the next couple of seasons as a threat to stretch the field horizontally.

MG&B Grade (out of 10)
8.0 (3-star)

As the first running back commitment since the 2013 class, and a signing day surprise at that, Higdon should become a fan favorite at Michigan. His high school coach — a Michigan fan — posted on MGoBlog a long description of Higdon’s recruitment and how Michigan landed him. You should definitely check it out if you haven’t already.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

Alex is currently a senior at UM-Dearborn and has a background in scouting and player evaluation, having learned from some of the best in the business. He contributes a weekly recruit profile/evaluation piece each Friday. Visit our Meet the Staff page to read more about Alex.

New in Blue: 2015 tight end/defensive end Tyrone Wheatley Jr.

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015


Tyrone Wheatley Jr(Scout.com)

Tyrone Wheatley Jr. – TE/DE | 6-6, 260| Manlius, N.Y. – Canisius
ESPN: 4-star, #12 TE Rivals: 4-star, #13 TE 247: 4-star, #13 TE Scout: 4-star, #25 DE
Other top offers: Alabama, USC, UCLA, Oregon, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Miami, Nebraska

The new Michigan coaching staff is keeping it in the family with a commitment from legacy recruit Tyrone Wheatley Jr on National Signing Day. The son of the former Michigan great and current running backs coach pledged his commitment on Wednesday afternoon after a long recruitment that came down to Michigan and UCLA.

Wheatley is a consensus four-star recruit according to the four major recruiting sites. ESPN ranks him as the 12th-best tight end in the class, while Rivals and 247 rank him 13th. Scout ranks him as the 25th-best defensive end in the class. Scout’s Brian Dohn had this to say about Wheatley:

“Wheatley plays tight end and defensive end, but he looks more comfortable and natural on defense. He gets off the ball quickly, but sometimes gets upright too quickly. Wheatley has the size to overpower an offensive tackle, and also can use his speed to get around the edge. In addition, he can run a play down from behind and is versatile enough to move inside and play defensive tackle if he adds the weight.”

While Michigan missed out on top tight end target Chris Clark when he chose UCLA this morning, Wheatley is likely to wind up at tight end. It’s a deep and talented position for Michigan with junior Jake Butt, redshirt sophomore Khalid Hill, and redshirt freshman Ian Bunting. At 6’6″, 260, he has the size to play right away, and he will have a chance to work his way into playing time in Harbaugh’s tight end-friendly offense.

New in Blue: 2015 defensive end Shelton Johnson

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015


Shelton Johnson(247)

Shelton Johnson – DE | 6-5, 220 | Delray Beach, Fla. – Atlantic
ESPN: 3-star, #36 DE Rivals: 3-star, #37 WDE 247: 4-star, #16 SDE Scout: 4-star, #27 DE
Other top offers: Florida State, Miami, Mississippi State, South Carolina, NC State, Kentucky

Michigan picked up somewhat of a surprise commitment on National Signing Day when Delray Beach, Fla. defensive end spurned in-state Miami and Florida State and pledged to Jim Harbaugh. 

 

Johnson was an unknown to most Michigan fans until Tuesday afternoon when 247′s Steve Lorenz and Clint Brewster tweeted that Michigan was in the running for his commitment. Johnson is a four-star according to 247 and Scout and a three-star according to ESPN and Rivals. 247 ranks him the 16th-best strong side defensive end in the class and 39th-best prospect in the talent-rich state of Florida. Scout lists him as the 27th-best defensive end and 291st-best prospect overall. ESPN ranks him as the 36th-best defensive end with a grade of 79, while Rivals has him as the 37th-best weak side defensive end.

Johnson received an offer from Michigan on Jan. 15 and took an official visit that weekend. He then took an official to Miami a week later. Florida State’s coaches visited him twice since his Michigan visit — Johnson took several unofficials to FSU last fall — and he narrowed his choices down to the three schools.

When he gets to campus this summer, he will join a position that has a lot of young talent in Taco Charlton, Mario Ojemudia, Tom Strobel, Henry Poggi, and Lawrence Marshall. But Michigan did lose both starting defensive ends, Frank Clark and Brennen Beyer, to graduation, and with a new coaching staff, it’s safe to assume that the spots are anyone’s to win this fall.

New in Blue: 2015 cornerback Keith Washington

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015


Keith Washington(Mickey Welsh, Montgomery Advertiser)

Keith Washington – CB | 6-2, 170 | Prattville, Ala. – Prattville
ESPN: 3-star, #117 ATH Rivals: 3-star, #26 ATH 247: 3-star, #118 ATH Scout: 3-star, #147 CB
Other top offers: California, Miami, Missouri, North Carolina, South Florida, Wake Forest, Duke, Memphis

Jim Harbaugh missed out on a pair of defensive backs early in the week when Damon Arnette committed to Ohio State and Chris Williamson chose his home-state Florida Gators. But he was able to salvage a corner on National Signing Day when Prattville, Ala. athlete Keith Washington flipped from California to the Wolverines.

Washington is a three-star all around. Rivals ranks him as the 26th-best athlete in the class, while ESPN has him 117th and 247 has him 118th. Scout ranks him as the 147th-best corner. None have him ranked nationally, but 247′s composite rankings has him 954th overall. At 6’2″, he has good size for a corner, though he will need to put some muscle on his thin, 170-pound frame before he’s ready to compete.

247 lists Washington’s best skill as versatility, for which they give him an eight. He’s a seven on size, ball skills, and intangibles, but just a five at speed and explosiveness.

Washington’s commitment is surprising considering he lives in Alabama, committed to Cal last week, and hasn’t visited Michigan. But  Harbaugh has been working hard to fill out the class and has a proven track record that can attract recruits. Stay tuned for more updates as the day goes on.

New in Blue: 2015 running back Karan Higdon

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015


Karan Higdon(preps.heraldtribune.com)

Karan Higdon – RB | 5-10, 190 | Sarasota, Fla. – Riverview
ESPN: 3-star, #70 RB Rivals: 3-star, #45 RB 247: 4-star, #29 RB Scout: 3-star, #84 RB
Other top offers: Iowa, Arizona, Tennessee, Arkansas, Syracuse, South Florida, Kentucky, Nevada

Jim Harbaugh is still hoping to convince four-star running back Mike Weber to flip from Ohio State back to Michigan, but even if he doesn’t, he got a nice consolation prize on National Signing Day in Sarasota, Fla. running back Karan Higdon.

Higdon is a four-star recruit according to 247 and a three-star according to ESPN, Rivals, and Scout. 247 ranks him as the 29th-best running back in the class, while Rivals has him 45th, ESPN 70th, and Scout 84th. None of the sites rank him nationally, but 247′s composite rankings have him as the 478th-best overall recruit in the 2015 class.

He had been committed to Big Ten foe Iowa since Oct. 28, but Michigan offered him at the last minute and it was enough to flip him to the Wolverines. Since Michigan didn’t take a running back in last year’s class, he has some room to grow behind juniors Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith, redshirt junior Drake Johnson, and redshirt sophomore Ty Isaac.

Stay tuned for more commitment news as National Signing Day rolls on.

New in Blue: 2015 wide receiver Grant Perry

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015



Grant Perry(Jarrad Henderson, Detroit Free Press)

Grant Perry – WR | 6-0, 185 | Bloomfield Hills, Mich. – Brother Rice
ESPN: 3-star, #128 WR, 76 grade Rivals: 3-star, #80 WR 247: 3-star, #133 WR Scout: 3-star, #59 WR
Other top offers: Northwestern, Bowling Green, Ball State, Nevada, Buffalo

Two days after it was reported (and then debunked) that Michigan had received a commitment from three-star receiver Deontay Burnett, the Wolverines picked up a commitment from another receiver, and this time the news came straight from the mouth — or tweet — of the commit.

Perry is rated very similar to Burnett, a consensus three-star by the four major recruiting sites. Scout rates him the highest as the 59th-best receiver in the class, while Rivals is next at 80th. ESPN has him as the 128th-best with a grade of 76 and 247 comes in last as the 133rd-best. Scout’s Allen Trieu praised his route-running, ability to get open, excellent hands, and sound fundamentals, while listing his only weakness as size. Sounds an awful lot like Jeremy Gallon. Although Gallon was rated slightly higher coming out of high school, he was three inches shorter than Perry.

Perry was a high school teammate of Michigan quarterback Alex Malzone and was Malzone’s top receiver, catching 105 passes for 1,727 yards and 20 touchdowns last season. In his varsity career at Brother Rice, Perry caught 176 passes for 2,771 yards and 27 touchdowns. He camped at Michigan each of the past two summers but did not receive an offer, then committed to Northwestern on Dec. 8. But he received an offer on Sunday, and on Monday night tweeted out his de-commitment from the Wildcats.

As the 10th player to join the 2015 class, he likely won’t be the last with National Signing Day approaching tomorrow and a few spots left to fill. Stay tuned for more commitment news over the next 24 hours.

New in Blue: 2015 wide receiver Deontay Burnett

Sunday, February 1st, 2015


Deontay Burnett(uscfootball.com)

Deontay Burnett – WR | 6-0, 166 | Gardena, Calif. – Junipero Serra
ESPN: 3-star, #139 WR, 76 grade Rivals: 3-star, #59 WR 247: 3-star, #97 WR Scout: 3-star, #82 WR
Other top offers: Washington State, Arizona State, Utah, Miami, Colorado State

With three days remaining until National Signing Day, new head coach Jim Harbaugh secured his fourth commitment since taking over in Ann Arbor. Gardena, Calif. receiver Deontay Burnett committed to the Wolverines during his official visit on Sunday afternoon, flipping from Washington State.

Burnett is a consensus three-star recruit by the four major recruiting sites. Rivals ranks him the highest as the 59th-best receiver in the class. Scout is next at 82nd, while 247 ranks him 97th and ESPN 139th. The 247 Composite ranks him as the 690th overall player in the class. 247 lists his best skill as yards after catch (nine) and gives him an eight for change of direction and speed. Route running (six) is his lowest attribute. Scout’s Greg Biggins praises his route running and ability to stretch the field as a deep threat, while listing his weakness as strength.

Burnett had been committed to Washington State since July 14, but received a Michigan offer on Wednesday and immediately scheduled a visit. On Saturday, he tweeted out a picture from the Michigan locker room. He received an offer from Arizona State on Thursday and holds offers from Miami, Utah, and Colorado State as well.

Michigan now has 10 commitments in the class and will hope to secure a few more before Wednesday.

Edit: Per Burnett’s Twitter account, he did not, in fact, commit today.

Stay tuned for more to come.

Recruiting profile: 2015 QB commit Zach Gentry

Friday, January 30th, 2015


Gentry running
(Roberto E. Rosales, Albuquerque Journal)

Previously: 2015 TE Chris Clark, 2015 CB Iman Marshall

Zach Gentry – QB | 6-7, 230 | Albuquerque, N.M. – Eldorado
ESPN: 4-star, #9 Pro-QB, 83 rating Rivals: 4-star, #4 Pro-QB 247: 3-star, #16 Pro-QB Scout: 4-star, #19 QB
Other top offers: Alabama, Texas, Baylor, TCU, Tennessee, Oklahoma State, Louisville, Nebraska, Penn State

Jim Harbaugh’s second commit as head coach of the Michigan Wolverines, Zach Gentry, is a well-regarded recruit, in large part because of his prodigious size and potential upside. Gentry was previously committed to Charlie Strong and the Texas Longhorns, dating back to May of 2014, before decommitting earlier this month and committing to Wolverines on his official visit last weekend. Michigan was desperate at the quarterback position coming into this offseason, and now has early enrollee Alex Malzone and the newly committed Gentry appearing to be battling for the starting spot this fall, assuming Shane Morris doesn’t have a miraculous improvement this spring.

Arm Strength

Arm Strength - Zach GentryWhen speaking of towering quarterbacks, rocket-armed passers Joe Flacco and former Michigan Wolverine Ryan Mallett come to mind. It would be unfair to compare Gentry to either of these pros, as he simply does not have the cannon of arm that is expected of signal-callers who are taller than 6’6”. Gentry can stretch the field vertically by 50 yards at best, which is more than enough for most offenses, but is nothing special within itself. He can also throw it with nice velocity and spin to the sideline and over the middle, but isn’t going to sling it through a brick wall. Mechanically, Gentry’s arm action is somewhat of a concern as he has long arms which it make it difficult for him to get rid of the ball quickly and his release point is not always consistent.

Accuracy

Accuracy - Zach GentryIn terms of delivering the football with accuracy and anticipation to his receivers, Gentry is a work in progress. Once again, mechanics are an issue here as too often he will throw off of his back foot and will throw without first setting his feet. These are common issues which will affect ball placement and can be ironed out with coaching. Going back to his arm action, Gentry’s inconsistent release point can hinder his receiver’s ability to track the football out of his hand and cleanly field the ball. On the plus side, Gentry shows good touch on downfield throws and can drop the ball in a bucket when he is on.

Athleticism

Athleticism - Zach GentryAs a high school player, Gentry was a dual-threat, capable of making plays with his legs as well as with his arm, and frequently picking up huge chunks of yardage. Gentry is unlikely to carry this trait over to the collegiate ranks, however, a number of factors considered. While he is able to chew up yards with long strides, he is not explosive and lacks much shiftiness outside of weaving in and out of a straight line. Moreover, Gentry did not play against overwhelming athletic talent in the state of New Mexico, which could inflate how quick he looked on the field. Where Gentry’s ability likely will be able to carry over is his extending the play within and outside of the pocket to buy time to make the throw.

Intangibles

Intangibles - Zach GentryWith a player of his height, Gentry should have no trouble seeing over the line of scrimmage to read a defense (he is as tall as or taller than a lot of collegiate offensive linemen). From that point, however, Gentry is still a work in progress in terms of finding the right receiver to throw to and how patient he is waiting for routes to develop. As is, Gentry has some happy feet and is all too willing to take off and run without first exhausting his throwing options and keeping his eyes downfield should a receiver uncover late. Gentry is still a raw talent and has a lot of room to grow with how he processes the game, and with Harbaugh at the helm Gentry has come to right place to develop his skill set as a signal caller.

Bottom Line

While I may not be as big of a fan of Gentry as many others, there is some definite upside that Gentry brings as a recruit. My biggest concern with Gentry is that his size may have covered up a lot of his deficiencies at the high school level, as so many oversized washout players have had happen in their high school careers. The battle for Michigan’s starting quarterback job should be an interesting one, as it pits evil opposites Zach Gentry, a huge, raw, and mobile passer, against Alex Malzone, an undersized, but polished and accurate signal-caller. I expect the latter recruit to win the job, but Gentry is not someone who should be counted out.

MG&B Grade (out of 10)
8.3 (3-star)

New in Blue: 2015 offensive lineman Nolan Ulizio

Friday, January 30th, 2015


Nolan Ulizio(Rivals.com)

Nolan Ulizio – OL | 6-6, 280 | West Chester, Ohio – Lakota West
ESPN: 3-star, #68 OT, 78 rating Rivals: 2-star, NR 247: 3-star, #126 OT Scout: 3-star, #42 OT
Other top offers: UConn, Kentucky, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati

Jim Harbaugh picked up his third commitment last weekend when he received a pledge from offensive lineman Nolan Ulizio on Monday morning. The West Chester, Ohio native was previously committed to the University of Connecticut, but when Michigan came calling he didn’t waste much time flipping to the Wolverines.

Ulizio is a three-star recruit according to ESPN, 247, and Scout, and a two-star according to Rivals. Scout ranks him the highest as the 42nd-ranked offensive tackle in the class, while ESPN ranks him 68th and gives him a 78 rating. 247 has him as their 126th-best tackle. Rivals has him unranked. Scout’s Dave Berk praised Ulizio’s footwork, power, strength, and long arms, but noted that his biggest area of work is lower body flexibility.

In addition to Michigan and UConn, Ulizio held offers from Pittsburgh, Kentucky, Cincinnati, Ohio, and Youngstown State.

Ulizio is the ninth member of the 2015 class, joining quarterbacks Alex Malzone (already enrolled) and Zach Gentry, athlete Brian Cole (enrolled), kicker Andrew David, defensive end Reuben Jones, defensive back Tyree Kinnel, and fellow linemen Grant Newsome and Jon Runyan Jr.

Whether Ulizio ends up as a tackle or guard is anyone’s guess at this point, but he will be considered a work in progress and certainly redshirt next season. After a couple years in the strength program, he will be ready to compete for playing time.