We're taking a look at the UM commits and targets who impressed in the All Star Games over the weekend, as well as our two cents on other stand-outs. Come check it out!
SEMPER FIDELIS ALL AMERICAN GAME
MICHIGAN TARGETS AND COMMITS
Two Michigan commits, Ross Douglas and Maurice Hurst, suited up for the Semper Fi game this year. Last year, DE Mario Ojemudia played in the game, becoming the first Michigan commit ever to do so. Both Ross and Douglas played for the Blue Team (I'm not even going to bother with the direction it's actually called), which lost in the last minute as Missouri Commit Eddie Printz scrambled and found UNC Commit Ryan Switzer in the endzone for the touchdown.
Of the two, Hurst was a bit flashier. On the first drive of the game, Hurst easily shed his blocker on 3rd down, quickly tracking down Northwestern Commit Matt Alviti for a sack. Although that was his only sack of the game, he was disruptive in the running game throughout and provided pressure intermittently. I wouldn't say I learned anything new about Hurst- his play from the game looks just like his senior film; explosive, athletic, but inconsistent. There were plays like this one where he got off the ball quickly, but was pushed 6-7 yards off the ball anyway. Regardless, I don't think it's unreasonable to assume Hurst could carve out a niche in this defense next year.
As a CB, Douglas of course had the quieter day. The White Team picked on Douglas early on (matched up one-on-one on former Michigan target Devon Allen), but he kept his receiver in check through most of the rest of the game. It's more or less what I would have expected out of him-he'll be good but not great at the collegiate level. Looks like a career Nickel CB, with a ceiling no higher than Avery's.
I should preface this by saying I didn't watch the game live, and skipped over the parts when the Blue Defense played the White Offense. That means I don't have an opinion on at least half of the players. BUUUUT
While he's not quite as explosive as Kain Colter, Matt Alviti looks just like the next in a line of exceptional Northwestern QBs with athleticism. Although he'll likely never have elite arm strength, he out-played most of his counterparts in the UA and Army game, although the competition was admittedly weaker.
On the DLine with Hurst, I was impressed by former Michigan target Tashawn Bower and PA DL Justin Moody. Both were inconsistent, but had plays where they burst off the ball and provided impressive penetration. Bower looks like a pretty good athlete in the open field, I wish Michigan had gotten a closer look.
A couple of kids headed to the Pac-12 caught my eye, as well. QB Anu Solomon, who will be playing for Rich Rod and Arizona, showed a strong arm and great shake in the open field. Although Arizona recently signed former four star and USC Trojan Jesse Scroggins, Solomon's athleticism might challenge Scroggins and back-up B.J. Denker for the job immediately.
On top of (likely UCLA bound) Allen, Washington WR Commits Darrell Daniels and John Ross look like great athletes. Daniels had a bone-crushing block on a Solomon scramble in the 2nd quarter as well, he looks like the full package. Fellow Husky Elijah Qualls was also making headlines, playing both DT and RB. He is another player I wish Michigan had come a little closer to landing.
Personality wise, Miami Commit Ray Lewis III seems like a really cool kid. He was clearly a leader, but was humble despite his origins. I'll be watching his career in the future.
UNDER ARMOUR ALL AMERICAN GAME
MICHIGAN TARGETS AND COMMITS
The White Team featured five Michigan commits that played heavily, although there should have been a sixth (McCray), if not for injury. Of the five, three (Kugler, Dawson, and Poggi) earned a starting role, with Kugler a captain for his team.
At left guard, Kugler was the best looking UM offensive player through all three games. He pulled well on power runs, and I really liked his foot quickness when pass blocking. Aside from one ugly missed assignment that resulted in a sack, Kugler had a very solid game, and will probably either stay where he is (on Scout) or rise a bit (on Rivals) when the rankings are updated next. Then again, Rivals covered the Army All American game (not UA), so that might not happen.
Dawson, at right guard, was a bit more up and down. Early on, it looked like he was struggling to keep the pass rushing DTs from getting inside his pads. He showed poor balance and looked 1-2 seconds away from being completely trampled by effective bull rushes. Granted, he was regularly facing off against Robert Nkemdiche and five-star Demarcus Walker. However, when Oregon Commit Dontre Wilson muffed a punt early on in the game, Dawson was one of the first men there. The others, of course, were not offensive linemen.
Logan Tuley-Tillman wasn't dominant, but he did show the improvement that's accompanied his growth from junior to senior year. If he had come into this game in February, he would have been whipped around. However, he held his own for the most part, both in pass and run blocking. Like Dawson, I think opposing D-Linemen got their hands under his pads a bit too much, and he was sometimes beat with the speed rush. Still, the potential is there, and you can tell he's working at it. A redshirt and a couple of years of backup duty should spit out a quality tackle.
Shane Morris was Shane Morris. Although fans of other schools quickly jumped on his one interception in the 2nd half, he was one of the best quarterbacks through the All-Star weekend, up there with USC Commit Max Browne and PSU Commit Christian Hackenburg. The arm was there, the touch was there, and even a little mobility as well, although that got him in a world of hurt when five-star LB Mathew Thomas leveled him in the open field. The one glaring weakness in his game: Morris threw almost exclusively to the left. Allen Trieu has talked about this when scouting his games before. It's obvious Morris favors his dominant side, and that really closes off his vision of the field in general. In any case, I think most people are hoping Morris won't see the field for a couple of years anyway, so he has time to work on all of this.
Lastly, and perhaps most impressively, was Henry Poggi. Poggi, who started for the White Team at the DT spot, showed a fairly consistent ability to pressure the quarterback. Although I've been somewhat concerned by his lack of explosiveness, he was as quick as the best of 'em in this game. At 260, he's too small to play DT right now, but the word is he'll start out at 5-tech. His advanced development (thanks to his father and two BCS-level brothers) will probably help him get in early, at least on passing downs. In my opinion, Poggi was the best Michigan commit on any field this weekend.
VERNON HARGREAVES. And again VERNON HARGREAVES. The Florida Commit looked like the best player on the field regardless of position. Although I don't normally agree with ESPN's rankings, I think he might be the #3 player in the country, or perhaps even challenge Nkemdiche for the top spot. This is the second year in a row that Florida has gotten a favorite CB of mine, the last being Brian Poole.
Staying in the defensive backfield, likely OSU Commit Vonn Bell was everywhere making plays, as was Leon McQuay III. Yes, that should sting a little. Speaking of OSU, Jalin Marshall looked electric. Although I was relieved OSU didn't get James Quick, Marshall isn't a huge step down, if one at all. Previously, I had thought of him as just an athlete. In this game, he looked like a bona fide wide receiver. Engage Percy Harvin hyperbole!
FL LB Matthew Thomas played like Jaylon Smith did in the Army Game- frenetically. Both should be terrifying in a couple of years, although I'm thankful that Thomas will be nowhere near the B1G. I hope. Another linebacker (that I had admittedly never heard of) was Ben Boulware, who had himself quite the game. The Clemson commit showed impressive instincts and athleticism.
Lastly, I'll mention a couple of Pennsylvania kids; one leaving and one coming. As I mentioned above, PSU Commit Christian Hackenburg moved the chains as well as any All-Star QB, in a setting that does not lend itself to offensive production. I've admittedly under-rated the kid throughout the process. 'Bama WR Commit Robert Foster also stood out as the best WR in the game. He blocked, ran hard, and made some quality catches as well.
ARMY ALL AMERICAN GAME (Video Coming)
MICHIGAN TARGETS AND COMMITS
Michigan had a strong contingent of 4 players accept their bids to play in the Army All American game. Unfortunately, 2 of those kids (Chris Fox, Jake Butt) sustained injuries before the game, and were unable to play. The other two (Dymonte Thomas, Jourdan Lewis), however, got plenty of playing time in the game.
Thomas was the more impressive of the two from his safety spot. He looked like he might have failed to drop into his zone on Max Browne's touchdown pass to Derrick Griffin late in the game, but other than that, he looked solid in coverage. He was involved in several deep passes, including the last play where LSU commit Hayden Rettig tossed it up blindly. He also showed above average man coverage ability on several occasions, especially on an end-around WR pass that cut into OSU Commit Mike Mitchell's announcement. He showcased his closing speed and physicality in the first half with several assisted tackles while running hard to the line. Although he came in too high to tackle Alabama commit Altee Tenpenny at one point, he held onto Tenpenny's jersey and slowed him down for others to clean up.
All in all, Thomas was not far behind Henry Poggi for the most impressive performance of the weekend. Although freshman safeties usually equal doom, and his deep coverage is not impeccable, I wouldn't be shocked to see Michigan find a way to use him next year ala Jarrod Wilson. Since I think he'll be a SS, that would place him behind MRob for the season.
Jourdan Lewis, for the most part, was quiet. He was never really challenged, although it's hard to tell if that was excellent coverage or poor quarterback play. As I'll discuss later, I was very underwhelmed by the quarterbacks in the Army game. He wasn't very physical, but as he pointed out, it's an All-Star game. If you're looking for nastiness from Pro Bowl players, chances are you've never watched the Pro Bowl. He did, however, have one good solo tackle on Derrick Green (certainly not an easy target). His path to playing time should be similar to Terry Richardson.
There was really only one Michigan target in the game; VA RB Derrick Green. Although he's lighter than Alabama commit Derrick Henry, I was much more impressed with the way Derrick runs. He always hits the hole with a head of steam, and is extremely hard to bring down on first contact. He won't blow anyone away with his cutting ability, but hopefully he'll be mostly running in between the tackles.
At the quarterback position, Max Browne showed why he's been labelled the top QB in the nation. While timing and a lack of diversity in the playbook will always neuter offenses in these types of games, he threw beautiful balls to short and deep areas alike. His touchdown pass to Derrick Griffin towards the end was right on the money, just out of the reach of elite DB Jalen Ramsey.
Beyond him, the QB haul looked fairly abysmal. Although some contested this on twitter, UA looked like they grabbed the quality crop of QBs. Even if no offenses were consistent, guys like Shane Morris, Christian Hackenburg, Brice Ramsey, and Cooper Bateman showed the occasional ability to get the ball on the money at the right time. In the Army Game, the QBs were consistently off target. LSU Commit Hayden Rettig airmailed about 3/4 of his passes, Vanderbilt Commit Johnathon McCrary and Auburn Commit Jeremy Johnson only moved the ball with their legs (besides one throw to a wide open James Quick for a TD), and Texas Commit Tyrone Swoopes did nothing but fumble in limited action. People will obviously toss the 'this game isn't suited for QBs' argument at me, and I don't disagree, but these guys had their opportunities to make plays. And unlike the UA QBs, they rarely took advantage.
The running back group was probably the best out there. Besides Derrick Green, I was really impressed by the power of Alabama Commits Derrick Henry and Altee Tenpenny (who Magnus has previously called one of his favorite RBs in the class). The quicker 'scat-back' running backs also moved the ball, like UVA Commit 'Smoke' Mizzell, Notre Dame Commit Greg Bryant, and OSU Commit Ezekiel Elliot.
I mainly paid attention to the WRs that Thomas and Lewis were assigned to cover (and didn't often see their names), but 2 guys whose names came up a lot were TAMU Commit Derrick Griffin and Louisville Commit James Quick. I'm very relieved that Quick isn't going to OSU, as some recently thought.
As I mentioned, since my focus was primarily upon the DB-WR matchups, I didn't get to watch the OL/DL battles much. Two guys that Michigan was formerly recruiting, Washington Commit JoJo Mathis and Miami Commit Al-Quadin Muhammad, looked like they were the two best pass rushers on the field. Although both announced at the game, the selections were a bit farcical, since both had only one real option on the table.
My focus on other defenders was also limited, but Jaylon Smith made up for a lackluster 1st half with a terrifying 2nd. After whiffing on tackles left and right to start the game, he suddenly became a beast, involved in just about every play in some way or another. He picked up sacks, TFLs, a blocked kick, and was lockdown in coverage as well. I was also impressed by CA S Tahaan Goodman's hitting ability. Looked a bit like Matt Elam out there, although he's much smaller at this point.
Other guys who caught my attention: USC Commit Kenny Bigelow, USC Commit Jason Hatcher, USC Commit Michael Hutchings, PSU Commit Brendan Mahon, USC Commit Khaliel Rodgers, OSU Commit Mike Mitchell, Texas Commit A'Shawn Robinson, VT Commit Wyatt Teller, and CA DL Eddie Vanderdoes.
Yes, the hype that the USC class has been getting is well deserved.