Brady Hoke and Greg Mattison know that offering players who need a great deal of development can be risky. Good thing they can coach. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Michigan's recruiting efforts have been anything but futile, pulling in a top-10 class in 2012 and well on their way to a top-5 finish in 2013. Players like Kyle Kalis, Joe Bolden, Shane Morris and Dymonte Thomas give Michigan fans reason to be very optimistic about the future.
And then there are the boom/bust players. True national title contenders must have an allotment of elite talent like Kalis and Morris, but the difference between Michigan of 2006 and a national championship winner is usually made by finding raw players who can be developed despite the risk of offering them. All coaches know that filling every class with only elite players is nearly impossible, and so finding players who could turn out to be great given proper coaching is paramount to success. Many of these players are often referred to as "boom/bust" prospects due to their high ceilings and low floors. Some of them will go on to be stars on Sundays, while others will end up in a cubicle as mere mortals.
The Boom/Bust Rating System
The players considered to be boom/bust prospects have a high ceiling and often a low floor. The ceiling can fall somewhere within this range:
- Elite- These players have high NFL potential and will draw national media attention on a weekly basis. They're as close to an All-American lock as one can be. Boom/bust prospects of this nature are rare, possessing elite physical tools but requiring a great deal of coaching.
- All-American - Similar to the elites, these players are destined for the NFL. They may be lacking in a physical area that could cost them money in the draft, but they're high-caliber football players who can stack up to anyone in the nation at their position.
- All-Conference - These athletes are usually the consistent type, and although they're physically gifted they may not be as NFL-ready as their All-American counterparts. Their statistics range from good to great.
- BCS Starter - Although they're not going to wow anyone with physical tools or put up gaudy statistics these players are going to contribute to a BCS squad or provide solid depth behind more highly ranked players.
- Role Player - Prospects with a ceiling as a role player aren't elite physically but are instead intelligent football players who are gifted enough to contribute in specific packages. They could be special teams players, third down backs, situational pass rushers or anything in between.
- BCS Starter - Players with a floor this high obviously need to be talented in order for a starting job to be their worst scenario.
- Role Player - A physically gifted athlete that doesn't develop into starter often becomes a role player. These players are described as raw in high school and will stay that way if coaching doesn't end up improving their game.
- Bench Player - If coaching fails for a player and he doesn't fill out as well as expected he could drop off of the field altogether. This means he's only going to see the field if Angry Position Hating God becomes enraged and injures every qualified player in front of the bench player.
- Transfer Candidate - These players have the ambition to play football but are so buried on the depth chart that not even Angry Position Hating God can give them a chance. They'll consider a transfer elsewhere if the academics aren't enough to keep them on the roster, but such is the way of college football.
The 2012 Boom/Bust Prospects
WR Jehu Chesson
Chesson has already flashed the speed necessary to become a deep threat at the collegiate level by (supposedly) running a 4.4 at camp. At 6'3" he's deceptively quick, making him a potential nightmare in the open field. Should he absorb all of the coaching he'll receive in the next four year and combine it with at least ten pounds of muscle he'll be a tough receiver to defend.
Floor: Role Player
The downside here is caused by Chesson's frame. Unlike fellow receiver Amara Darboh he's wiry and definitely needs to get stronger before he's ready to be a true play maker. The extra weight could cost him a step in the open field and turn him into another serviceable receiver who's not going to scare a defense by going deep. Even if he were to be slowed by the extra weight he would still be needed due to Michigan's lack of talent outside, making him a role player at worst.
S Jeremy Clark
Ceiling: BCS Starter
Michigan may have gone down to Kentucky and found themselves a solid starting safety. Clark is huge, standing at 6'4", 205, and he possesses the speed and explosiveness to cover the deep ball as well as most college safeties. His football IQ seems adequate as well.
Floor: Bench Player
Clark's lack of lateral agility could lead to him being a poor tackler in the open field at the next level. Michigan won't be hurting for safety help in the coming years with Dymonte Thomas and Jarrod Wilson coming to Ann Arbor, so if he doesn't use his size and speed to the best of his ability he could find himself riding the bench.
TE Devin Funchess
I was surprised that Funchess' commitment didn't cause more excitement within the Michigan circles. He has the size, athleticism and frame to become an extremely effective tight end, especially in the passing game. In today's game a tight end who can cause mismatches is valuable, and Funchess has the ability to be just that.
Floor: Role Player
Funchess needs to add weight. A lot of weight. At 6'5", 205, he weighs less than many collegiate wide receivers. On top of that his length and slightly lanky frame could cause him to become a situational receiving tight end who isn't much of a threat to block defensive ends and linebackers in the running game. If he doesn't quickly add at least twenty pounds he could watch as Jake Butt takes his starting spot.
OLB/WDE Mario Ojemudia
Mario is by far the most underrated player in Michigan's 2012 class. A natural pass rusher who has a knack for making plays in the backfield, Ojemudia could very well become an extremely effective hybrid OLB. He shows a high football IQ on tape and isn't too far away from being physically ready to play at the next level.
Floor: Transfer Candidate
Yes, I just said that Ojemudia could end up transferring after calling him vastly underrated. Although he's a born pass rusher this will essentially be his first time playing linebacker, and given Michigan's recent success he could quickly find himself behind two or more players and look to find a situation better suited for him.
DT Ondre Pipkins
In one week of practice at the Army All-American Bowl Pipkins went from a four-star recruit who needed work to a five-star who could do no wrong. There's no denying that men who weigh 325 pounds shouldn't be caught causing fumbles downfield. Pipkins has freakish quickness for a prospect his size and could develop into an unstoppable defensive tackle. He's originally from my hometown of Saginaw so I'm pulling for him to add to the list of established athletes from the once-proud city.
Floor: BCS Starter
If Michigan wasn't in a dire situation on the inside of the defensive front his floor would be one spot lower, but even if he fails to improve his technique he'll be needed. Wolverine fans love what he brings to the table but he often plays with poor pad level, and we all saw how that has worked out with Will Campbell.
Make sure to check back in for the boom/bust prospects in the class of 2013.