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Aubrey Dawkins to transfer to Central Florida

April 6th, 2016 by Justin Potts


Aubrey Dawkins(Dustin Johnson, UM Hoops)

The Michigan basketball program lost a third member of its team on Wednesday morning. Sophomore Aubrey Dawkins announced his intention to transfer to Central Florida to play for his father, new UCF head coach Johnny Dawkins.

“This was not an easy decision, however, the chance to play for my father is a special opportunity for me and my family,” Dawkins said in an official release. “Coach (John) Beilein and Michigan took a chance on me and that is something I will never forget. I want to thank all the coaches, staff and especially the U-M fans for making my time in Ann Arbor truly special. Go Blue.”

John Beilein compared Dawkins’ opportunity to one that he had while at West Virginia.

“While we certainly did not wish for this to happen, it is quite understandable,” said Beilein. “I was able to coach my son and see him grow as a person and player and it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Aubrey is a wonderful and thoughtful young man who has a bright future in front of him. We wish him well.”

In two seasons at Michigan, Dawkins started 22 games and averaged 6.7 points and 2.3 rebounds per game. He shot 43.9 percent from three-point range, making 83 of 189 attempts. He scored a career high 31 points against Rutgers during his freshman season, making eight three-pointers, which is the second-most in a game in program history.

The elder Dawkins spent eight seasons as head coach at Stanford where he compiled a 156-115 record, including two NIT titles and an NCAA Sweet Sixteen. He was let go after the 2015-16 season and quickly hired by UCF just eight days later. The Knights went 12-18 each of the past two seasons and 13-18 the year before. Their last winning record was in 2012-13 when they went 20-11. Dawkins will have to sit out the 2016-17 season due to NCAA transfer rules and will then have two seasons of eligibility.

Following the transfers of Spike Albrecht and Ricky Doyle, which put Michigan’s scholarship situation at even, Dawkins’ departure gives Beilein a scholarship to work with. He could go after a late flyer, seek out a graduate transfer such as Valparaiso’s Alec Peters, or bank it for next year’s recruiting class.

New in Blue: 2017 RB O’Maury Samuels

April 3rd, 2016 by Justin Potts


O'Maury Samuels(247 Sports)

O’Maury Samuels – RB | 5-11, 190 | Los Lunas, N.M. (Los Lunas)
ESPNN/A RivalsN/A 247: 3-star, #25 RB Scout: 4-star, #23 RB
247 Composite: 4-star #21 RB
Other top offers: TCU, Arizona, California, New Mexico, New Mexico State

Jim Harbaugh landed a commitment for the third straight day and the fifth time in the past week when Los Lunas, N.M. running back O’Maury Samuels pledged his verbal to the Wolverines on Sunday afternoon. He announced his decision on Twitter.

Samuels is a four-star according to Scout and a three-star per 247. Rivals and ESPN have yet to rank him. Scout lists him as the 23rd-best running back in the 2017 class, while 247 ranks him as the 25th-best running back and 338th nationally.

The 5-foot-11, 190-pound running back rushed for 1,306 yards for Los Lunas High School as a junior last fall, earning all-state honors. He then made his mark on The Opening Dallas regional last month, recording a 4.58 40-yard dash, 44.5-inch vertical, 4.14-second shuffle, and 43-foot power ball toss to post the nation’s highest SPARQ score, 138.30. That earned him an offer from Harbaugh — his only other offers at the time were in-state schools, New Mexico and New Mexico State — and also an invite to The Opening at Nike’s headquarters in Oregon.

When Michigan offered after his performance in Dallas, he was excited to get a big-time offer from a school like Michigan.

“I was very happy when Mr. Harbaugh offered me,” Samuels said. “Coach Tyrone Wheatley said I am a freak and I have a lot of great attributes. They said I would fit into their program. I was so happy because Michigan is a great program with some great coaches.”

Although California, Arizona, and TCU have offered since then, a visit to Ann Arbor for the spring game on Friday was enough to convince Samuels to go blue. He’s the 11th member of the 2017 class and joins fellow running backs Kurt Taylor and A.J. Dillon in the class.

New in Blue: 2017 DT Phillip Paea

April 3rd, 2016 by Justin Potts


Phillip Paea(247 Sports)

Phillip Paea – DT | 6-4, 285 | Berrien Springs, Mich. (Berrien Springs)
ESPNN/A Rivals3-star #13 OG 247: 3-star, #25 DT Scout: 3-star, #26 DT
247 Composite: 3-star #32 DT
Other top offers: Oregon, USC, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Nebraska, Utah, BYU, Arizona

Michigan’s hot spring continued on Saturday afternoon with a commitment from Berrien Springs, Mich. defensive tackle Phillip Paea. The 6-foot-4, 285-pounder posted a succinct and pointed tweet to announce his commitment.

Paea is a three-star recruit according to Rivals, 247, and Scout, while ESPN hasn’t ranked him yet. Ravals ranks him as the 13th-best offensive guard in the 2017 class, while 247 ranks him as the 25th-best defensive tackle, and Scout as the 26th-best defensive tackle.

While his rankings don’t stand out just yet, his offer sheet does. Oregon, USC, Michigan State, Notre Dame, and Miami, to name a few, have offered him. Paea visited Michigan on March 24 and again for the spring game on Friday before committing the next day.

Paea is the 10th member of the 2017 class, joining quarterback Dylan McCaffrey, running backs A.J. Dillon and Kurt Taylor, tight end Carter Dunaway, offensive lineman Ja’Raymond Hall, fullback Chase Lasater, linebacker Joshua Ross, and defensive backs J’Marick Woods and Benjamin St-Juste.

New in Blue: 2018 TE/DL Leonard Taylor

April 1st, 2016 by Justin Potts


Leonard Taylor(247 Sports)

Leonard Taylor – TE/DT | 6-6, 258 | Springfield, Ohio (Springfield)
ESPNN/A RivalsN/A 2474-star, #3 DT Scout: 4-star, N/A
247 Composite: N/A
Other top offers: Ohio State, Notre Dame, Tennessee, Nebraska, Louisville, Penn State

Less than two weeks after landing a commitment from 2018 linebacker Antwuan Johnson, Michigan picked up his teammate, Leonard Taylor. The Springfield, Ohio tight end/defensive end pledged his commitment to Jim Harbaugh following Friday night’s spring game.

Taylor is rated as a four star according to 247 and Scout, the only of the four major recruiting services to have released their 2018 ratings to date. 247 ranks Taylor as the third-best defensive tackle in the class and the 22nd-best overall player in the class. No other site has ranked the 2018 class yet.

As mentioned in Johnson’s New in Blue post, Taylor plays for former NFL safety Maurice Douglass, who sent Roy Roundtree, Michael Shaw, Brandon Moore, Mike McCray, and Reon Dawson to Ann Arbor while at Trotwood High School. However, given that Johnson and Taylor are among the best 2018 players in the state of Ohio, Harbaugh will have to fight to keep them away from Urban Meyer over the next 22 months. Still, it’s great early momentum, and Harbaugh can build on that with a great season this fall.

Height of sincerity: A defense of John Beilein

March 31st, 2016 by Sam Sedlecky


Beilein and Spike(Kirthmon F. Dozier, Detroit Free Press)

Earlier this week, the University of Michigan announced that Spike Albrecht, fresh off a senior year in which he was only able to play nine games and thus was granted a redshirt, would transfer out of Ann Arbor to play basketball elsewhere next season. With that came the official end of the 2012 recruiting class’s “Fresh Five” era at Michigan, and a collective sigh across the Michigan fan base.

(As an aside, it’s worth noting that not a single player from that touted class will play a full college career at Michigan, as Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III, and Mitch McGary left early, Caris LeVert played the equivalent of only two conference seasons, and Albrecht will transfer. That’s an even worse hit rate than the famed Fab Five, which saw two players – Jimmy King and Ray Jackson – play four full seasons in Ann Arbor and two more – Juwan Howard and Jalen Rose – complete their junior years.)

All seemed well and good until it was pointed out that the Big Ten restricts graduate transfers from playing immediately at another member institution. Shortly after that, it was revealed that Michigan coach John Beilein would restrict Albrecht from not only transferring within the Big Ten conference, but also to any other opponent on Michigan’s schedule in the next two seasons, according to MLive’s Brendan Quinn.

From there, all hell broke loose. Talks of Albrecht being a victim of an archaic NCAA system flooded social media, and critics of the restriction policies pointed out once again that the millionaire coaches have all the power while the peasant players – the ones who actually create the product that lines the pockets of coaches and administrators across the country with cash – are merely pawns of the system.

Perhaps the most outspoken of all the voices heard was Yahoo!’s Pat Forde, who presented Albrecht’s situation as the “height of hypocrisy” in a scathing column attacking both Beilein and the college basketball system as a whole.

Before I address these arguments, however, I wanted to make one point clear: every college basketball player seeking a transfer is doing so for his own reasons. To throw every single transfer into a basket and cover it with a single blanket is to ignore the uniqueness of each individual’s situation. So while I will defend Beilein’s reasoning to a certain extent in this case, I am not saying he is infallible when it comes to transfers; in fact, I was quite outspoken myself in his refusal to allow former Wolverine Max Bielfeldt back for a fifth season in Ann Arbor while also trying to prevent him from transferring to certain schools.

Now, on to this individual case. Instead of responding to Forde’s column with a winding essay of my own, I decided to break his arguments down into three points and address them one-by-one.

From my perspective, Forde’s issues boil down to the following:

1. Not allowing Albrecht to transfer within the Big Ten is “massively hypocritical” on Michigan’s part
2. Spike was “recruited over” and “has been told there is no scholarship for him at Michigan”
3. Rich, greedy coaches are allowed to move about freely from school to school without consequence while poor players are restricted from choosing where they wish to play

I’ll respond to these in order.

1. The supposed hypocrisy

Beilein and Spike 2(Melanie Maxwell, The Ann Arbor News)

Oh, the hypocrisy!

Let’s get Forde’s smelliest garbage – the idea that Michigan and John Beilein are being hypocritical by restricting Albrecht’s options because Jake Rudock just led the Wolverines’ football team to a solid season in his fifth year after transferring from Iowa – out of the way first. Yes, it’s true that Rudock left Iowa for Michigan and had a mostly excellent season as quarterback of the Maize and Blue, in what just so happens to be the most important position on the field. But according to my records — and, you know, Michigan’s schedule — the Wolverines did not play Iowa in Rudock’s lone season in Ann Arbor, so Iowa was never harmed by the transfer.

Now, it might take the intellect of a first grader to realize this, but as far as I know, Beilein does not run the football program at Michigan. To blame Beilein for being hypocritical when he was not even involved in one end of the equation is like blaming an eighth grade algebra teacher for a seventh grader failing biology. Sure, go ahead and argue that the conference is acting hypocritically, but don’t blame the coach that has never signed, and to my knowledge never even pursued, a transfer from another Big Ten university while at Michigan.

Even then, though, the Big Ten is not changing any policy. Rudock and Bielfeldt – who ended up playing his fifth season of basketball at Indiana – had to apply for a special waiver through the conference.

Furthermore, while it’s clear that Beilein has attempted to block his former players from transferring within the conference or to other future opponents, he has never fought extensively to prevent it after that waiver was granted. Indeed, the coach has lost two former players to future conference opponents in Evan Smotrycz (Maryland) and Bielfeldt, and a third, Laval Lucas-Perry, to a team on Michigan’s upcoming schedule (Oakland).

It’s also worth noting that this is not exactly a new issue. Beilein has made his policy very clear in the past – a policy that, according to Quinn, Albrecht was fully aware of – and is far from being alone in trying to avoid playing against athletes to whom he has spent years coaching up and teaching his intricate system. In fact, it was just a few seasons ago when Bo Ryan vehemently fought to prevent his redshirt freshman Jarrod Uthoff from transferring to Iowa, where the future star hailed from.

2. Spike’s scholarship was effectively pulled out from under him

Beilein and Spike 3(Rick Osentoski, USA Today Sports)

While Forde’s ridiculous argument regarding hypocrisy is exactly that, this argument is even more outrageous to me. Let’s first forget about the fact that Forde never even interviewed Albrecht for his hot take laden article, but rather relied on a single second-hand source in the form of Spike’s father for all his information.

To say that Albrecht was “recruited over” shows a complete lack of understanding of the situation, so I will do my best to recap. Throughout his junior season, Albrecht played through pain in both of his hips, opting to withhold surgery until the offseason. Once the offseason came around, the rising senior from Crown Point, Ind. immediately underwent surgery on both of his hips to correct issues that his father has also experienced. Doctors and the Michigan basketball program alike, from Beilein to Albrecht himself, seemed confident that, with some intense rehab, Albrecht would be ready to go by the start of his senior year (approximately eight months after surgery).

Unfortunately, all did not go according to plan. Albrecht’s pain affected his play in a major way, and soreness and stiffness reportedly followed him around like a Stage Five Clinger. During halftime of Michigan’s game at SMU, Albrecht informed coaches that he did not feel well enough to return in the second half, and a decision was made soon thereafter to shut it down for the remainder of the season.

At the time, Michigan announced that Albrecht was “retiring”, but there always seemed to be an underlying sense that he could return if things progressed positively. Fast forward to earlier this week, and Albrecht’s competitive attitude led him to extend his college career.

By all accounts, there was simply no way for Beilein to anticipate this situation. Seeing the developing state of his roster heading into this past season, Beilein went ahead last year and recruited a point guard by the name of Xavier Simpson to come in with the class of 2016 to presumably back up a senior Derrick Walton. At the time Simpson committed to Michigan on September 9 and later signed his Letter of Intent to play at Michigan on November 11, all parties expected Albrecht to play out his career in Ann Arbor. That, of course, changed in the following weeks, but by no means was Albrecht deliberately “recruited over”.

Additionally, there’s strong reason to believe that Albrecht himself did not even directly inquire about the possibility of returning to Ann Arbor for his redshirt senior season. In one report from Quinn on MLive.com, Albrecht said “I know there’s a slim shot of a spot opening up” and that his conversation with Beilein was “tough on both of us” and “difficult” for Beilein. He went on to say that Beilein would consider bringing him back if an additional scholarship opened up, but that Albrecht wanted to get his name out on the transfer circuit with spots starting to emerge elsewhere. In a similar report from The Michigan Daily, Albrecht was quoted as saying “I know the scholarship situation I’m going to be in and that there’s probably not a likelihood of me being able to come back” to Beilein.

To me, that sounds like the decision to transfer was 100 percent Albrecht’s call. Beilein did not force Spike out like he arguably did with Bielfeldt before. He even presumably agreed to assist Albrecht in acquiring an extra year of eligibility by preserving his redshirt. Whether Albrecht is transferring due to concerns over playing time next season or for other unknown reasons is beside the point here, as it appears pretty clear that Albrecht was never explicitly told that he would not be able to return to Michigan.

It’s also widely known that Albrecht is a favorite of Beilein’s despite being undersized and outmatched athletically by nearly every opponent – something that has seemed to fly under the radar as people pile on Beilein for being a monster.

3. Coaches are rich and powerful, players are powerless peasants

Beilein and Spike 4(Melanie Maxwell, The Ann Arbor News)

I’ll agree with the basic argument Forde (in solidarity with many other pundits) presents here. It’s true – big-time college basketball coaches make millions of dollars on the backs of their players while the players get nothing more than a free education, free coaching, gear, and a stipend in return (no, we will not be getting into the drawn-out amateurism argument here). Coaches are also free to pick up and change schools or retire on a whim, while players are often restricted from transferring to certain schools or forced to sit out a season in order to adhere to NCAA rules.

But let’s discuss a couple facts that are not pointed out in Forde’s article. The example that Forde gives to embody this argument is that if Beilein retired and Tom Izzo decided to take over as head coach at Michigan, “(Izzo) would be welcomed with open arms in about 30 seconds” without restrictions or having to sit out a season. Besides this being maybe the worst example ever given in the history of mankind, it also fails to acknowledge that players and signed recruits are almost always given a no-holds-barred release from their “contract” if a coach leaves his post. If Beilein were to retire or unexpectedly take a different job next year, his players and recruits would be allowed to leave Michigan – and even follow him to his new destination if desired.

This argument also fails to address another crucial fact. Sure, the player in this situation is being restricted from going anywhere in the country, and thus one could argue that he is hurt by the inability to transfer to the school that offers him the best opportunity. But what about his former teammates? In this case, if Albrecht were allowed to transfer to another Big Ten school or a different future opponent, does that not hurt Derrick Walton, Zak Irvin, and company? What happens if Albrecht went to Indiana and provided a full scouting report to his new coach and teammates, complete with inside information on Beilein’s system and certain tendencies of his former teammates? Is that not inhibiting Michigan’s current players from having a fair shake?

Now yes, every team scouts its opponents extensively, and Tom Crean is very familiar with Beilein’s system by now. A former college basketball player argued with me that even if Albrecht were able to provide play names to his new Big Ten team, conference opponents would have already scouted Michigan enough to know certain plays and individual tendencies. But in my book, any bit of an advantage helps, and allowing one player the chance to provide a full scouting report against his former team seems a bit one-sided to me.

And though Beilein’s comments have been largely dismissed, I’ll put forth his argument again: Does it really hurt a player that bad if he only has 330-some different schools to transfer to as opposed to 350 schools? Albrecht can still play for any number of big time programs throughout the country. He can still finish his college career in the tropics (Hawaii, Florida Gulf Coast) or in the tundra (UW-Green Bay, Maine). He can choose to play close to home for a highly respected program (Notre Dame, Butler) or far away for a program on the rise (Southern California). He can continue his education at an outstanding academic institution (Stanford) or take it easy on the books (IUPUI). Heck, if he’s feeling up for it, Spike could even play for any of the four teams left standing that we’ll all be watching this weekend.

That doesn’t sound so bad to me.

Albrecht, Doyle to transfer from Michigan

March 29th, 2016 by Justin Potts


Spike-Doyle(Rick Osentoski, USA Today Sports)

On Monday, the Michigan football team gained two commitments. By Tuesday afternoon, the basketball program lost two members of its team. Senior Spike Albrecht and sophomore Ricky Doyle both announced their intentions to transfer.

Albrecht will seek a grad-year transfer, something that Max Bielfeldt did after last season. Bielfeldt landed with Indiana, where was named the Big Ten’s Sixth Man of the Year and helped the Hoosiers to the Sweet 16. Albrecht will hope for a similar role and success wherever he lands.

The Crown Point, Ind. native played in just eight games this season after having offseason hip surgery. He shut his season down early enough to preserve a redshirt. Over his career, Albrecht started just 19 games, but played a pivotal role as the backup point guard. He averaged 3.9 points, 1.3 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game. However, during his junior season, he made 18 starts and averaged 7.5 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 3.9 assists.

Albrecht’s legacy will forever be remembered for his breakout performance against Louisville in the 2013 national title game. Coming off the bench in relief of national player of the year Trey Burke, Albrecht scored 17 points on 4-of-5 three-point shooting, helping to build a big first half lead. Try watching these highlights without getting goosebumps.

Unfortunately, Michigan lost the game, but Albrecht cemented his legacy with a tweet to Kate Upton following the game.

Doyle has two years of eligibility remaining and will be eligible to play at his new school after sitting out a year due to NCAA transfer rules. According to Doyle’s high school coach, Doyle felt the system wasn’t the right fit for his skills.

The Cape Coral, Fla. native started 20 games over the past two seasons, averaging 4.9 points and 2.5 rebounds per game. However, his minutes and production fell off this season. After averaging 18.2 minutes, 6.1 points, and 3.2 rebounds during his freshman year in 2014-15, Doyle averaged just 12.2 minutes, 3.8 points, and 2.0 rebounds this season while losing the starting job to Mark Donnal.

In a statement issued by the program, John Beilein thanked Doyle for his contributions to the program.

“Ricky is a tremendous young man with very high character and plenty of potential to develop into being a fine college player,” said Beilein. “We have enjoyed coaching him over the past two years and wish him nothing but the best.”

The two transfers bring Michigan to even in terms of scholarships available with nine players returning and four freshmen coming in. The incoming freshmen include four-star point guard Xavier Simpson, who will replace Albrecht, and big men Austin Davis and Jon Teske, who will replace Doyle.

New in Blue: 2017 S J’Marick Woods

March 28th, 2016 by Justin Potts


J'Marick Woods(Scout.com)

J’Marick Woods – S | 6-4, 196 | Florence, Ala. (Florence)
ESPN3-star, #25 S Rivals: 3-star, #31 S 2473-star, #30 S Scout: 4-star, #22 S
247 Composite: 3-star, #26 S
Other top offers: Florida, Tennessee, Mississippi State, Louisville, Duke, Kentucky, Penn State

Michigan continued its recruiting momentum with a second commitment before noon on Monday. Florence, Ala. safety J’Marick Woods pledged his commitment to the Wolverines just an hour and 23 minutes after Groton, Mass. running back A.J. Dillon did so.

Scout is the lone recruiting site to give Woods a fourth star at this point as they rank him the 22nd-best safety in the 2017 class. ESPN, Rivals, and 247 all give him three stars. ESPN ranks him as the 25th-best safety, while 247 ranks him 30th and Rivals 31st.

Woods received his Michigan offer last May, and after camping at Alabama last summer, took unofficial visits to Michigan in August and again in October for the Michigan State game. He took another visit to Michigan this past weekend and that was enough to convince him to give a verbal to the Wolverines over Florida, Tennessee, Mississippi State, Louisville, and others.

At 6-foot-4 and 196 pounds, Woods will provide a big presence in the defensive secondary as he’s already bigger than any safety on Michigan’s current roster. Dymonte Thomas is the most comparable in size at 6-foot-2, 195.

247’s Steve Wilfong agrees that Michigan got a good one:

“Woods is a very intriguing prospect for Michigan, a 6-foot-3, 205-pound free safety that is rangy and big playmaking ability, but it’s obvious to say he could develop into a unique and big-time linebacker on the next level. If Harbaugh and company could add Top247 safety Jaylen Kelly-Powell alongside Woods they’d be extremely happy with safety recruiting this cycle. The 247Sports Composite ranks Woods as the country’s No. 26 safety.”

Woods is the eighth member of the 2017 class, joining defensive back Benjamin St.-Juste and linebacker Josh Ross on the defensive side of the ball. The addition of Woods and Dillon propels Michigan’s 2017 class from 14th to eighth in 247’s team rankings.

New in Blue: 2017 RB A.J. Dillon

March 28th, 2016 by Justin Potts


AJ Dillon(Lawrence Academy photo)

A.J. Dillon – RB | 6-1, 230 | Groton, Mass. (Lawrence Academy)
ESPN3-star, NR Rivals4-star, #16 RB 2474-star, #18 RB Scout: 3-star, #41 RB
247 Composite: 4-star, #19 RB
Other top offers: Notre Dame, Florida State, Wisconsin, Virginia Tech, Iowa, Nebraska, Mississippi State

Michigan landed two commitments last week and wasted no time kicking off this week with another. A.J. Dillon, a 2017 running back from Groton, Mass., pledged his commitment to the Wolverines on Monday morning.

Dillon is a four-star according to both Rivals and 247 and the 247 Sports Composite. ESPN and Scout both rate him as a three-star. Rivals ranks Dillon as the 16th-best running back in the class, while 247 ranks him 18th. Scout ranks him 41st and ESPN does not have him ranked yet.

At 6-foot-1 and 230 pounds, Dillon has college size already. He’s two inches taller than De’Veon Smith is currently and the same weight. He’s the same height and 20 pounds heavier than Drake Johnson and Kareem Walker. And he’s the same weight but two inches shorter than Ty Isaac.

Scout lists Dillon’s strengths as balance, change of direction, foot quickness, hands, power, size, tackle-breaking ability, toughness and vision. They list his areas to improve as acceleration, breakaway speed, cutback ability, and elusiveness. Brian Dohn expands on that.

“Dillon is a rugged, tough, between-the-tackles runner who is difficult to bring down on first contact. He is thick and strong in the lower body, and tackles often bounce off of him. He has good vision and quick feet. He is able to make subtle moves and change direction in short space. He is best moving up the field and is a downhill runner. He secures the football well and he can break tackles. He does not have breakaway speed, but that does not matter. His ability to find the hole and get through it, and to run in traffic, stand out.”

247’s Clint Brewster also has high praise for Dillon:

“Dillon has college-ready size at 6-foot-1, and around 230-pounds. He’s got a nice frame and a chiseled body type. Dillon’s a hard-charging downhill running back that really pounds the rock. He doesn’t waste time hitting the hole and can move the pile. He plays with an old-school ruggedness that would fit well in a downhill running scheme like Michigan’s. Dillon’s got a real fluid jump-cut and nice maneuverability to get skinny through the hole when he needs to.”

The Lawrence Academy star has averaged 9.3 yards per carry while rushing for 3,255 yards and 47 touchdowns in the past two seasons, according to 247. He picked Michigan over offers from Notre Dame, Florida State, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska, Mississippi State, and Virginia Tech, to name a few. He received his Michigan offer on Jan. 27 and visited Ann Arbor last weekend, sandwiched in between visits to Notre Dame and Wisconsin.

Dillon is the second running back in the 2017 class, joining three-star Covington, Ga. back Kurt Taylor. He’s the seventh member of the class as a whole, the fifth of which on the offensive side of the ball.

2015-16 Michigan basketball season review: A season of what-ifs

March 23rd, 2016 by Sam Sedlecky


UM BBall(MGoBlue.com)

It wasn’t supposed to happen like this. A year after struggling to a .500 record while two potential stars watched from the bench nursing injuries, Michigan was supposed to bounce back this season. This would finally be the season that John Beilein had some seasoning in his team, with senior leaders that had been to the National Championship before and a pair of juniors who played key roles on an Elite Eight team the following year.

The Michigan Wolverines entered the 2015-16 basketball season primed to show what their healthy, veteran squad could do in a college basketball landscape that lacked any team that clearly stood head and shoulders above the rest.

Senior Caris LeVert was returning from injury after deciding to forego a likely guaranteed NBA paycheck for an opportunity to prove himself.

Fellow senior Spike Albrecht was also coming back after a junior season that saw him sometimes spectacularly lift a shorthanded team to victories that should have never been possible – and he was also supposed to be healthy and ready to roll with a pair of new hips.

Junior Derrick Walton, like LeVert, entered the season at 100 percent after missing the majority of his sophomore season with an injury. And classmate Zak Irvin was back to show everyone that his end-of-year evolution from Just A Shooter to All Around Threat was real.

Sprinkle in a promising group of sophomores that included an eye-popping athlete in Aubrey Dawkins, a quiet but creative playground-style baller in Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, and a promising big man on the rise in Ricky Doyle, and it looked as if the 2014-15 season could be just a blip on the timeline of a dominant five-year run for Michigan basketball.

Alas, sometimes the world of basketball is a cruel place.

Perhaps Irvin’s offseason back injury and ensuing surgery should have been a bigger omen than it was perceived to be at the time.

If that wasn’t, then a couple early drubbings at the hands of Xavier and UConn would prove to be all the foreboding necessary.

Sure, Michigan bounced back with an impressive win over Texas and managed to squeak into the NCAA Tournament with a few big time conference home wins and a heart-pounding win over Big Ten champion Indiana in the conference tournament – the season’s unquestionable highlight – but the season certainly didn’t meet some lofty expectations.

A nail-biter victory over Tulsa in the First Four of the Big Dance preceded a season-ending loss to Notre Dame that could not have been a better microcosm. After jumping out to a 12-point halftime lead behind crisp offense, hot shooting, and an efficient fast break attack, the Wolverines faded just as fast in the second stanza with defensive miscues, a brutal scoring drought, and a lack of a killer instinct.

UM BBall 2(MGoBlue.com)

Unfortunately, the team we all thought was going to help us forget last season ultimately became almost a mirror image of that group.

LeVert, an All-American candidate who looked every bit the part in the non-conference, went down at the end of Michigan’s first Big Ten game and missed all but 10 minutes of the rest of the season.

Albrecht, a vocal leader, an excellent passer, and a tremendous shooter, shut it down much earlier on after realizing that his hips had not healed nearly enough to allow him to play effectively or pain-free.

Walton remained healthy for the most part, and his three-point shooting returned to freshman form, but his tantalizing finishing ability from two seasons ago continued to lag behind all year without LeVert around to distract opposing defenses.

Irvin, a deadeye shooter just two seasons ago who blossomed into a big-time athlete and passer as a sophomore, started the season in a major funk and never fully developed into the go-to guy many expected. Certainly his offseason procedure didn’t help matters there, as his athleticism took a noticeable hit and his shooting became increasingly sporadic. After shooting 42.5 percent from deep as a freshman and 35.1 percent last season, the former Indiana Mr. Basketball failed to crack 30 percent by season’s end, while his free throw shooting followed the same mysterious downward spiral (71.4%, 68.9%, 65.8% year-to-year-to-year).

In turn, what everyone saw as a memorable season in waiting became a year that may soon be forgotten.

But it’s hard to put the disappointment on any one player or coach. Beilein was once again dealt a hand that few, if any, coaches around the country would have been able to compete with.

Think about it. Take two veterans – one the undisputable star player and another an ultra-reliable vocal leader, ball-handler, passer, shooter, and all-around charmer extraordinaire – away from any team in the country in a year dominated by upperclassmen and try to find one that marches on to the same beat. Many, I would venture to guess, would run straight into a brick wall while others would struggle to power their proverbial engine up the side of a mountain.

In many ways, the job that Beilein and these players did to even play their way into the Big Dance was remarkable. A team lacking its biggest sure things managed to take down the likes of Maryland and Purdue in the regular season before grinding out a win over the class of the Big Ten in a virtual road game. Sure, there were a number of losses mixed in, and many of them not pretty, but by season’s end, Michigan would have wins on its resume over three five seeds and a six seed.

Likewise, it’s hard to criticize a group of players that had to adapt to completely unfamiliar circumstances midway through the season. One day the do-it-all senior was there to carry the torch and the next day he was done. How do you adjust to losing a guy that leads the way in scoring, assisting, and rebounding overnight — the guy that runs the show and has the ball in his hands with the shot clock winding down?

Quite simply, you don’t.

Yet again, a promising year faded into a chorus of what-ifs. There’s no denying that it was a disappointing season in many ways, but there’s also no denying that much of it was out of the team’s power.

For better or worse, the group that ended this season together should be back almost in its entirety come fall. And while the what-ifs of this season pain Michigan fans now, they will eventually fade and make way for newfound excitement and frustration, more expectations and heartbreak, and more promise and surprise on the horizon.

‘Tis the game of college basketball.

The Far-off Season
Reasons for Optimism

1. Everyone is Back!
For those fans who think college basketball revolves around the freshmen sensations at Kentucky every year, take a look at the remaining 16 teams left in the Tournament today. Nearly every team relies on a junior or senior to be the key cog, or at least to be one of the prime performers. From Perry Ellis and Wayne Selden at Kansas to Malcolm Brogdon and London Perrantes at Virginia to Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige at North Carolina to Elgin Cook and Chris Boucher at Oregon (oh, those are all 1 seeds? interesting…), experience is the name of the game.

Experience has been a foreign concept to the past few Michigan squads until this last one, when much of the experience disappeared somewhere between a quarter and halfway through the year. For the first time in what feels like forever, the Wolverines figure to start all upperclassmen, including seniors in Walton and Irvin. And while the improvement hasn’t been as rapid as hoped in those two, I expect another leap.

For a couple quick examples, feel free to look at Denzel Valentine and Buddy Hield’s numbers over their first three seasons before emerging as the top Player of the Year candidates as seniors (hint: Hield has nearly doubled his free throw rate and 3pt% since his freshman season while Valentine went from shooting liability and turnover machine to…well, we all know how good he was this year). Rising junior Duncan Robinson should also figure to improve now that he has a full season of live ball under his belt at the highest level.

2. The Newbies
Michigan welcomes a four-man class in 2016 that includes an undersized point guard recently named Ohio Mr. Basketball (NO I AM NOT TRYING TO DRAW PARALLELS TO TREY BURKE), a lanky wing from Pickerington Central in Columbus who looks to do a bit of everything (NO I AM NOT TRYING TO DRAW PARALLELS TO CARIS LEVERT), and a pair of big men to add to the mix at arguably the weakest spot in the lineup (see? No parallels).

Xavier Simpson figures to back up Walton at the point and should add some creative scoring punch after averaging 27.2 points per game in high school (buoyed by a couple of ridiculous scoring nights) while Ibi Watson should be in the minutes mix on the wing. Bigs Austin Davis and Jon Teske are both probably a season away from getting big time minutes but will add competition down low. Teske in particular could develop into a nice rim protector not seen around Ann Arbor since Ekpe Udoh swatted anything within five feet of him.

3. A More Manageable Big Ten
The Big Ten should be strong as usual next season, but take a quick glance at some of the top teams and there’s reason to believe Michigan should be able to make up some ground. League champion Indiana loses Yogi Ferrell, Max Bielfeldt, and Nick Zeisloft (and possibly Thomas Bryant and Troy Williams as well); Michigan State waves goodbye to Valentine, Matt Costello, and Bryn Forbes; Maryland will see Rasheed Sulaimon and Jake Layman depart (almost certainly along with Melo Trimble and Diamond Stone); Purdue graduates A.J. Hammons and Raphael Davis, etc. Yes, other players will also come and go, but there is rebuilding to be done in almost every Big Ten city but Ann Arbor.

Reasons for Pessimism

1. Everyone is Back
Sure everyone is back…but everyone is back from that. Will a team with ultimately the same core be able to make a big enough jump? Only time will tell, but there is certainly improvement needed in the offseason.

2. Defensive Woes
I’m not sure how Michigan’s defense will take a substantial step forward with all the same personnel and the same coaching staff short of a miracle. LeVert probably had the most potential on that end, and while I generally like Walton and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman’s defensive skill set, there are still some giant holes that have no apparent quick fix.

3. Where is the Improvement?
Unfortunately, one could make an argument that Rahk and Mark Donnal were the only two Wolverines to take major steps forward. Arguments could be made that a handful of other players actually regressed (Irvin, Dawkins, Doyle) while some merely treaded water. If the team is going to improve greatly a season from now, the individuals on the team are going to need to improve along with it; unfortunately we don’t have too much to go off in that regard. The big man problem could be solved if Donnal continues to make strides and Moritz Wagner emerges as a consistent option as well, while there should be plenty of options on the wings to find serviceable parts.

A Couple Offseason Happenings to Make Note Of

1. On the way out?
With four freshmen coming in and only three scholarship spots opening up, someone is going to need to leave town to make room. I won’t speculate too much on individual players, but one might presume that a jumbled big man or wing rotation, declining minutes, and/or a sense of homesickness could influence a Wolverine or two to seek greener pastures.

Alternatively, Austin Davis could hypothetically take a prep year to even out the numbers, but I expect to see some attrition instead. To make things a bit more complicated, Spike is eligible for a medical redshirt and could also figure into scholarship discussions. If he and the coaching staff agree on his return, one fewer scholarship would be opening up.

2. A New Look Coaching Staff?
Some are calling for a shakeup in Beilein’s assistant coaching staff of Jeff Meyer, Lavall Jordan, and Bacari Alexander, and I think we will see some movement in that department – but not necessarily by way of firing. Meyer is approaching the end of his career and could foreseeably step down if he thought it was best for the team while Jordan and Alexander will certainly get looks from mid-majors looking to fill head coaching vacancies. My best bet would be that Bacari leaves for a head job while Jordan and Meyer remain – but that’s merely a guess. Regardless, if at least one assistant does not return, expect Beilein to scour the coaching ranks hard for a defensive-minded assistant.

3. Donnal Reclassifying?
Early on this past season, John Beilein abruptly changed Mark Donnal’s class standing from redshirt sophomore to true junior, meaning he was at the very least considering the Max Bielfeldt treatment for the third-year big that was struggling to meet expectations despite considerable opportunity. Just as abruptly, Donnal then emerged as Michigan’s no doubt top option at the five spot with a 26-point, nine-rebound, three-block performance at Illinois in the conference opener. And while Donnal’s head-scratching mistakes and mysterious aversion to dunking the ball did not fully disappear, he was a generally reliable finisher and rebounder throughout the season. As Brendan Quinn from MLive quipped a few weeks ago, I believe Donnal is due to be reclassified back to his redshirt status.

New in Blue: 2017 LB Josh Ross

March 22nd, 2016 by Justin Potts


Josh Ross(Scout.com)

Josh Ross – LB | 6-2, 225 | West Bloomfield, Mich. (St. Mary’s)
ESPN4-star, #11 OLB Rivals4-star, #9 OLB 2474-star, #6 ILB Scout: 4-star, #10 ILB
247 Composite: 4-star, #7 ILB
Other top offers: Ohio State, Michigan State, LSU, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Louisville, Arkansas

Just a day after stealing a 2018 recruit from Ohio, Michigan landed a 2017 commitment from its home state. Josh Ross, the younger brother of James Ross, who played out his Michigan eligibility this past fall, announced his commitment to the Wolverines.

Ross is a consensus four-star recruit according to the four major recruiting services. 247 ranks him the highest as the sixth-best inside linebacker in the 2017 class. Rivals ranks him as the ninth-best outside linebacker, while Scout has him as the 10th-best inside, and ESPN the 11th-best outside. ESPN ranks Ross the highest nationally at 162nd, while 247 has him 173rd, Rivals 189th, and Scout 228th. Per the 247 Sports Composite, he’s the seventh-best inside ‘backer and 188th overall.

Scout lists Ross’ strengths as instincts, shedding ability, and tackling technique, and his areas to improve as pass coverage skills. They also say that he has room to improve.

“Physical linebacker who is best when coming forward. Takes on blocks with aggressiveness and leverage and likes contact. Anticipates well and shoots gaps. A sure tackler who wraps up and drives through the ball carrier. Can continue to get quicker and improve in pass coverage.”

Ross has visited Michigan several times over the past few years thanks to his brother, but has also visited the other in-state school, Michigan State, nearly as many times. His commitment to Michigan is a big in-state recruiting win for Jim Harbaugh over Mark Dantonio. Ross also held offers from Ohio State, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Louisville, Arkansas, and received an LSU offer a month ago.

Ross joins quarterback Dylan McCaffrey, tight end Carter Dunaway, running back Kurt Taylor, offensive lineman Ja’Raymond Hall, and defensive back Benjamin St-Juste as the current members of next year’s class. With spring practice culminating with the spring game under the lights next Friday, this likely won’t be the last commit in the next couple weeks.