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Posts Tagged ‘Wide Receiver’

New in Blue: Wide Receiver Brian Cole

Saturday, July 26th, 2014


Brian Cole(Jeff Schrier, MLive)

Brian Cole – WR | 6-2, 190 | Saginaw, Mich. – Heritage
ESPN: 4-star, #8 ATH Rivals: 4-star, #7 ATH 247: 4-star, #2 ATH Scout: 4-star, #5 WR
Other top offers: Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Tennessee

Michigan’s annual BBQ at the Big House kicked off with a bang on Saturday afternoon with the commitment of the state of Michigan’s top-rated prospect, wide receiver Brian Cole. Cole announced his commitment shortly after 1 p.m. EST via Twitter.

Cole is a consensus four-star recruit in the 2015 class and rated in the top 150 nationally by each of the four major recruiting services. 247 Sports ranks Cole the highest, listing him as the No.2 athlete in the class and 42nd overall. Rivals has him as the seventh-best athlete and 106th-best overall prospect, while Scout lists him as the fifth-best receiver, and ESPN has him as the eighth-best athlete and 137th-best overall prospect.

Heading into his senior year of high school, Cole already has ideal size. All four sites list him at 6’2″, while there is some disagreement about his weight. 247 and Rivals list him at 190-pounds, ESPN at 199, and Scout at 210. Regardless, by the time he shows up in Ann Arbor around this time next year, he’ll have the size to contribute immediately. And while he could play defensive back, Michigan has been recruiting him at receiver all the way.

Scout’s Allen Trieu had this to say about Cole: “Good sized kid who carries his 200-plus pounds very well. Shows very good ability in space and change of direction for a bigger kid. He is a good open field runner with legitimate speed. He has played a lot of tailback and safety, but shows good natural hands and ball skills. Having not played as much receiver, refining his route running is key but he has the tools to project to multiple positions in college.”

As the top-rated prospect in the state, this was thought to be a head-to-head battle between Michigan and Michigan State all along, even though he also held an offer from Ohio State. He had been considered a Michigan State lean up until this weekend. But when word broke earlier in the week that he would be on campus over the weekend and fellow in-state commit, quarterback Alex Malzone, would be with him, it was a good sign for the Maize and Blue.

Cole is the first wide receiver in the 2015 class, but joins the last commitment Michigan received, tight end Chris Clark, as highly-rated pass-catchers in the class. He’s the ninth commitment so far, the fifth on the offensive side of the ball, and is now the highest-rated commit in the class.

With dozens of other recruits on campus this weekend for the BBQ at the Big House, Cole may not be the only commitment of the weekend. Stay tuned for more updates.

2014 Big Ten football position rankings: Wide receivers (part one)

Thursday, June 19th, 2014


Big Ten position rankings header-WR

This is the third installment of Maize and Go Blue’s series that ranks the best Big Ten football players at each position for the upcoming season. Each week until Michigan’s opener, one position will be previewed, looking at the players who will excel in 2014, not necessarily the ones who did so in previous years. The analysis provided in these posts will be thorough and in-depth, so each position preview will be split into two parts. I have already covered the best Big Ten quarterbacks and running backs. This week, I rank the top wide receivers. Here is Part One:

Previously:
Quarterbacks: Part One, Part Two.
Running Backs: Part One, Part Two.

10. Dontre Wilson, Ohio State | Sophomore – 5’10”, 185 lbs
Receptions Receiving Yds Rec TDs YPC Long YPG
2013 22 210 2 9.5 32 15.0
Career Totals 22 210 2 9.5 32 15.0
(Dan Harker, TheOzone.net)

(Dan Harker, TheOzone.net)

Last week, I confessed that making the cuts for the best running backs in the Big Ten was challenging. This week, I admit once again that making the cuts for the best wide receivers in the Big Ten was taxing. But, this time, it is for a completely different reason. Whereas proven tailbacks were excluded from the top 10 because the Big Ten has a deep stable of ball carriers, there were too many question marks at wide receiver to easily fill a top 10. This is no surprise when eight of the nine Big Ten wideouts with the most receiving yards last season graduated or declared early for the NFL Draft. Therefore, speculation regarding which returning receivers will become the best of the Big Ten is rampant.

One candidate was Iowa’s Kevonte Martin-Manley. Martin-Manley led the Hawkeyes in receptions and receiving yards each of the past two seasons. Plus, among the Big Ten’s returning receivers, he has the eighth-highest target rate (19.1 pct.). However, despite being Iowa’s leading receiver, Martin-Manley averaged only 479.5 receiving yards per season and a subpar 10.42 yards per catch in 2012 and 2013. His production is limited by Iowa’s conservative offense, which relies on the run and short receiver routes. This will not change next season, which is why Martin-Manley missed the cut notwithstanding his extensive experience.

Two dark horses that almost appeared on this list were Purdue’s DeAngelo Yancey and Rutgers’ Leonte Carroo. Both proved to be big-play threats last season as each averaged over 17 yards per catch. Yancey was more involved in the Boilermakers’ passing game, earning a team-high 70 targets, while Carroo needed only 27 receptions to score nine touchdowns. Both should be the top wideout on their respective roster next year, but failed to make this list because they have unreliable quarterbacks. Presumed starters Danny Etling for Purdue and Gary Nova for Rutgers completed only 55.8 and 54.5 percent of their passes, respectively, in 2013. Accordingly, neither Yancey nor Carroo had a catch rate, which calculates the percentage of passes a receiver catches that are thrown towards him, higher than 53 percent. This is well below average. It is hard-pressed to see either Yancey or Carroo as top-10 wide receivers if their quarterbacks cannot throw accurate passes to them, but the potential is evident.

This paves the way for Ohio State H-back and slot dot Dontre Wilson to enter the top 10. Wilson was a highly-coveted all-purpose back in high school, ranked in the top-100 nationally and top-five at his position according to 247 Sports’ composite rankings. As soon as he signed his letter of intent with Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes, it seemed every scout and recruiting analyst compared him to Meyer’s former star at Florida, Percy Harvin. Because of his speed, agility, and versatility, Wilson is believed to the perfect fit for the “Percy Position” that Harvin inspired. This means he will line up at receiver, tailback, and in certain hybrid spots where he can catch passes or take pitches from quarterback Braxton Miller. Wilson test drove this role as a true freshman last season, catching 22 passes for 210 yards and two touchdowns in limited snaps. This season, however, he will be a permanent fixture on the field. With his explosiveness and better understanding of Meyer’s offense, a season similar to Harvin’s sophomore campaign—59 catches, 858 receiving yards, and four receiving scores—may be on the horizon.

9. Tony Lippett, Michigan State | 5th-yr Senior – 6’3”, 190 lbs
Receptions Receiving Yds Rec TDs YPC Long YPG
2013 44 613 2 13.9 48 43.8
2012 36 392 2 10.9 46 30.2
2011 4 44 0 11.0 15 3.1
2010 0 0 0 N/A N/A N/A
Career Totals 84 1,049 4 12.5 48 12.6
(Jeff Gross, Getty Images)

(Jeff Gross, Getty Images)

In 2012, Michigan State’s passing attack was in disarray. Then-starting quarterback Andrew Maxwell completed only 52.5 percent of his passes, averaged a ghastly 5.8 yards per attempt, and threw only 13 touchdowns to nine interceptions. However, much of the blame for these troubling numbers lied at the feet, or should I say hands, of Maxwell’s receivers, not his. His receivers somehow managed to drop an astounding 66 passes that season. While drops are not a statistic kept or tracked by the NCAA, it is safe to assume this was among the worst in the nation. And, with all of MSU’s receivers returning for the 2013 season, there were question marks abound regarding whether this position group could recover.

After a shaky start to the 2013 campaign, the Spartans’ wideouts demonstrated that they would not allow another season to “slip” away. This included Tony Lippett, who stepped into the role as MSU’s No. 2 wideout behind Bennie Fowler. Lippett grabbed 66.7 percent of the passes thrown in his direction, which is the fourth-best among returning Big Ten wide receivers. Lippett’s high catch rate allowed him to shine as Michigan State’s season hit the home stretch. In his final six games, he averaged 4.17 receptions and 70.5 receiving yards per game, calculating to 16.92 yards per catch. And, during this six-game span, Lippett never recorded less than three catches or 62 yards in a contest. By season’s end, he had 44 receptions for 613 yards and two touchdowns and became starting quarterback Connor Cook’s most reliable target. With Fowler gone due to graduation, it only makes sense that Lippett likely will be promoted to MSU’s No. 1 wideout in 2014.

However, this does not mean there will be a wide gap between Lippett and the No. 2 wide receiver. In fact, there likely will not be much of a gap between Lippett and the No. 3 wideout. With Cook under center, Michigan State shares the wealth well among its top three receivers. In 2013, Fowler led MSU with a target rate of 18.7 percent, while Macgarrett Kings’ target rate was 17 percent and Lippett’s 16 percent. In 2014, with Fowler’s departure, Lippett and Kings will see slight upticks in their target rate, but it is unlikely either will earn near a quarter of their team’s targets like others in the Big Ten. Instead, Aaron Burbridge or Keith Mumphrey—who are both quality veterans—will step in as the No. 3 wideout and increase his target rate to above 15 percent. This is fantastic news for a Spartans offense that desires to remain balanced and keep opposing defenses guessing. But it will limit Lippett’s production as a No. 1 wideout—no matter how high his catch rate is. He will be the reliable receiver who averages four to five receptions per game, but not the one who takes over games.

8. Kenny Bell, Nebraska | 5th-yr Senior – 6’1”, 185 lbs
Receptions Receiving Yds Rec TDs YPC Long YPG
2013 52 577 4 11.1 42 44.4
2012 50 863 8 17.3 74 61.6
2011 32 461 3 14.4 50 35.5
2010 0 0 0 N/A N/A N/A
Career Totals 134 1,901 15 14.2 74 47.5
(Eric Francis, Getty Images)

(Eric Francis, Getty Images)

Nebraska’s Kenny Bell is one of the few well-known Big Ten wide receivers still hanging around. If anything, Bell seems like one of those seniors who has been playing college football for eight years and will never graduate. This is because he put himself on the map as one of the Cornhuskers’ best wideouts as soon as he stepped on the gridiron as a redshirt freshmen. In each of his first two years, Bell led Nebraska in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns. The second of those two years was his breakout season. As a sophomore in 2012, he tallied 50 catches and finished second in the Big Ten in receiving yards (863) and touchdown receptions (eight). His 17.26 yards per catch were the third-best in the conference, too. Consequently, he was named to the All-Big Ten second team, while other media outlets placed him on the first team. Bell undoubtedly was Nebraska’s No. 1 option at wide receiver and expected to be once again the following season.

However, this was not the case. Instead, Bell reverted to the No. 2 wideout as Quincy Enunwa became Nebraska’s leading receiver in 2013. Bell did not have an awful season by any means, recording 52 receptions, 577 yards, 11.10 yards per catch, and four touchdowns. But Enunwa posted 51 grabs, 753 yards, 14.76 yards per reception, and a Big Ten-best 12 touchdown catches. And, if any further evidence was needed, Enunwa had a higher target rate than Bell, finishing with the fourth-best rate in the Big Ten at 26.8 percent.

The reason for Bell’s statistical dip was the result of losing star quarterback Taylor Martinez to a serious case of turf toe and being burdened with an inconsistent tandem of Ron Kellogg III and Tommy Armstrong, Jr. to replace him. Bell piled up his numbers his first two seasons with Martinez on the throwing end of those passes. They oozed chemistry. But that was lost once Martinez was sidelined for the remainder of the season. And Bell struggled to find a groove with either of Martinez’s replacements, especially Armstrong, Jr., who completed only 51.9 percent of his attempts. Accordingly, Bell caught only 59.1 percent of the balls thrown towards him and saw six yards shaved off his average per catch.

This season, Bell will once again be the undisputed No. 1 receiver on Nebraska now that Enunwa has graduated. And, generally, a receiver with Bell’s career numbers would be higher on this list, especially given how watered down the Big Ten’s wide receiver class is this year. But there are two concerns that dropped his rank to No. 8. First, Bell has no supporting cast at wide receiver. The next best returning wideout is Jordan Westerkamp, who had only 20 catches and a target rate of seven percent as a freshman last year. Although this likely means a boost in targets for Bell, it also means defenses will be rolling over their coverages to his side of the field. Can Bell still get open? Likely. He is an above-average wideout.

But will the football still be thrown to him accurately in tighter coverage? This raises the second concern. Nebraska’s starting quarterback will be Armstrong, Jr. in 2014. Armstrong, Jr. likely will improve from a subpar freshmen season which saw him unexpectedly thrown into the fire. He has had the entire offseason to train, knowing he would be the starter in the opener. But will it be enough for him to a competent passer? Not certain. Armstrong, Jr. is a dual-threat quarterback with noted accuracy and technique issues. If Armstrong, Jr. does not work out those kinks, it will hamper Bell’s production and impact as a wide receiver. Because there is so little faith in Armstrong, Jr.’s arm, Bell is much lower on this list than most people would think.

7. Tony Jones, Northwestern | 5th-yr Senior – 6’0”, 195 lbs
Receptions Receiving Yds Rec TDs YPC Long YPG
2013 55 630 4 11.5 47 52.5
2012 29 335 4 11.6 42 25.8
2011 0 0 0 N/A N/A N/A
2010 11 157 1 14.3 45 19.6
Career Totals 95 1,122 9 11.8 47 34.0
(Mike McGinnis, Getty Images)

(Mike McGinnis, Getty Images)

For the past three years, Northwestern has run a hybrid, two-quarterback offense. Why? It was tailored to the skill set of Kain Colter. Colter was one of the most versatile offensive players not only in the Big Ten, but also the nation. He demonstrated an ability to flash speed, haul in the football, and pass accurately with zip. So Northwestern implemented an offense that attempted to showcase all three of his talents, lining him up at running back, wide receiver, and quarterback. When Colter was at running back or wide receiver, Northwestern ran more of a passing spread, hoping to get Colter and its other playmakers the ball in space. When Colter was at quarterback, the Wildcats emphasized the read-option, utilizing his speed and agility to keep defenders on ice skates. It was a unique strategy to fully tap into one player’s talents.

However, when Colter was at quarterback, the passing offense was put on the shelf to a certain extent. Yes, Colter still would throw occasionally to keep the defense honest, but the wide receivers were out there to block for Colter and Northwestern’s running back, who usually was Venric Mark.

Further, with this two-quarterback system, the Wildcats’ passing quarterback, Trevor Siemian, was forced to frequently rotate series and struggled to develop a rhythm with his wideouts. It was a tough situation for Northwestern’s aerial attack. And the situation was not made any easier last year when the offense was shorthanded as offensive player after offensive player, including Colter and Mark, dropped with injuries.

Yet, despite all of this, Northwestern wide receiver Tony Jones put together a fine campaign last year. T. Jones was a constant option for Siemian all year with a target rate of 22.3 percent. Not only was this tops on the Wildcats last season, it also is the fifth-highest among returning Big Ten wideouts. Additionally, T. Jones did a splendid job bringing in those passes from Siemian. His catch rate was 68.8 percent, which is the third-highest among returning Big Ten wide receivers that had a minimum target rate of 10 percent last year. T. Jones’ ability to not only consistently get open, but also not drop passes led to his best season yet. He finished with a team-high 55 receptions, 630 receiving yards, 11.45 yards per catch, and four touchdowns.

And it will only get better for T. Jones in 2014. Colter graduated, which means there will be only one quarterback taking the snaps for Northwestern next year: Siemian. Accordingly, Northwestern will be transitioning their offense from a hybrid, two-quarterback system to a passing spread. One of the beneficiaries from this transition will be T. Jones. Although his target rate, catch rate, and yards per carry should remain stagnant, expect large spikes in his targets, receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns because Northwestern will air the ball out much more this season. The averages will remain the same, but his volume numbers should increase. This should result in T. Jones’ best season as a Wildcat. However, he is only ranked No. 7 because of the next player on this list.

6. Christian Jones, Northwestern | Senior – 6’3”, 225 lbs
Receptions Receiving Yds Rec TDs YPC Long YPG
2013 54 668 4 12.4 36 55.7
2012 35 412 2 11.8 47 31.7
2011 16 195 0 12.2 39 15.0
Career Totals 105 1,275 6 12.1 47 33.6
(Hans Pennink, AP)

(Hans Pennink, AP)

Tony Jones is not the only Northwestern wide receiver with the last name of Jones expecting a similar bump in his performance in 2014. Enter: Christian Jones. C. Jones and T. Jones are not related, but they certainly have formed quite the duo at wideout for the Wildcats.

Eerily, C. Jones’ numbers are extremely similar to T. Jones in 2013. C. Jones had 77 targets to T. Jones’ 80. C. Jones had 54 catches to T. Jones’ 55. C. Jones had 668 receiving yards to T. Jones’ 630. And C. Jones had four touchdown catches to T. Jones’ four. The slight differences in their statistics are that C. Jones was a bit more explosive and more sure-handed with his catches, while T. Jones got open a tad more often. But, in a nutshell, they were almost the exact same player.

So why is C. Jones ranked above T. Jones in these power rankings? What is the difference that will give C. Jones the edge in 2014? It is C. Jones’ size and playmaking ability. C. Jones is 6’3” and 225 pounds, while T. Jones is 6’0” and 195 pounds. C. Jones’ added size and strength makes him a bigger target for Siemian and allows him to use his body to box out cornerbacks while running routes more effectively.

Further, C. Jones has a tendency to make the bigger plays. In 2013, C. Jones tallied 40 catches for a first down, 17 that gained 15 or more yards, and five that covered at least 25 yards. On the other hand, T. Jones went past the first-down marker only 31 times and gained 15-plus yards only 11 times, but did have five 25-plus-yard catches, too. C. Jones also came up bigger on crucial third-down plays. All 13 of C. Jones’ third-down receptions earned a first down, but T. Jones failed to move the chains on three of his 14 third-down grabs. Ultimately, both receivers should have similar statistics yet again next season. Nonetheless, someone has to have the edge on this list.

However, although C. Jones should be one of the most reliable receivers in the Big Ten next season with his high target rate and catch rate, he did not crack the top five for the same reason T. Jones did not: the other receiver named Jones. Because they are such similar players, each cannibalizes the other’s opportunities. And, while C. Jones is a bit more of a playmaker than T. Jones, neither is rather explosive. None of the two have topped an average of 13 yards per reception each of the past two seasons. Odds are that, because they are so similar, neither will be able to crack 70 catches or 1,000 receiving yards. They would need to be more of a game-breaker, which is a featured trait among the Big Ten’s top five wideouts.

Part Two of Maize and Go Blue’s preview of the best Big Ten wide receivers in 2014 will be posted tomorrow. We will reveal the five top wideouts in the conference. Which wide receiver do you think will top the list? Do you agree or disagree with Nos. 10 through 6 thus far? Do you think a Michigan wideout should be in the top five? If so, which rank? Please let us know in the comments.

Predicting Michigan: The wide receivers

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014


Predicting Michigan-Receivers

Devin Funchess, Jake ButtWhen wide receiver Jeremy Gallon walked off the field in Arizona after Michigan’s loss to Kansas State, the Wolverines lost 42.6 percent of their receiving yards for the season and the top playmaker on the team.

Michigan’s receiving corps was a one-man wrecking crew in 2013, with Gallon averaging 15.5 yards per catch and scoring nine times. His departure leaves room for a deep group of young wide outs to grow with the rest of the Wolverine offense.

Previously: Quarterbacks, running backs

The Starters

Canteen showed plenty of promise in his first spring

Canteen showed plenty of promise in his first spring

Devin Funchess represents Michigan’s top returning receiver after transitioning from tight end to wide out during the 2013 season. Funchess was moved to receiver officially after playing a tight end-wide receiver hybrid position that highlighted the tall sophomore’s downfield skills.

As a junior, Funchess will be asked to show more consistency in the receiving game. Though he was one of the more explosive options for Devin Gardner in 2013, catching 49 passes for 748 yards, he struggled with concentration lapses that turned into dropped passes. Funchess holds all the tools to be a dominant receiver in the Big Ten, as his size and athleticism make him a mismatch for virtually every defender in the conference.

Funchess is more valuable to the Michigan offense as a wide receiver because of a 6’5″, 230 pound frame that makes him a huge red zone target. The former tight end has done his best work in the end zone for the Wolverines, catching 11 touchdowns in his first two seasons in Ann Arbor.

Michigan entered spring camp with a second wide receiver position wide open until a true freshman charged out of the pack to grab the spot. Freddy Canteen dazzled the coaching staff the day he stepped on campus and has been the talk of the team ever since. The lightning-fast receiver turned heads with his quick feet and athleticism, leaving no doubt that he will line up opposite Funchess for the Wolverines on August 30.

Canteen and Funchess give Michigan a receiving duo with a remarkably high ceiling. Funchess can only benefit from an offseason exclusively dedicated to becoming a wide receiver, and Canteen’s quick rise up the depth chart offers him the opportunity to blossom with first-team reps.

Projected Stats – Funchess
Receptions Yards YPC Long TDs YPG
65 900 13.8 8 69.2
Career Stats
2013 49 748 15.3 59 6 57.5
2012 15 234 15.6 30 5 18.0
Totals 64 982 15.3 59 11 37.8
Projected Stats – Canteen
Receptions Yards YPC Long TDs YPG
35 600 17.1 5 46.2

Veteran Depth

Darboh was in line to start last fall before a foot injury sidelined him for the season (Scout.com)

Darboh was in line to start last fall before a foot injury sidelined him for the season (Scout.com)

Depth at wide receiver is one of the biggest questions facing the Michigan offense as it prepares for the 2014 season. Jehu Chesson is the only returning wide receiver that recorded over 100 yards in 2013, doing so on just 15 receptions.

Chesson was the forgotten man for much of his redshirt freshman season, playing in all 13 games but catching three or fewer passes in each one of them. Despite his inconsistency last season, the sophomore will be asked to provide stability to an otherwise young group of wide receivers in 2014.

Chesson’s struggles can be largely attributed to the circumstances that thrust him into the regular rotation last season. Amara Darboh was well on his way to earning a starting position last fall before suffering a foot injury in August and missing the entire season. The explosive sophomore has been rehabbing his injury throughout the past eight months and appears ready to make a return to a unit that sorely needs him.

Darboh sat out the spring game, but announced that he feels 100 percent and hopes to be a full participant in fall camp. If he regains his previous form, Darboh will be a huge asset to the offense, as his hands were the surest of the young receivers in camp last offseason. His pure catching ability offers Michigan a Junior Hemmingway-type player that can beat defenders to the ball.

If Doug Nussmeier decided to utilize a slot receiver, then junior Dennis Norfleet is the most likely candidate to earn that role. Michigan regularly features the speedy Norfleet as a kick returner because of his big-play potential; but the junior’s quickness could make him a valuable weapon in the passing game, in which he caught six passes for 46 yards last season.

Projected Stats – Chesson
Receptions Yards YPC Long TDs YPG
25 350 14.0 3 26.9
Career Stats
2013 15 221 14.7 58 1 17.0
2012 0 0 N/A N/A 0 N/A
Totals 15 221 14.7 58 1 17.0
Projected Stats – Darboh
Receptions Yards YPC Long TDs YPG
18 200 11.1 2 15.4
Career Stats
2013 0 0 N/A N/A 0 N/A
2012 0 0 N/A N/A 0 N/A
Totals 0 0 N/A N/A 0 N/A
Projected Stats – Norfleet
Receptions Yards YPC Long TDs YPG
12 100 8.3 0 7.7
Career Stats
2013 6 46 7.7 15 0 3.5
2012 0 0 N/A N/A 0 N/A
Totals 6 46 7.7 15 0 3.5

Newcomers

Brady Hoke added a major piece to the receiving corps when Drake Harris committed to the Wolverines out of Grand Rapids. The consensus four-star turned heads during his junior season in high school, catching 91 passes for 2,016 yards and 23 touchdowns. Harris was considered one of the top recruits in his class before missing his entire senior season with a hamstring injury.

Harris sat alongside Darboh in the spring game, continuing a quiet offseason for the talented receiver. At 6’4″, Harris could be a valuable target during his freshman campaign, but health concerns will continue to surround the youngster until he steps foot on the field.

Michigan’s roster also features a host of young receivers hoping to crack the lineup this fall. Da’Mario Jones was blocked by Chesson last season after Darboh’s injury figured to bring him into the mix. Former three-star recruit Jaron Dukes is eligible in 2014 after redshirting his freshman season and could earn playing time with a strong spring.

Projected Stats – Harris
Receptions Yards YPC Long TDs YPG
22 300 13.6 2 23.1

Countdown to kickoff: 81 days

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014


Countdown to kickoff-81(Melanie Maxwell, AnnArbor.com)

Countdown to kickoff: 82 days

Monday, June 9th, 2014


Countdown to kickoff-82

Countdown to kickoff: 86 days

Thursday, June 5th, 2014


Countdown to kickoff-86

Countdown to kickoff: 87 days

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014


Devin Funchess, Jake Butt

Michigan’s 2014 NFL Draft preview

Thursday, May 8th, 2014


Lewan-Gallon-Schofield

The 2014 NFL Draft begins tonight, and even though Michigan football didn’t live up to expectations last season three Wolverines are in line to be drafted, including one in tonight’s first round. Here’s a look at what to expect this weekend, what the experts are saying, and Michigan’s NFL Draft history.

Taylor Lewan – OT | Projected: First Round

Lewan is the only Michigan player in this year’s draft that will be selected in the first round. Had he chosen to enter the draft after his junior season Lewan would have been a virtual lock for a lottery pick. Instead, he returned to Michigan for his senior season, and a combination of the team’s poor performance and some off-the-field problems have caused him to slide a little bit. Even so, he’s still considered one of the top three offensive tackles in the draft and likely to be selected in the top 10 or 15.

What they’re saying

Jerry McDonald of the Oakland Tribune:

The Raiders have the fifth overall pick, and although they already inked left tackle Donald Penn to a two-year, $9.6 million contract, would make Lewan the highest Michigan player drafted since Jake Long went first overall in the 2008 draft.

ESPN NFL Draft Analyst Mel Kiper, Jr. thinks he could be drafted even higher:

“In terms of (Lewan) going No. 2, that’s not out of the question,” Kiper said during a conference call with reporters Wednesday. “If (the Rams) do take a tackle, he’s right there with Robinson. You could make an argument he’s better than Robinson, and right now, he is.

“Robinson may have the bigger upside, but I think Taylor Lewan, right now, really benefited from coming back his senior year.”

Despite claiming that the Rams could take Lewan, Kiper thinks they’ll select Robinson, but has the Atlanta Falcons drafting Lewan at No. 6 in his mock draft. ESPN’s Todd McShay also has Lewan going to the Falcons.

NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock is less bullish on Lewan:

“I don’t think [Lewan’s] going to pass either [Robinson or Matthews],” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said. “I think he’s going to be the third tackle off the board. Some teams might even like Zack Martin better. He’s going to be the third or fourth tackle, but I believe the third tackle off the board.”

It’s worth noting that Mayock is an analyst for NBC’s coverage of Notre Dame football, so there is likely some bias there regarding Martin.

Former Cleveland Browns general manager Phil Savage, responding to a fan question on Twitter, agrees with Mayock:

Peter King of Sports Illustrated also has Lewan in the top 10 of his mock draft:

Bills stunned that Lewan’s still hanging around, and they pass on tight end Eric Ebron, who could be a great security blanket for E.J. Manuel. Keep in mind that GM Doug Whaley is very much open for business here, and could trade down and still get another guy they love: Odell Beckham.

Regardless of where he goes, Lewan will be Michigan’s first first round pick since Brandon Graham was selected 13th overall by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2010 NFL Draft.

History

Michigan has had a strong history of sending offensive linemen to the NFL, especially in the past 20-25 years. Since 1993, five Michigan offensive linemen have been selected in the first round (center Steve Everitt 14th overall in 1993, tackle Trezelle Jenkins 31st in 1995, guard Steve Hutchinson 17th in 2001, tackle Jeff Backus 18th in 2001, and tackle Jake Long first in 2008). Michigan has had 37 offensive linemen drafted during the common draft period since 1967.

Michael Schofield – OT | Projected: Third Round to Fifth Round

Schofield, like Lewan, didn’t help his draft stock last season due to Michigan’s poor offensive line play, though that wasn’t much to his fault. The former four-star recruit from Orland Park, Ill. did show versatility throughout his career, playing both guard and tackle, which should be a valuable asset in the middle rounds of the draft.

What they’re saying

Kiper says Schofield could be an NFL starter:

“The one that I think is a little underrated is Schofield,” Kiper said. “I think maybe round three, round four … he has a chance to be a nice player for you. … Michael Schofield can be a starting right tackle in this league.”

Mayock was impressed with Schofield at the Senior Bowl, but thinks he will only work out as a right tackle, not a guard.

“Not a highly acclaimed kid; a late add [to the roster],” Mayock said. “I thought he stoned everybody in the [1-on-1] drill. Now, he’s a right tackle only, in my opinion. They tried him at guard. Right tackle only is not a good thing to be in the NFL unless you’re a starter. I think he has the potential to be a starting right tackle.”

The Sun Sentinel’s Omar Kelly lists Schofield among others as a “realistic possibility” for the Dolphins, who have a need at right tackle.

CBSSports.com ranks Schofield as the 11th-best offensive tackle and 108th-best prospect in the draft.

The Big Blue Review, the New York Giants’ SB Nation site, sees Schofield as a good fit for the Giants:

“I really think he does. Giants have traditionally loved grabbing high caliber high school recruits. Schofield was a four-star back then. He’s technically sound and a massive overachiever, which sounds like every successful Giant OL ever. He’s also versatile enough to play guard or right tackle. His personality fits exactly what the Giants look for and seems like a great locker room guy. He drew praise from Mike Mayock at the Senior Bowl, and we know that Jerry Reese and company pay attention there.

“It would not surprise me in the slightest if this guy was a New York Giants selection. I wouldn’t touch him before round 3, maybe Round 4, but can’t ever rule out tackle prospects. Could see him going as early as round 2, though it’d be a slight reach for me.”

History

Michigan has had a player drafted as an offensive lineman in each of the past three drafts. Last year, the New York Jets took William Campbell in the sixth round. Although Campbell played on the defensive side of the ball at Michigan, the Jets drafted him as an offensive guard. David Molk was selected in the seventh round of the 2012 draft by the San Diego Chargers, and while he didn’t last long in San Diego, he signed a futures contract with the Philadelphia Eagles this past January. In 2011, Stephen Schilling was drafted in the sixth round by the Chargers, and after spending time on their practice squad and even starting a couple of games in his rookie season, signed with the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks last month.

Jeremy Gallon – WR | Projected: Fourth Round to Seventh Round

Gallon is an interesting case study because he finished his career as one of the greatest receivers in Michigan history, but doesn’t figure to be drafted highly. That’s obviously because of his height. With the numbers he put up, if he had a typical receiver size he’d be a first round lock. But he proved at Michigan that he plays much taller than his 5’8″ frame and could still be a dangerous weapon in the right offense as a slot receiver.

What they’re saying

Kiper thought Gallon performed well at the Combine:

“Ran better than I thought he would, showed 4.5, 4.6 speed (in games),” Kiper said. “He was caught from behind in several of the games I watched, but he ran great (at the combine). A kid with that size, a slot receiver, could be an early day-three pick.”

Ben Volin of the Boston Globe lists Gallon among his top specialists:

Small frame will drop him down draft despite big senior season (1,373 receiving yards, nine TDs) but returned kickoffs and punts at Michigan to help his value.

ESPN ranks Gallon as the 45th-best receiver available.

CBSSports.com ranks Gallon as the 58th-best receiver and 465th-best prospect overall.

WEEI.com football writer Christopher Price has Gallon as a “sleeper for Patriots fans to focus on”:

The Patriots made the pilgrimage out to Ann Arbor in March to work out the undersized (5-foot-8, 187-pound) Gallon, who put up impressive numbers over the last two years with the Wolverines, including 89 catches for 1,373 yards and nine touchdowns in 2013. (He had 184 yards against Notre Dame and 369 yards on 14 receptions against Indiana.) He also posted good numbers as a return man, compiling 589 yards on 27 kick returns in 2010, and 192 yards on 31 punt returns in 2011. There are some questions as to whether or not he’ll hold up because of his size, but could project nicely as a slot receiver at the next level if he proves to be durable, and the fact that LeGarrette Blount has departed as a free agent means the Patriots could be in the market for a returner.

History

Michigan has had 26 receivers selected since the common draft began in 1967. The last Michigan receiver to be drafted was Junior Hemingway, who was selected in the seventh round of the 2012 draft by the Kansas City Chiefs. Prior to that, Michigan had gone three years without a receiver being drafted after having five taken in the four drafts from 2005-08. The highest receiver Michigan has ever had drafted was Braylon Edwards, who was selected third overall by the Cleveland Browns in 2005.