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Posts Tagged ‘Michigan Wolverines’

M&GB Scouting Files: 2017 UM hoops commit Isaiah Livers & MSU commit Xavier Tillman

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017


(Crystal Vander Weit, Kalamazoo Gazette)

A couple weeks ago, I was able to watch 2017 Michigan signee Isaiah Livers play for the third time in his senior season at Kalamazoo Central before he moves to Ann Arbor for the next few years.

In the first two outings I was able to catch, Livers and his Maroon Giant teammates completely outclassed the competition to the tune of a 71-36 blowout at Portage Northern and a 93-51 massacre over Loy Norrix. Livers showed flashes of potential, but watched from the bench in the fourth quarter in both lopsided contests.

Last Friday, however, was different, as the undefeated Grand Rapids Christian Eagles made the trip down U.S. 131 to close out the regular season at Central (boasting a not-so-shabby 17-2 record themselves). Christian, led by Michigan State big man signee Xavier Tillman, Oakland wing signee James Beck, and 2018 Division-1 guard prospect Duane Washington Jr., entered the game ranked No.1 in the state by MLive, and they lived up to that ranking, pulling out a 53-51 overtime nail-biter over the home team.

Enough of the game stories, though. On to the scouting! For a refresher, you can check out my scouting report on Livers after the Portage Northern game. This report will include stats and scouting for the Loy Norrix and GR Christian games, as well as a brief scouting report on Tillman as well.

Isaiah Livers vs. Loy Norrix (93-51 W):
16 points (7-of-9 FG, 2-of-4 3pt.), 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks, 1 steal, 0 turnovers, 1 foul. DNP 4th quarter

Isaiah Livers vs. GR Christian (53-51 OT L):
10 points (4-of-11 FG, 2-of-4 3pt.), 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 blocks, 3 steals, 2 turnovers, 4 fouls

There is no questioning Livers’s potential. He has good size right now at 6-foot-8, 205 pounds and should be able to tack on a few more pounds of muscle to his frame, but there’s certainly room for improvement. Let’s break down some positives and minuses

Strengths

1. Shooting:
In my first game scouting Livers, the senior did almost all of his damage inside the arc, missing his only two three-point attempts. Against Portage Northern and GR Christian, however, the Mr. Basketball finalist showed why John Beilein and company consider him a can’t-miss prospect by pouring in four threes on eight attempts and using his smooth and consistent stroke to knock down a couple midrange jumpers as well.

Livers uses his plus size and a quick enough release to shoot over the defense, and when he’s feeling it, he can be lights-out. Livers drained two threes in the first quarter of Central’s victory over Loy Norrix on his way to 10 points in the opening stanza and another seven points in the first quarter of the loss to Christian, including a triple and a couple pretty jumpers. In those two games combined, the wing prospect was 7-of-9 from the floor and 3-of-3 from deep in the first quarter.

This should correlate well to his projected future role as a microwave off the bench in his early time as a Wolverine. To earn run under Beilein, especially as a freshman, a player must knock down open shots, and Livers has the knack to come out firing – and on fire – from the get-go. We’ve all seen what happens when a designated sniper can’t find the bottom of the net, too – Ibi Watson was supposed to have that role this year, but is just 1-of-18 from three-point land and hasn’t played meaningful minutes since mid-December. If Livers can come in right away and just knock down shots, he should earn 5-8 minutes as a freshman.

2. Athleticism:
Livers’ size and shooting make him an intriguing prospect, but his athleticism is what could make him a very good college player. Livers threw down a couple monster dunks over Loy Norrix, skied for an impressive late offensive rebound over GR Christian, and had a couple springy blocks in both games. He’ll never be the fastest guy on the court, but his physical skills and quickness in short spurts give Livers a leg up and some potential positional flexibility.

3. Hands:
An underrated part of any college prospect is the ability to reliably catch passes without bobbling the ball, particularly for big men. And while Livers will not be a post player in college, it is still important for shooters to be able to catch and release without a hitch. Livers is also able to use his quick hands and length to cause some havoc on the defensive end, anticipating passes and knocking the ball loose to lead to easy transition buckets or at the very least create more possessions for his team. In the three games I scouted Livers, he registered eight steals to just three turnovers.

Weaknesses:

1. Rebounding:
In talking about what Livers will bring to Michigan, Beilein repeatedly mentions the prospect’s need to get better on the glass, and I could not agree more. While often one of the biggest (and probably the most athletic) players on the floor, Livers shows very little desire to bang on the boards. He had one impressive offensive rebound against Christian, but the majority of his boards were of the defensive variety that essentially fell into his hands.

I caught Livers just watching with his hands on his sides far too often when a shot went up – little desire to box out, little desire to go up and get it. I don’t think he’s a prima donna, but he needs to be more gritty on the glass.

2. Aggressiveness:
In total, I saw Livers play approximately 72 minutes of basketball across three games (foul trouble limited his time against Christian). In those 72 minutes of action, Livers made it to the free throw line a measly three times – all against Portage Northern.

I’ve already detailed Livers’s lack of aggressiveness in the rebounding department, but his unwillingness to drive into the teeth of the defense in search of contact is equally worrisome for a guy that projects as a 3 or 4 in Michigan’s system.

Christian’s best player on Friday night was Beck, and partially because he was able to get to the free throw line a handful of times. Livers was content to shoot from the outside and defer to his more willing teammates. On at least one occasion, the lack of aggressiveness likely led to a crucial turnover against Christian, as Livers opted to hold onto the ball for too long and then retreat when a double team closed in as opposed to taking it right at them and drawing contact.

I like Livers’s handles for his size (room for improvement, but not a glaring weakness), but he needs to trust them enough to drive past the three-point line and into the paint, where he can use his size and athleticism to finish in close.

3. Defense:
I’m going to disagree slightly with Ace Anbender’s take from his recent MGoBlog post on Livers. Livers’ athleticism allows him to be a passable defender at the high school level, but you can spot areas where a college offense could take advantage of him. I think Livers plays fine help defense and shows flashes of being a decent shot-blocker right now, but I attribute that more to his size, length, and athletic advantage at the high school level. His on-the-ball defense leaves a bit more to be desired, however.

Livers doesn’t slide his feet well enough on defense, forcing him to defend at an angle rather than perpendicularly when his opponent gets a step on him, which eventually got him into foul trouble in the most important of the three games I watched. Livers needs to get lower to the ground defensively and make sure he uses his long arms to his advantage by cutting off the drive before it happens. Some added strength will also help on this end – Beck threw down a dunk in Livers’s grill early on in the Christian game.

Current Comparison:
While disagreeing with Ace on Livers’ defense, I think he’s spot on when it comes to comparing the 2017-18 freshman to a current Michigan player – it’s D.J. Wilson all the way. Like Wilson, Livers has plus size, length, and athleticism, and can stretch a defense as a bigger wing. He’s also fairly lanky and will have to put on some weight while needing some improvement on his ability to drive the ball as well. For comparison’s sake, let’s make a quick chart to show how I think Livers and Wilson stack up with each other as high school seniors (based solely on Wilson’s film at the time):

Isaiah Livers D.J. Wilson
Shooting X
Rebounding X
Passing X
Blocking X
Ball-handling X
Aggressiveness X
Agility X
Athleticism X X
Hands X

 


Xavier Tillman – PF | 6-8, 270 | Grand Rapids, Mich. (Grand Rapids Christian)
ESPN4-star, #11 PF Rivals: 4-star, N/A 247: 4-star, #22 PF Scout: 3-star, 29 C
247 Composite: 4-star #18 PF, #86 nationally
Other top offers: Indiana, Purdue, Ohio State, Iowa, Virginia Tech, TCU, Illinois

Xavier Tillman vs. Kalamazoo Central (53-51 OT W):
9 points (4/8 FG, 1/3 FT), 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 blocks, 3 steals, 5 turnovers, 4 fouls

Before seeing Tillman or Livers play, if you were told that the game you were going to watch featured two 6-foot-8 guys with one going to play for Tom Izzo and one going to play for John Beilein, you would know within a second of walking into the gym which prospect was which. Livers is tall and slender with a polished jumper. Tillman is a bulky and plodding 6-foot-8 big man who won’t dare take a shot beyond the free throw line – even in shootaround.

Once game action hit, however, I was disappointed in Tillman’s overall game at this point. He has good size and a wide body, but got winded very quickly and was frequently the last man up and down the court. Offensively, he has very little polish to his inside game, and failed to demand the ball even when matched up with much smaller defenders in an open post. Tillman actually entered the half with zero points on 0-of-3 shooting (including a missed dunk) and just one rebound before picking up a few buckets on pretty easy layups off the glass in the 3rd and 4th quarters.

The Grand Rapids native did not display many post moves, and while he is certainly physical down low, powerful on the glass, and showed good help defense, Tillman was rather careless with the ball and simply not fast enough for the Big Ten game at this point. Luckily for Izzo, Michigan State should have plenty of big men returning to give Tillman the chance to develop with a redshirt year. The high school senior picked up a couple fouls due to a lack of foot speed and getting winded, and needs to get in shape and get quicker. The closest comparison to Tillman on the Spartan roster currently is clearly Nick Ward, but Tillman lags behind Ward at the same time in their respective developments in just about every department.

Help ChadTough win $100k and you could win $100 M Den gift card

Tuesday, February 28th, 2017


If you read this site or follow us on Twitter, you’ve seen me post quite a bit about The ChadTough Foundation lately. As a father of three young kids, it’s something that deeply resonates with me. And with the Michigan connection, it’s something that touches the entire Michigan community.

I can’t imagine the grief of losing a kid at such a young age, so I want to fight for the thousands of kids that will get DIPG in the future, to help fund research that may one day find a cure — or at the very least a treatment — for them. I want to fight for the Carr family and for so many families like them, who at the moment have very little hope in battling a disease that carries an average lifespan of less than one year after diagnosis.

The great thing is that we can help make a difference.

Yesterday on WTKA, Tammi Carr shared news of some groundbreaking research that is being done on DIPG as a direct result of The ChadTough Foundation. DIPG receives zero federal dollars, so it is organizations like ChadTough that are making research possible.

From Chad’s tumor, which the family donated, researchers found a mutation that has never been seen in a DIPG tumor before, and because of that they know there are some medications that can impact this in other tumors. That’s a breakthrough made possible by people like you who donate, share, and vote.

So how can you help right now?

From today through Saturday, March 11, vote every single day for John Beilein to win the Infinity Coaches Challenge, which will award $100,000 to The ChadTough Foundation. That money will go directly to the accelerated pediatric brain tumor initiative at Michigan Medicine.

But wait, there’s more!

I am introducing a contest during that time span and one voter will win a $100 gift card to The M Den.

Here’s how:

The M&GB #ChadTough100 Voting Challenge
Step 1. Vote for John Beilein
Step 2. Snap a screenshot of the “Thanks for Voting” page with the date and time visible (see examples)
Step 3. Tweet OR Facebook share that photo AND copy/paste the following text into your tweet/share:
I voted for Coach Beilein to win $100k for @chadtough. Vote & you could win $100 @TheMDen gift card #chadtough100 https://goo.gl/Ukun7q
Step 4. If you don’t have Twitter or Facebook, you can email the screenshot to maizeandgoblue at yahoo dot com (once per day), but you are encouraged to tweet/share in order to spread the word
Step 5. Do it again the next day, and the next, and every day through March 11
Step 6. Tell your family, friends, and coworkers to vote daily as well
Rules and Regulations:
• Each daily tweet/Facebook share OR email will count as one entry (one entry per day per Twitter handle, Facebook name, or email address)
• The more days you vote AND tweet/share/email a screenshot as proof, the more entries you will receive
• If there is no date/time visible on screenshot, entry will not count
• If full copy from Step 3 is not pasted into your tweet/share, entry will not count
• On or after March 12, one winner will be randomly selected from all entrants
• Winner will be notified by Twitter DM or email
• Keep in mind that if you cheat to win, you’re cheating a charity. Do it the right way and vote every day.
Contest runs from 10am ET Tuesday, Feb. 28 through 3pm ET Saturday, March 11

Remember, the goal is to encourage as many people as possible to vote every day for Coach Beilein in order to win $100,000 for The ChadTough Foundation. The M Den gift card prize is just a small incentive to encourage participation. Whether or not you follow all the steps of our challenge, please vote and please share with as many friends, family, and coworkers as possible.

*I am acting as a third-party to help The ChadTough Foundation win the Infiniti Coaches Challenge. This challenge is not officially run by The ChadTough Foundation, the University of Michigan, or The M Den.*

ChadTough needs you to vote now! Seriously, do it now

Monday, February 27th, 2017


The final round of the 7th Annual Infiniti Coaches Challenge is now open. It’s time to get serious because we’re down to the final four — Coach Beilein, Matt Painter, Thad Matta, and Bob Huggins — and this is when it counts. It’s imperative to vote every day from now through Saturday, March 11 to help The ChadTough Foundation win $100,000 for DIPG research.

The Foundation plans to put ALL of the winnings toward the accelerated pediatric brain tumor initiative at Michigan Medicine!

Voting is easy — you can vote once per email address per day. All you need is an account with ESPN.com. Visit espn.com/infiniti to vote for Coach Beilein.

I strongly encourage you to sign up for daily email reminders at chadtough.org/vote so you won’t forget to vote on a Saturday or on that day you have wall-to-wall meetings or while traveling for business.

Thank you! Let’s win this for Chad, the Carrs, and Michigan!

New in Blue: 2018 DE Aidan Hutchinson

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017


(Isaiah Hole, 247 Sports)

Aidan Hutchinson – DE | 6-5, 234 | Dearborn, Mich. (Divine Child)
ESPN4-star, #11 DE Rivals: 3-star, N/A 247: 4-star, #5 SDE Scout: 4-star, 16 DE
247 Composite: 4-star #9 SDE, #204 nationally
Other top offers: LSU, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Boston College

Michigan picked up its first commitment since National Signing Day when Dearborn, Mich. native Aidan Hutchinson pledged to the Wolverines on Tuesday evening. He announced the commitment via Twitter just before 10pm local time.

Hutchinson is a legacy commitment, the son of former Michigan star defensive lineman Chris Hutchinson, so his commitment to his father’s school isn’t much of a surprise.

He’s a four-star recruit in the 2018 class according to three of the four major recruiting services. The lone three-star comes from Rivals. 247 Sports ranks Hutchinson the highest as the fifth-best strongside defensive end in the class, while ESPN ranks him as the 11th-best defensive end and Scout 16th. Nationally, ESPN has him 94th overall, 247 has him 97th, and Scout 202nd. Per the 247 Composite, he’s the ninth-best strongside end and 204th-best overall player in the class. But with nearly a year to go before signing day and a full senior year to play, there’s plenty of time to move.

Scout lists Hutchinson’s strengths as athleticism, frame, and intensity/effort while noting his area to improve as disengaging skills. They expand on that with a positive analysis.

“Great frame with plenty of room to fill in and has already started that process. Long arms. Fluid kid with flexibility and ability to bend. Can turn the corner and rush off the edge. Likely grows into a strongside end because he has so much room to add weight. Plays hard and plays physically. Still can improve technique with his hands, but physical tools and intangibles are all there.”

The 6-foot-5, 234-pound end committed to Michigan over Michigan State, LSU, Wisconsin, and Nebraska, to name a few. He’s currently ranked as the fourth-best player in the state of Michigan. He’s the third member of what figures to be a relatively small 2018 class, joining offensive lineman Emil Ekiyor and linebacker Otis Reese.

ChadTough needs your help to win $100k for pediatric brain cancer research

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017


Did you know that only three percent of federal funding for cancer research goes toward pediatric cancer? THREE PERCENT!

We’re not even talking pediatric brain cancer; that’s for all types of pediatric cancer. There is currently no cure for pediatric brain cancer and there are currently no drugs even in development to treat it.

Thus, The ChadTough Foundation needs your help.

Head basketball coach John Beilein is representing ChadTough in its quest to win $100,000 in the 7th Annual Infiniti Coaches Charity Challenge. The Foundation hopes to put that money toward the pediatric brain tumor center at UofM’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, helping to fund research for the disease that tragically took the life of Chad Carr in November 2015.

What do you need to do?

• Vote today, vote tomorrow, vote the day after tomorrow, and every day through March 11
• Share on social media
• Urge your family and friends to vote and share as well

How do you enter?

• First, visit ChadTough.org/vote to sign up for daily email reminders so you won’t forget
• Each day, visit the contest site and vote for John Beilein
• Wash, rinse, repeat

Contest details

As of Wednesday evening, Beilein barely trails Purdue head coach Matt Painter. The current round of the contest runs through Feb. 26 and Beilein has to finish among the top four to advance to the final round.

That’s where it gets most important. The votes reset to zero and the final round runs from Feb. 26 to March 11. This is where it’s important to get off to a fast start and keep the momentum all the way to March 11.

Michigan’s IMG contract prohibits its athletic department from promoting the contest. That means it’s up to you, me, your significant other, your ex, your mom, your dad, your grandparents, your friends, your teacher, your boss, your doctor, your dentist, and your mailman to spread the word.

Why?

Do this in memory of Chad. Do this for the Carr family who have suffered through a loss that no parent should ever have to. Do this for the other hundreds of children who suffer from incurable brain tumors each year, most of whom don’t live more than a year past diagnosis. Do this for Lloyd Carr, who has hope that someday we’ll find a cure.

“We’re going to beat this someday,” he said of Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG). “I won’t be here, but there’s going to be some people who are going to be so lucky that when they take their child and he’s diagnosed and she’s diagnosed, there’s going to be something they can do.

“And a lot of that is going to come back here to the University of Michigan. We’re so fortunate to have this hospital and this university and people who are dedicated to dealing with problems like this.”

Visit ChadTough for more information about the foundation. To read more about pediatric brain cancer and the efforts being made at Mott Children’s Hospital, click here

In? Out? What’s the deal with Michigan basketball?

Friday, February 10th, 2017


(MGoBlue.com)

If there is one thing that every Michigan basketball fan, coach, player, or other affiliate of the program can agree on, it’s this: absolutely no one can get a read on this team.

The 2016-17 squad had an incredible break from the gates, easily dispatching Howard and IUPUI in their regional of the 2K Classic before making quick work of both Marquette and SMU – two victories that still look solid today – to take home the preseason tournament championship.

But since then, it’s been more topsy-turvy than a slinky falling down a staircase. There have been highs – take the two home drubbings of Michigan State and Indiana, for example – and there have been lows (see: a listless loss at South Carolina, a miserable second half faltering versus Virginia Tech, an annihilation by a bad Illinois team, etc.). And then there have been the classic play-to-the-level-of-the-competition heart palpitations against Iowa (loss), Penn State (win), Nebraska (win), Wisconsin (loss), and Ohio State (loss).

So what is the deal with this team? Well, you’d need to find a person willing to sell ice to an Eskimo to have the gall to answer that question with a straight face. The absolute truth is that no one knows what to expect. In fact, I don’t even really know if this team is more likely to finish 0-7 down the stretch or 7-0. It’s just been that type of year.

Derrick Walton Jr has averaged 22.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, 5.3 assists the past four games (MGoBlue.com)

On the other hand, there is plenty of information we can glean from watching this team. As most John Beilein-coached teams have been in the past, these Wolverines play exceptional offense, score an inordinately high number of their points from three-point land, make their free throws, and hold onto the ball. They also play poor defense, don’t crash the offensive glass, and don’t see very many free throws taken on either end of the floor. These are pretty hard-and-fast facts.

What makes this team so hard to get a read on, however, is the game-to-game uncertainty of who is going to show up and what character the team is going to display.

We’ve seen Zak Irvin put the team on his back against Virginia Tech, Nebraska, and Wisconsin by attacking the basket (7 made 2pt. FGs in each of those three contests), fighting for rebounds (16 in those three games), and finding his open teammates. But we’ve also seen (or not seen, for that matter) the senior falter in important matchups against South Carolina, Texas, Ohio State, and Michigan State (twice).

Likewise, the team has ridden fellow senior Derrick Walton over the course of the last four games to the tune of his 22.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 5.3 assists during that stretch, but fans seem to forget about the three game stretch in December where the Detroit native failed to crack double digit points, or the 10 games that he’s made three or fewer field goals, or even the nine games that he’s recorded fewer than seven combined assists and rebounds (four of which were losses).

Similar Jekyll/Hyde performances can be found in the game-to-game outputs of the two other Wolverines who have led the team in scoring in at least three games a piece – sophomores Moritz Wagner and D.J. Wilson.

Rarely has more than one player had a bona fide game on any given night. Add to that a defense that has allowed opponents to shoot better than 50 percent from the field on seven different occasions while also forcing seven or more turnovers in seven different games and you have a recipe for uncertainty with a side of unease.

If this team can put together a stretch run to give themselves solid footing on Selection Sunday, the individual players are going to need to start producing with some consistency. No more can we see Derrick Walton look like the only interested party in Maize and Blue. No more can we see Wagner get into foul trouble or fade away from his strengths as a skilled inside-out big man. No more can we this team put it together with an invisible Zak Irvin.

A little help from juniors Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (who’s scored seven or fewer one more game than he’s reached double digits) and Duncan Robinson (double digits 10 times and seven or fewer nine times) could go a long way as well. Combine that with a sprinkling of Xavier Simpson (who looked like the solid point guard prospect that he was for the first time on Tuesday night) and you just might have yourself a recipe for success.

Forget to add a couple of these ingredients, however, and Michigan fans could be left with a bad taste in a month’s time.

Quick Hitters

My Oh My, the Inconsistency

How’s this for some mind-boggling numbers: As of today, Michigan has four wins over teams that should be dancing, according to BracketMatrix.com, in SMU (100% of brackets), Michigan State (92%), Marquette (92%), and Indiana (72%). Those four wins all came in blowout fashion by a combined 99 points, or about 25 points per game.

Michigan’s nine losses, on the other hand, have come by a total deficit of just 78 points, or just more than 8.5 points per game. Six of the losses have come by single digits and three of those were by four points or fewer. This is a team that has talent and can beat up on some pretty good teams but is also susceptible to taking a close loss on any given night as well.

Speaking of Brackets…

Right now, Michigan is the fifth team out of the Big Dance according to BracketMatrix.com (in on only 33.3% of the 105 submitted brackets. Note, however, that more than half of those brackets were last updated prior to Tuesday’s win over MSU) and the third team out in my good friend and trusted bracketologist Joe Cook’s projections at 131 Sports (updated daily – and better than Joe Lunardi, Jerry Palm, and every other national guy since he started a few years back. He is an actuary, after all.). So, that means that Michigan would probably have their bubble popped if today were Selection Sunday. Today is not Selection Sunday.

Looking ahead

Michigan has an opportunity to easy play themselves into the tournament, easily play themselves out of the tournament, or to stay teetering on the same ledge they are staring off right now. There are seven games remaining on the Wolverines’ regular season schedule, including two home games (Wisconsin and Purdue) and five road games (Indiana, Minnesota, Rutgers, Northwestern, Nebraska), before the Big Ten Tournament kicks off for the first time ever in Washington, D.C. (hooray for adding Maryland?).

To me, this looks like a whole lot more good news/bad news. Michigan’s two toughest opponents must travel to Crisler, where the Maize and Blue have been mostly pretty good, with only three losses in the books at home and a couple of their mercy killings coming in Ann Arbor as well. On the other hand, Wisconsin and Purdue are going to be tough outs regardless of what floor they are playing on.

Meanwhile, Indiana has already felt Michigan’s wrath, Minnesota has lost five of seven, Rutgers is…Rutgers, Northwestern has lost two straight and is probably feeling the weight of one million Northwestern fans waiting to be let down once again on Selection Sunday, and Nebraska’s early season Big Ten exploits feel older than the age of the dinosaurs. On the flip side, Michigan has been…let’s just say not good on the road, with an 0-6 record to date.

Now the question we all want answered: What does Michigan have to do to Dance? My guess is that Michigan would be in the Tournament, historically weak bubble and all, with a 4-3 close to the regular season and a first-game win in the Big Ten Tournament. If none of those four wins are over Wisconsin or Purdue and if one or two of those three losses is to Rutgers/Nebraska, then I’m not putting money on it.

I know you want a prediction, but only a fool would be wise enough to give in to those demands.

Actually, who am I kidding? I’m a fool for college basketball: Michigan to finish out the regular season 5-2 with a first round BTT win and a second round loss to get pegged as a 10-seed.

New in Blue: 2017 WR Nico Collins

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017


Nico Collins – WR | 6-5, 195 | Pinson, Ala. (Clay-Chalkville)
ESPN4-star, #21 WR Rivals: 4-star, #17 WR 247: 4-star, #29 WR Scout: 4-star, 24 WR
247 Composite: 4-star #23 WR, #136 nationally
Other top offers: Georgia, Alabama, Clemson, FSU, LSU, Ole Miss, Tennessee, Florida, Miami, Auburn

After plucking five-star defensive tackle Aubrey Solomon out of SEC country on Wednesday morning, Jim Harbaugh won another highly prized recruit right out of the back yard of the big boys in the SEC on Wednesday afternoon. Nico Collins pledged to the Wolverines on National Signing Day, capping the best recruiting classes in program history. He then announced it via Twitter.

Collins is a consensus four-star recruit according to the four major recruiting services and they’re all pretty much in agreement about where he is ranked. Rivals ranks him the highest as the nation’s 17th-best receiver, while ESPN ranks him 21st, Scout lists him 24th, and 247 has him 29th. Nationally, Rivals ranks him 120th, ESPN 150th, Scout 178th, and 247 200th. According to the 247 Composite, he’s the nation’s 23rd-best receiver and 136th-best overall player in the class.

Collins chose Michigan over Georgia and his home-state Alabama Crimson Tide. The 6-foot-5, 195-pound receiver also held offers from most of the South’s top programs including Clemson, Florida State, LSU, Ole Miss, Florida, Auburn, Miami, and more.

Scout lists Collins’ strengths as catching in traffic, hands and concentration, red zone weapon, size, and toughness, while listing his area to improve as elusiveness with catch. Scout praises his ability to make plays and be a deep threat, something Michigan’s passing offense has sorely lacked in recent years.

“An outside wide receiver who has shown the ability to make plays down the field or across the middle. A very dependable wideout who catches the ball well in traffic. Has ideal size and length. Is more of a deep threat. Likes to run deep routes and can get behind defenders. A long strider who covers a lot of ground. Not elite quickness. Solid blocker and a very tough wide receiver.”

Collins joins a great receiving class that includes the nation’s top receiver, Donovan Peoples-Jones, as well as Tarik Black, Oliver Martin, and Brad Hawkins to round out Michigan’s 2017 recruiting class.

New in Blue (again): 2017 DT Aubrey Solomon

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017


(247 Sports)

Aubrey Solomon – DT | 6-3, 305 | Leesburg, Ga. (Lee County)
ESPN4-star, #5 DT Rivals: 5-star, #2 DT 247: 5-star, #5 DT Scout: 5-star, #2 DT
247 Composite: 5-star #2 DT, #25 nationally
Other top offers: Alabama, Georgia, Auburn, Ohio State, Ole Miss, FSU, Florida, USC, Clemson

Michigan kicked off National Signing Day by landing its biggest fish left on the board. Leesburg, Ga. defensive tackle Aubrey Solomon committed to the Wolverines for the second time just before 10am Wednesday morning on ESPNU — and this time it’s for good.

Solomon had 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 after a long and winding recruitment. He first committed to Michigan last June following Jim Harbaugh’s satellite camp at his high school in Leesburg, Ga.

“I was in love with the football aspect of Georgia,” Solomon said at the time. “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.”

But he decommitted just two months later after Michigan mistakenly sent him a thank you for attending the summer barbecue, which he didn’t attend. They also spelled his name wrong. However, the work Harbaugh’s staff has done in the five months since then was enough to get him to re-up with the Wolverines.

Solomon is a five-star recruit according to three of the four major recruiting services with ESPN the lone outlier listing him as a four star. When he originally committed last June all four had him as a four-star. Rivals and Scout rank him the highest as the second-best defensive tackle in the 2017 class, while ESPN and 247 rank him fifth. Nationally, Scout has him the highest as the 11th-best recruit in the class. 247 lists him 30th, Rivals 31st, and ESPN 63rd. The 247 Composite has Solomon 25th overall and second-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, in addition to Ohio State, USC, and more. He’s the seventh defensive lineman in the class, joining Corey Malone-Hatcher, Deron Irving-Bey, Kwity Paye, James Hudson, Luiji Vilain, and Donovan Jeter, and he’s the second-highest ranked player in the class behind receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones.

New in Blue: 2017 WR Oliver Martin

Monday, January 30th, 2017


(US Army All-American Bowl)

Oliver Martin – WR | 6-0, 188 | Iowa City, Iowa (West Senior)
ESPN4-star, #60 WR Rivals: 4-star, #35 WR 247: 4-star, #7 WR Scout: 4-star, 30 WR
247 Composite: 4-star #28 WR, #178 nationally
Other top offers: Notre Dame, Iowa, Michigan State, Ohio State, Oregon, Wisconsin, BYU

Michigan got most of its recruiting done before National Signing Day, leaving few surprises for Wednesday, and that trend continued on Monday night as Jim Harbaugh and staff stole a commitment from the backyard of another Big Ten school. Iowa City native Oliver Martin committed to the Wolverines at his high school with Harbaugh and new assistant head coach/passing game coordinator Pep Hamilton in attendance. He then announced it via Twitter.

Martin is a consensus four-star recruit in this year’s class by the four major recruiting services. 247 Sports ranks him the highest as the nation’s seventh-best wide receiver, while Scout ranks him 30th, Rivals 35th, and ESPN 60th. Nationally, 247 ranks him as the 170th-best overall player in the class, Rivals 206th, Scout 216th, and ESPN doesn’t have him in their top 300. He’s the 28th-best receiver and 178th-best overall player in the class per the 247 Composite.

The 6-foot, 188-pound receiver chose the Wolverines over Notre Dame. He also held offers from Ohio State, Michigan State, Oregon, Wisconsin, and BYU, to name a few.

Scout lists Martin’s strengths as competitiveness, hands and concentration, quickness off line, and route-running skills, while listing his area for improvement as frame. That means he’s already pretty polished and could add some muscle to fill out his frame at the college level. Scout expands on that.

“Very skilled, technical wideout. Excellent route runner with great hands and ability to make catches in traffic. Smart and understands how to get open. Very good athlete with good quickness, leaping ability and body control. Competitive, hard working kid. At 6-foot-1, 188 pounds, he has good size, but is not as big in comparison to other top outside receivers.”

With a pair of highly-ranked outside receivers already in the class in Donovan Peoples-Jones and Tarik Black, Martin is a perfect compliment as a slot receiver. Michigan hopes to land one more wideout on Wednesday in the form of Alabama native Nico Collins.

M&GB Scouting Files: 2017 U-M hoops commit Isaiah Livers

Friday, January 20th, 2017


(247 Sports)

On Jan. 6, I took the opportunity to see class of 2017 Michigan basketball commit Isaiah Livers when his Kalamazoo Central Giants faced the Portage Central Mustangs. Livers’ squad won 71-36 and the power forward finished with a stat line of 19 points (9-of-18 FG, 0-of-2 3PT, 1-of-3 FT), nine rebounds, two assists, four steals, one block, and one turnover in three quarters of action.

Here is my scouting report.

Isaiah Livers – PF | 6-8, 205 | Kalamazoo, Mich. (Kalamazoo Central)
ESPN4-star, #12 PF Rivals: 4-star, N/A 247: 3-star, #37 PF Scout: 3-star, 35 PF
247 Composite: 4-star #30 PF, #129 nationally
Other top offers: Michigan State, Maryland, Xavier, Butler, Creighton, Cal, Notre Dame, VCU
Strengths

1. Ball handling:
There’s little doubt as to where Livers ends up in John Beilein’s offense – he’s a wing through and through. With his size, however, you might expect Livers to man the post on a high school team like most of the biggest high schoolers do. But that is not the case. Livers’ role at Kalamazoo Central is very much an outside-in wing role with the ability to slash to the rim, post up smaller defenders when the opportunity presents itself, and take the deep shot when open.

Crystal Vander Weit, Kalamazoo Gazette

Perhaps his biggest strength at this stage, however, is his ball-handling. On multiple occasions, Livers collected a defensive rebound or received a quick outlet pass and took it coast-to-coast for a smooth finish. He’s very confident handling the ball in the open court and had little trouble with defenders trying to swipe the ball away despite weaving through sometimes three or four guys in one full-court attack.

2. Finishing:
Livers rarely missed when given a clean look within eight feet of the bucket, and used the glass effectively. There were a couple times when he missed awkward floaters only to rebound the misses himself and put it back up and in. The senior also had a monster one-handed alley-oop finish and another rim-rocking dunk when he found himself open underneath. When he has the chance to finish with a no-doubter, he does.

3. Court Vision:
Along with his ball-handling for a sizable wing, Livers impressed with his court vision and passing ability, setting up his teammates for wide open looks time and time again. He only ended up with two assists on the evening, but he could have easily added two or three more if guys were knocking down shots. Livers is certainly unselfish when the score doesn’t demand that he takes over, and Beilein will love his ability to find the open man.

My only knock on Livers here is that he seemed to get a bit too flashy with no-look passes that could have turned out to be turnovers, and certainly would more often in college. He needs to just trust his vision and make the clean dish when he sees an opening.

4. Size:
I’ve touched on this a bit already, but Livers looks to have solid size for a guy who will likely end up in the 3 or 4 wing position in Michigan’s offense. He has good length and height, enough leaping ability, and a good frame to put on some weight in Jon Sanderson’s strength and conditioning program. Livers is listed around 205 pounds right now. I would expect that his college playing weight ends up around 225-235 pounds, and he should be able to carry that just fine.

5. Hands:
This is often a trait that goes overlooked in basketball, but bad hands can just about spell doom for a college player. Livers has sure hands catching the ball cleaning on the wing and on post-ups and also displayed some very quick hands defensively, snatching four steals in the first quarter by baiting passes and swiping his hands in at the right moment. That trick won’t get you many turnovers at the next level, but Livers should still benefit from his good paws in college.

Weaknesses

1. Rebounding:
This is not to say that Livers was a bad rebounder – after all, he got nine boards in three quarters of play. But there’s plenty of room for improvement, especially for a player of his size. Livers rarely boxed anyone out and his only rebounds came when the ball bounced directly to him or when he rebounded his own misses that careened off the rim in his direction because he had at least a few inches on every Portage Northern player.

More often than not, Livers was ball-watching when a shot went up, and was actually boxed out by his opponents on occasion even on their end of the floor. I would like to see more grit down low from Livers and a desire from him to go after rebounds that are not in his zone.

2. Hustle/Grit:
Livers didn’t show a whole lot of hustle or grit in a game that was out of hand pretty early on. The 2017 Michigan signee seemed a bit lackadaisical defensively, while rebounding, and when not involved on the offensive end of the floor. That’s certainly not something that Wolverines fans will like to hear, given the current team’s seeming lack of effort on defense, and one game is not necessarily indicative of a player’s overall body of work, but I would have liked to see Livers pushing a little bit harder.

His athleticism and size made it very easy for him to have success even without giving 100 percent, but it was still notable to see Livers not even make it past half court on a handful of offensive and defensive possessions. To be fair, most of the time that happened was in fast-break situations, but I noted at least twice when Livers was the only man on the floor not past the timeline.

Livers was also not poor defensively and never got blown by, but his footwork and want-to could have been much better than what it was. You would expect a high school player with his size to really dominate on the defensive end and provide a blocking presence down low, but that was not the case.

X-factor

1. Shooting:
Livers has drawn praise for his shooting ability in the past, and he appears to have a nice, clean stroke, but he missed his only two three-pointers on this night and did almost all of his damage in the paint. I expect that he’ll develop into a fine shooter under Beilein, but there was not enough evidence in this game.

Overall

Livers is an intriguing prospect with a nice combination of size, ball-handling, and good enough athleticism to be a solid college player. He projects very well as a wing in John Beilein’s offense and should be able to develop as a backup for at least a season before getting a shot at a starting spot. I expect that Livers will end up at the 4, where D.J. Wilson will still have two years of eligibility remaining when Livers gets to campus, and Livers should see some spot minutes as a freshman with a relative lack of depth there right now.

Depending on where Charles Matthews ends up and how Ibi Watson progresses, Livers will also get consideration as a three-man when Michigan looks to go big. If Livers continues to develop, he should easily see starting minutes upon the beginning of his junior season in Ann Arbor.