Saturday, February 7, 2009

Projecting Michigan's 2009 Recruiting Class

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Tate Forcier, 2009 starter? (photo from Varsity Blue)

Signing day has come and gone, and Michigan has the seventh-rated recruiting class in the country (based on Rivals' rankings). Last offseason, I spent way too much time combing through ten years of recruiting data to come up with a way to project the success of players in each recruiting class. A quick recap of that post:
I will be looking at Michigan's classes as a whole, so every player given a scholarship will be counted. This may be flawed, but it's the data I have to work with. My query is, out of every player Michigan gives a scholarship to, what are the chances the player:
  • Plays out his full eligibility
  • Sees significant playing time
  • Is an All-Big Ten/All-American performer
  • Gets drafted
  • Leaves early (and why they leave early, when that data is available)
For this, I used Mike DeSimone's incredible database of Michigan recruiting classes, which covers every player in every class from 1993 through 2008, and the Bentley Historical Library for data on starts and All-American and All-Conference performers. I will be looking at the classes from 1993 to 2003 (the last class in which every player has played out his eligibility or left the team). Tomorrow, I will be taking this data and doing my best to guess which players from Michigan's recruiting class of 2008 will fall into which category.

Overall, Michigan handed out 220 scholarships from 1993-2003. Of those players:
  • 106 (48%) started at least twelve games for Michigan
  • 48 (22%) were taken in the NFL Draft
  • 10 (4.5%) were taken in the first round of the NFL Draft
  • 50 (23%) were selected All-Big Ten at least once
  • 19 (9%) made an All-American team
  • Charles Woodson (.45%) won a Heisman Trophy
I made sure for the All-Conference and All-American players to not count the same players twice if they made the teams in multiple years. Even though Charles Woodson was All-Big Ten all three years he played at Michigan, he still counts as one.
Using that data, I projected the outcome for each player in the Class of '08. Things already hilariously wrong with those projections include expecting Sam McGuffie to become an All-American (Kool-Aid, anyone?), subsequently expecting Michael Shaw to transfer down the road, and placing Martavious Odoms in the "career backup" category. Did I get anything right? Well, I do like my placement of Boubacar Cissoko as a future All-Big Ten player, as well as guessing that Justin Feagin and Mike Cox will eventually transfer (Cox almost did already). It's not a lot to hang my hat on, but it's something.

Anyways, despite it being far too early to guess these things (who knows, we might still add some players), here's my rundown of this year's recruiting class. First, the numbers, adjusted for our 22-man class:
  • 14 play out their eligibility
  • 10.5 start at least 12 games(that half-player's fate will be decided later)
  • 5 players get drafted
  • 1 player gets taken in the first round
  • 5 players make at least one All-Big Ten team
  • 2 become All-Americans
I'm going to stick to the numbers, despite my optimism that every recruit Michigan ever hauls in will become the next Tom Brady/Charles Woodson/LaMarr Woodley etc. Realism sucks sometimes. Without further ado, let's start the show:

Does not play out eligibility, All-American (1):
  • DT Will Campbell (Rivals 5*, No. 26 overall): Consider me fully on the Big Will bandwagon. Thanks to a complete lack of depth at DT, he's going to see significant time (and probably start) from day one. He enrolled early, so he is already off to a head start. He is a prototype DT, at 6-5, 317 lbs. My guess is he'll be solid as a freshman, All-Big Ten as a sophomore, All-American as a junior, and a first round NFL draft pick after leaving a year early. No pressure.
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Will Campbell (photo courtesy of the Detroit News)

Play out eligibility, All-American (1):
  • DB Justin "J.T." Turner (Rivals 4*, No. 3 Safety): Turner can play either corner or safety (he played corner in the Army All-America Bowl) and Michigan has a huge need for someone to step up at both positions. He can see the field as early as this year, and has tremendous talent. His size (6-2, 185) projects very well to any position in the defensive backfield, and he'll be a playmaker wherever he ends up.
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J.T. Turner

Play out eligibility, All-Big Ten (3, assuming All-Americans will also make All-Conference, because duh):
  • QB Tate Forcier (Rivals 4*, No. 5 dual-threat QB): I have really high expectations for Forcier. If you watch his highlight tapes, you'll see a guy who makes plays, often out of nothing. He makes things happen with his arm and his legs. He is tremendously accurate (completing around 70% of his passes his last two years in high school) and seems like a perfect fit for the spread. It certainly won't hurt that he'll likely have four years of starting experience under his belt by the time he leaves Ann Arbor.
  • OG Quinton Washington (Rivals 4*, No. 8 offensive guard): Even with the big offensive line class of '08, Michigan is still pretty thin in the interior of the offensive line. Q fits a huge need, by all accounts has a ton of talent, and should be an anchor on the interior of the line down the road.
  • DE Craig Roh (Rivals 4*, No. 7 weakside defensive end): Roh needs to add weight (right now he clocks in at 6-5, 230), but when he does, I think he's going to be an absloute monster off the edge. This is exactly why we employ Mike Barwis. He is a great pass rusher, and with Mike Martin and Campbell eating space in the middle for the next few years, he should have ample opportunity to get to opposing quarterbacks.

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    Craig Roh (photo courtesy of Rivals)
Play out eligibility, start at least 12 games (7 -- I cheated, but you'll see why):
  • RB Fitzgerald Toussaint (4* Rivals, No. 8 all-purpose back): Toussaint put up ridiculous numbers his senior year, amassing over 2000 rushing yards. He makes people look absolutely silly in his highlight tapes. Most importantly, he has an awesome name. This guy is destined for big things.
  • OT Taylor Lewan (Rivals 4*, No. 16 offensive tackle): Lewan was a relative latecomer to the national recruiting picture, but quickly worked his way up the recruiting rankings and onto the offer lists of prominent national programs (including Nebraska, Miami and Oregon). He only started focusing on the offensive side of the ball as a junior, and has the potential and frame (6-7, 272) to be another in the long line of great Michigan tackles.
  • WR Je'Ron Stokes (Rivals 4*, No. 14 wide receiver): Michigan needs outside receivers. Stokes, at 6-1, 180 with 4.4 speed, can play outside or in the slot. With the overabundance of tiny, fast slot guys (Odoms, T-Rob, Gallon, Teric Jones, Vincent Smith) he'll end up on the outside and have a chance to compete for playing time right away.
  • WR Jeremy Gallon (Rivals 4*, No. 11 athlete): The major caveat here is that Gallon has yet to qualify academically, which poses concern for his present and future. However, if he makes it on campus (and stays there), Gallon could be one of the most electrifying players Michigan has seen in a long, long time. He'll get playing time in the slot and possibly on returns as soon as this season, because there's just no way you can keep someone of his athletic talents off the field.
  • DE Anthony LaLota (Rivals 4*, No. 11 strongside defensive end): Faces little depth at DE, is enrolled early, and has the size (6-6, 260) to play right away. LaLota is raw, having not played varsity football until his junior season, but because of that inexperience has a ton of upside. He complements the smaller Roh quite well, and I could see Roh, Campbell, Martin, and LaLota being one of the best d-lines in the country in a few years.
  • S Thomas Gordon (Rivals 3*, No. 24 player in Michigan): I like the combination of Gordon's physical abilities (5-11, 200, runs a 4.6 40-yard dash) and his football knowledge (he played quarterback at Cass Tech). At safety, he'll be able to utilize his physical and mental abilities to their fullest extent, and the Wolverines need that kind of size, speed and skill at defensive back.
  • K Brendan Gibbons (Rivals 2*, No. 8 kicker): This is why I fudged the numbers ... I hated to knock off another guy so I could say the incredibly obvious: Gibbons quite possibly has the best shot of any recruit to start from day one. Let's hope he works out better than Bryan Wright. My guess is he will.
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Fitzgerald Toussaint (photo by Cyle Nunemaker, via Rivals)

Play out eligibility, backup (3):
  • OT Michael Schofield (Rivals 4*, No. 18 offensive tackle): This is based on my guess that Lewan will be the best tackle in this class, and that Dann O'Neill will be a monster down the road (in last year's edition, I picked him as one of the future All-Americans). Assuming we pick up more 4-5 star OT's in the next couple classes, Schofield could get lost in the shuffle.
  • LB Brandin Hawthorne (Rivals 3*, No. 35 outside linebacker): He is only 6-0, 197 pounds, but he does run a 4.5. This seems like a guy destined to be an impact special teams player and a solid situational pass rusher, but his size might keep him from ever finding a permanent position on the field. If he fills out, this pick could make me look very, very dumb (who am I kidding, all these picks could/probably will make me look dumb).
  • RB Teric Jones (Rivals 3*, No. 37 running back): Jones looks like a guy who will end up playing in the slot, where Michigan is quickly becoming stacked. He can also play running back, obviously, but I'm he doesn't have the size (5-9, 191) desirable for a future every-down back. With 4.4 speed, he'll see the field somewhere, but I don't know if he'll find a place to start on the field.
This leaves seven guys who won't play out their eligibility (not including Campbell):
  • S Vladimir Emilien (Rivals 4*, No. 14 safety) and CB Adrian Witty (Rivals 2*): Both these players have a history of serious knee injuries, and in a list like this, that throws up a big red flag. I want, as much as anyone, for Michigan to have a strong safety named "Vlad the Impaler," so here's hoping that this pick is incredibly wrong.
  • WR Cameron Gordon (Rivals 4*, No. 36 wide receiver): Gordon will either play wide receiver or linebacker for Michigan. I'm sorry, but that combination sounds incredibly strange to me. For all I know, he could be a huge freak at either position, but I'm playing the odds here and guessing he has a hard time finding a position that he can outperform more traditional recruits at.
  • ATH Denard Robinson (Rivals 4*, No. 14 athlete): I REALLY hope I'm wrong with this pick, because I would love to see a guy with 4.4 speed taking snaps for the Maize and Blue. However, I'm guessing Forcier beats him out at QB, he sees spot duty taking snaps for a while, and then switches to the defensive backfield and gets buried behind guys with more experience at the position.
  • S Isaiah Bell (Rivals 3*, No. 26 outside linebacker) and S Mike Jones (Rivals 3*, No. 2 safety): Both these guys will come in as safeties, although Bell seems destined for a move to outside linebacker. Michigan is stockpiling guys at both safety and outside linebacker, and these guys might get lost in the shuffle.
  • RB Vincent Smith (Rivals 3*, No. 36 running back): I love watching little guys dominate college football, but 5-7, 159 is downright tiny. We all saw what the pounding of a Big Ten season did to Sam McGuffie, so there's no way Smith stays in the backfield. For the umpteenth time, I'll point out our tremendous depth at slot receiver, and guess that Smith doesn't see the field in any major capacity.
That's all for this year's opportunity to make myself look like a complete fool. Leave your thoughts in the comments.

1 comment:

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