Sunday, August 3, 2008

Projecting Michigan's 2008 Recruiting Class

This is part two of my two part look at Michigan football recruiting. Yesterday's post, which will make all of this make a hell of a lot more sense, can be found here (or directly below, if you're on the site's front page).

Based on yesterday's numbers, Michigan's recruiting class of 2008, which has 24 members, will likely break down like so:
  • 15 play out eligibility
  • 12 start at least 12 career games
  • 5.5 (that half-player's fate will be decided later) make at least one All-Big Ten team
  • 2 become All-Americans
  • 1 gets picked in the first round of the NFL Draft
  • 5 total players are drafted
There's about a one-in-two chance of having a player leave early for the NFL Draft, but I don't see anyone from the class of '08 having that kind of superstar impact. Most guys that leave early for the NFL are five-star players, of which there are none in this class.

Note: Before I get into my breakdown of which players I think will fall into which category, I must say this: I will not be projecting which players I think may get hurt or get booted off the team. That kind of thing, as a general rule, is incredibly hard to predict (barring recruiting a Willie Williams-type player), and I don't want to be the guy who thinks Player X will be the next Antonio Bass. There are no winners with those types of guesses.

Now that that's out of the way, let's move on to my predictions:

Play out eligibility, All-American (2):
  • OT Dann O'Neill (Rivals 4*, #49 overall): A monster (6'8", 291 lbs.) tackle in the mold of Jake Long, with similar expectations out of high school. I'm not saying he will be the #1 overall pick in the NFL Draft, but I think O'Neill will challenge for a starting role as soon as 2009, and be a 3-4 year starter. Those type of players tend to garner All-America hype when they come from a school as rich in O-Line tradition as Michigan. O'Neill is also my guess for most likely first-round pick out of this class.
  • RB Sam McGuffie (Rivals 4*, #10 all-purpose back): The man, the myth, the legend. McGuffie comes to Ann Arbor with as much hype as any recruit in recent memory. That's what happens when you spend your high school career creating legendary YouTube video material. He could immediately have an impact as a Noel Devine-type change-of-pace back, and will fit perfectly into Rich Rodriguez's offense after a year or two of waiting in the wings. McGuffie could end up posting some video game numbers before his career is over. Only his size (6'0", 188 lbs.) will keep him from being a first-round back.

    Sam McGuffie, linebacker-hurdling mythical creature.
Play out eligibility, All-Big Ten (4, assuming All-Americans will also make All-Conference, which is not a giant leap of faith by any means):
  • CB Boubacar Cissoko (Rivals 4*, #4 corner): Michigan's first commit in the class of '08, and one of the best in the class. He has unbelievable coverage skills, and his only drawback is the fact that he is 5'8". His height is the only reason I don't think he'll be an All-American/1st round pick. As it stands (or he stands, I guess) he'll start next to Donovan Warren by 2009, be an incredibly solid cover corner, and be a mid-level NFL pick.
  • WR Darryl Stonum (Rivals 4*, #7 wideout): Early enrollee, and a player who is a good bet to have an immediate impact as a freshman. 6'2", 180 lbs. and runs a 4.4 40-yard dash, Stonum is the prototype outside receiver and should be the Michigan wideout who rises to stardom (a la Edwards, Avant, Walker, etc.) his junior and senior years. Also a guy who I think will be drafted by the NFL.
  • LB J.B. Fitzgerald (Rivals 4*, #145 overall): Another freshman who could have immediate impact, Fitzgerald could see the field this fall as Michigan's fourth linebacker. Guesses are that he will push Obi Ezeh out of the MLB spot in 2009 and hold down that position for three years. NFL Draft pick #5 by my count.
  • ATH Terrence Robinson (Rivals 4*, #9 all-purpose): Will probably start off the bat at the slot receiver position, and will use his freakish speed and Breaston-esque moves to turn bubble screens into 80-yard catch-and-runs. His size (5'9", 170) will keep him from being a consistent downfield receiving threat and an NFL pick, but he's perfect for this offense.

Darryl Stonum, the next great Michigan receiver?

Play out eligibility, start 12 career games (6):
  • DT Mike Martin (Rivals 4*, #16 DT): The type of DT who is going to get into the backfield, at 6'1", with 285 lbs. of pure muscle (he's a state champion powerlifter) and quickness to boot. His height, coupled with the fact that he's already filled out his frame, makes it unlikely that he will turn into a dominant lineman, but he will almost certainly start by 2009 and by a very solid interior player.
  • OT Elliot Mealer (Rivals 4*, #24 OT): Although he has had an incredibly rough past year (a car crash killed his father and girlfriend as well as seriously injuring his brother last Christmas eve; now he is recovering from a torn rotator cuff suffered in the accident), I still think Mealer will be the guy to take over at Steve Schilling's vacated tackle position in 2011. He'll certainly take a redshirt this season (as most offensive lineman do, and he's hurt to boot), which would put him in position to start for two years.
  • C Ricky Barnum (Rivals 4*, #4 center): Very highly rated interior lineman, whose size (only 6'2") screams center, where undersized guards go to dominate. My guess is he beats out David Molk (another undersized interior lineman) for the starting center spot in 2010 and is a solid three-year starter. Could be an All-Big Ten/All-American type player, since he was the fourth-rated player in the country at his position. I may be putting him low here, but especially with offensive line recruiting, you really never know.
  • S Brandon Smith (Rivals 4*, #11 safety): A huge safety (6'2", 210 lbs.) who some think is destined for a move to OLB, but Michigan (read: Barwis) is doing it's best to keep him at safety. He's a bit slow, but could be a guy in the Ernest Shazor/Cato June mold who has a big impact in the run defense, and is adequate at best defending the pass. Probably never a star, but could be a solid starter at strong safety and wreak some havoc in Scott Shafer's blitz-happy defense.
  • LB Marcus Witherspoon (Rivals 4*, #20 OLB): Recruited and listed at linebacker, but with Michigan's desparate need for defensive ends, he is a guy likely to move positions. He actually played DE in high school, and was a ferocious pass rusher (27 sacks as a senior). Probably redshirts, bulks up to around 240-250 lbs. (he's listed at 6'2", 210 right now), and starts down the road as a pass-rushing DE.
  • OG Kurt Wermers (Rivals 3*, #37 guard): Michigan is not particularly deep on the o-line, after the '06 and '07 classes managed to pull in a meager four lineman combined. Decent chance he'll turn into a solid interior lineman and start at guard for a couple years after redshirting.


Play out eligibility, backup (3):
  • LB Taylor Hill (Rivals 4*, #21 OLB): Played DE in high school, but is way too small (6'2", 190 lbs.) to play the position in college. Hill will probably develop into a Crable-like rush linebacker, but I don't know if I see him ever consistently starting after going through a position switch and with the linebacker talent in front of him. Could be a player Michigan brings in on third downs as a pass rusher.
  • WR Martavious Odoms (Rivals 3*, #71 WR): This pick could make me look like an idiot, since Odoms has about a 50-50 chance of beating out Terrence Robinson for the slot receiver spot this season. However, I think Robinson has way more upside, and Odoms ends up backing him up for the next four years.
  • LB Kenny Demens (Rivals 4*, #23 OLB): Another linebacker, and his upside isn't as high as the other recruits. He's a bit small (generously listed at 6'1", 220 lbs.) and might have a hard time navigating through Big Ten offenses. He seems like a career backup guy who is solid when called upon, but never spectacular.
That leaves nine guys who I don't think will play out their careers at Michigan. Here's why:
  • RB Michael Shaw (Rivals 4*, #6 running back): Shaw comes in with high ratings, but is stuck between two positions. Most people think he will get moved to slot receiver and get his shot there instead of having to beat out Minor/Brown/Grady/McGuffie at running back. However, I think Robinson and Odoms have a much better shot of playing in the slot, and Michigan has already secured four-star athlete Jeremy Gallon for the 2009 class, who will also fit perfectly at the position. I'm predicting a transfer once Shaw realizes McGuffie has the inside shot at running back.
  • TE Brandon Moore (Rivals 4*, #8 tight end): Enormous target with sky-high potential, but also doesn't really fit in to Rodriguez's offense. He also didn't put up tremendous numbers in high school (although, in fairness to him, he played with Shaw and four-star wideout Roy Roundtree) and there are concerns about his work ethic. He could be a huge asset as a guy who can go up and get jump balls (he's 6'6" and athletic), but he could also be a huge bust.
  • TE Kevin Koger (Rivals 4*, #4 tight end): Many are projecting a move to DE, a position Koger played in high school, although he's been told he will start out on offense. As a general rule, guys who have to switch positions mid-career are a lot less likely to see the field than someone who spends their whole career at the same spot, especially when the switch takes you to the other side of the ball. Koger is a tremendous talent, and may just decide to transfer somewhere that will utilize his offensive talents if he gets moved.
  • WR Roy Roundtree (Rivals 4*, #44 wideout): Not tremendously fast, and is rail-thin (6'2", 156 lbs.). He could develop into a solid #2 receiver, but could also be buried behind Mathews, Hemingway, Clemons, Stonum, and 2009 commit Bryce McNeal, all of whom seem better fit for playing on the outside (or are just more experienced). One of those wideouts who could stick around forever, never see playing time and don't get a fifth year.
  • ATH Justin Feagin (Rivals 3*, #41 athlete): Yes, I do believe he will see snaps this year as a quarterback who can actually run. However, with four-star dual-threats Kevin Newsome and Shavodrick Beaver in the fold for next year, it looks like Feagin will be pushed out of the picture by his sophomore season. I doubt he'll stick as a defensive back, and is a pretty good bet to transfer, in my opinion.
  • OL Rocko Khoury (Rivals 3*, #47 OT): Not as highly regarded as any of the linemen listed above, I don't see him ever getting major playing time barring a complete lack of line recruits in the next year or two. Probably doesn't see his fifth year, or leaves the team early after he decides being a third-string tackle isn't worth the horror of Barwis' workouts.
  • RB Mike Cox (Rivals 3*, not ranked): Was a completely unheralded recruit out of an awful football conference in Avon, Connecticut (think Polo shirts with popped collars, guys named "Osbourne" and "Farnsworth", lacrosse, etc.) who got a surprise offer from the Carr staff at camp. Not recruited for this system, and unlikely to ever contribute. Dreams of a Beaver/Cox backfield can die now
  • ATH J.T. Floyd (Rivals 3*, not ranked): A WR/DB who will probably play safety at Michigan. However, he's a step slow and facing a lot of competition. Either transfers or gets the Mundy treatment (hopefully minus all the horror of actually seeing Mundy play).
  • OT Patrick Omameh (Rivals 2*, not ranked): Lowest ranked player in the class, and a complete sleeper on the line. In a class this deep, he looks like the least likely player to contribute, although that comes with the caveat that offensive lineman is the hardest position to project by far. My best guess, however, is that he never sees the field after being passed by subsequent (and higher rated) recruits.
That concludes my look at the recruiting class of 2008. In all likelihood, none of this will be remotely relevant or accurate in a couple years, but it's always fun to try to guess how things will turn out. If this page is still accessible in four or five years, it has the potential to provide awesome "I told you so" material. That, or complete embarrassment. I hope for the former. I'm sure many of you completely disagree with several of my predictions, so feel free to leave your thoughts and arguments in the comments.


Mikey said...

Good analysis Ace...

ubuonline said...

Great analysis! One question I have...did any of your research take into consideration Red-shirting?

Ace said...

Yes, I made sure to look at the 5-year period following a player's recruitment (hence why 2003 is the last year I use for data, since many 2004 players are still eligible). For players who redshirted, they are considered to have played out their eligibility if they stay for a fifth year. For players who aren't taken back for a fifth year, they are considered to have left early, since they probably weren't having much impact on the field (or negative impact) and therefore probably didn't live up to recruiting expectations.

Lordfoul said...

Good stuff, but it seems you went pretty much in order of star rating to decide who would shine. Where is the 3* Mike Hart who defies the odds to make it? I really like how you tied in the statistics though.

Ace said...

I understand your gripe on the star ratings...I feel a little bad about pretty much going straight by the stars (although, in fairness, the class was almost entirely 4-star players). I just didn't see that 3-star guy like Hart (who did put up huge numbers in high school) who I think will break out. Floyd is a little slow and at a deep position, Cox is buried on the depth chart, and Feagin will probably never start because of Newsome. The two guys who may prove me wrong are Khoury and Omameh, since o-line is just so hard to project. I tried to spice things up a little (I know a lot of people think Shaw, Moore, and Koger will all be big time players), but this class was pretty vanilla, IMO. It felt pretty cut-and-dry as to which players will rise to the top and which won't.

Mark said...

These are hilarious a year later!