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Previewing the WR Landscape

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Recruiting, as they say, is a numbers game. At the wide receiver position, the numbers don't add up. This past year, Michigan lost Junior Hemingway, Tay Odoms, Darryl Stonum, and Kelvin Grady, all of whom provided reliable options at the position. To compensate for that loss, the team brought in...well...2 guys, in IA WR Amara Darboh and MO WR Jehu Chesson. But what about last year? foolishly ask, before withdrawing your comment with a grimace. Yes, as everyone remembers, Michigan inexplicably missed/avoided bringing in Hakeem Flowers and Devin Lucien at the end of the 2011 recruiting cycle, after losing Shawn Conway to academic issues. Therefore, the numerical compensation for these losses falls on this year's recruiting class, another year in which two solid contributors depart in Roy Roundtree and Terrence Robinson. The common opinion is that Michigan will restock the position with up to 3 recruits, which makes sense. Going forth, I will be operating under this assumption, unless I am led to believe differently.

For your voracious reading pleasure, then, I have my thoughts on all of the Michigan offer recipients, as well as one (Eldridge Massington) that seems like he could be receiving an offer in the near future. If you're not interested in my full reports (which, well, I wouldn't blame you, they can be repetitive. That's just the nature of the beast), feel free to skim, read the verdict section (meaning the important section), and know that the WRs are ranked in order of polish as a WR, at the moment. If you were to ask me who I thought was most important, I'd have Laquon Treadwell at the top. If you were to ask me who has the highest upside, I'd have James Quick, Kevin Gladney, or Marquez North at the top. This, however, addresses neither question. Enjoy!

Robert Foster PA WR
Doesn't look to be especially explosive, but still fairly elusive. Top gear is pretty good, has the speed to burn most secondaries. Decent amount of wiggle makes him a threat after he catches the ball. Could potentially contribute early on special teams. Really like how he runs hard all the way to the endzone and then puts the ball down and doesn't do anything stupid after he scores a touchdown. Seems like a respectful player. Tracks the ball well in the air, can make very quick adjustments to the ball's trajectory, and doesn't let an approaching defender detract from his focus. Competition doesn't look to be anything special, but he still has a stiff-arm to be reckoned with. Does tend to trap the ball instead of reaching out and grabbing it, but mostly when the ball is uncontested. Still, it's a habit he'll need to break. Like Onwualu, he's a bit cavalier in how he holds the ball, which opens up the possibility of ball security issues. A bit stiff in the hips, but not a huge issue. Over the shoulder catches are no problem for him. Also a good punter? Versatility. Good leaping ability, but doesn't overuse it and expose himself to injury, as some other players can tend to do.

Verdict- Foster is a very talented WR, and his play indicates that he's had sportsmanship hard-wired into his brain from a young age, as well. I think he's a touch further along in his development than Treadwell, with regards to his physicality. I think the difference Rivals has between them (Foster is 26, Treadwell is 31), is completely accurate. I'd like to see a bit more on his route-running...a lot of his highlight film is composed of the camera panning to him AFTER the catch. As far as his recruitment goes, it seems like Michigan got in a bit late. Probably the best pure receiver on the board, but missing out on him for Treadwell wouldn't disappoint me in the slightest.

Laquon Treadwell IL WR
Quick wide receiver for his size. Has an above average top gear that make him a vertical threat. A good route runner that sinks his hips and explodes in and out of cuts. Quickly changes direction to evade defenders in the open field. Has a tendency to trap the ball against his body instead of extending and holding on with his hands, but only sporadically is this a problem. Strong lower body enables him to push through most weak arm tackles. Does a good job of pushing his route until the defender is forced to commit, then using that against him. Uses quick feet and hand use to blow by most jams. An excellent rush defensive end as well, shows you his toughness and physicality. If he was 3 inches taller and 30-40 pounds heavier, would probably have lots of offers on the defensive side of the ball. Intense blocker, but can tend to bury his head and lose sight of his position or rely too much on the first hit to take the defender down.

Verdict- I try to avoid exaggeration, but I think it's apt to say that Laquon is a must get for the Wolverines. His offer list is indicative of just how good Laquon could be in college. It isn't often you see this combination of size, speed, quickness, and physicality. After the early start and frequent visits to Ann Arbor, I hope Michigan can wrap him up. Because losing that sizable a lead for that good of a player can sometimes set you back a year or two, unless you find a worthy replacement.
Devon Allen AZ WR
Not that tall of a kid, but can still bring down contested jump balls. Has very quick feet and his top gear is impressive. Subtle hip movements allow him to throw off the defensive backs when he's faking a route. Sinks his hips better than, perhaps, any other WR prospect I've evaluated, making him a good route runner, but you will note a bit of stiffness. Good hands and concentration. Another kid that simply tosses the ball to the ref after he scores a touchdown --- like I said, I like that. Has a tendency to fall to the ground when he catches a jump ball, instead of keeping his feet under him. Normally works well, but can sometimes rob him of potential yards after the catch. Strong lower body makes him very difficult to tackle, although his competition doesn't exactly look to be world-beaters. I think he could get himself in some trouble, down the road, because he has a tendency to use his hands and push off of DBs sometimes, to create a cushion. I like how he keeps his legs churning through tackles. Could be a prime option for bubble screens, tunnel screens, and jet sweeps, brings a lot of versatility to the table. Could also contribute early on special teams, but you get the feeling that he dances around a bit too much, instead of cutting up field and relying on his speed. Flashes the ability to be a reliable blocker, but will need to be coached up a bit here.

Verdict- Not as good of an athlete as James Quick, but gets the slight bump because of his polish as a WR. I'm a bit surprised he doesn't have more offers right now (most threatening opponent right now seems to be ASU or Stanford), but they'll likely come pouring in once he hits up more junior days and camps. It'll be a tough pull for Michigan, but weirder things have happened, and his interest is real, saying he's a big fan of Denard.
ENTIRELY-TO- EARLY-TO-CALL CALL: Somewhere in the PAC-12. Probably not Michigan.

Uriah Lemay NC WR
Definitely the beneficiary of having a top-tier QB tossing the ball to him in Riley Ferguson. Nimble cutter, surprisingly athletic for his 6'3, 205 frame. College ready size. Not especially explosive, but speed is above average. Does a lot of the 'little things' right. Does a good job switching hands away from defenders, keeps his head on a swivel so he knows where the defense is. Routinely catches the ball away from his body. He's a fighter, never goes down easily. Plays with a lot of intensity. It's a good thing most of the time, but could get him in 'personal foul' territory down the road. Talks to opponents a little bit more than I'd care for. Strong stiff arm. I like how, once he gets possession, he yanks the ball away and tucks it in quickly. A tough kid who's not afraid to go over the middle. Unlike Devon Allen, he does a good job of keeping his feet under him during the leap.

Verdict- Not as crisp of a player as Foster or Treadwell, but his upside is right up there with them. Although he attends the same school as former Michigan recruit Kris Frost and current recruit Peter Kalambayi (who has Michigan in his top group), his brother is current UGA QB Christian Lemay, and the 'Dawgs seem to be the team to beat here. He says he'll be open in his evaluation of each of the schools, and he may come on campus sometime during the Spring/Summer with Kalambayi, but for now, I would table my expectations.

James Quick KY WR
Looks a bit small...seems like a hair or two below his 6'1, 180 pound listing. However, doesn't allow his size to affect his play. Willing to go up for contested balls and not afraid of taking a hit. Really lives up to his name. Exceptional burst, accompanied by an elite top gear that can likely best most above average secondaries out there. Moves so quickly that you have to land a direct hit on him to bring him down. Will provide immediate value on special teams, early on in his career. Needs to add weight, as he's prone to get bumped off of his route by a well placed jam. Usually tries to swerve away from physicality instead of beating it. Can sometimes slack off in his route running (won't plant and explode), but elite change of direction and acceleration should be enough until he's able to develop better technique..should be able to get significant separation against man coverage, with feet like the road runner. Able to catch balls all around him, has a good set of hands that make him look like a WR, not a RB that's split out wide at times, but also guilty of occasionally trapping. Uses very subtle fakes to throw off defenders. Can sometimes be a little reckless with his body, giving him a higher chance of injury than, perhaps, is necessary.

Verdict-From a talent standpoint, this is probably one of (if not the) best athletes that Michigan currently has on the board. An elite athlete with limitless potential, he could come in and contribute early from all over the field. Naturally, with that level of talent, comes a high level of competition. While Michigan looks like it has a good connection and is making good in-roads with his teammate, DE Jason Hatcher, there is little buzz regarding the Wolverines and Quick, for now. Sometimes, this simply indicates a quiet kid. For others, it's bad news. Right now, we can only guess. Hopefully, he'll take a visit sometime over the spring or summer with teammates Hatcher and CB Ryan White (also offered), and we'll be able to get a foothold in his recruitment.
ENTIRELY-TOO- EARLY-TO-CALL CALL: Oregon/Alabama/Auburn. One of the 3.

Kevin Gladney OH WR
Another receiver with exceptional speed and quickness for his size (6'4). Doesn't seem like he's got a great array of open-field moves to avoid defenders, but can simply out-run them in most situations. Has good hands and high points the ball at its apex, but can sometimes tend to slow down to make the grab, instead of taking the ball in stride. This may get him the catch, but it leaves him vulnerable to hard hitting safeties, and can prevent yards after catch. Sinks his hips when cutting, but only shows above average burst. Leans forward when running, which allows him to normally pick up extra yards after contact, falling forward. Shields the ball from oncoming defenders and holds it high and tight. Ball security after the catch seems like a non-issue for him.

Verdict- All in all, I'm a bit surprised Gladney doesn't have a more expansive offer sheet (Nebraska, MSU, and Michigan are the only ones to throw their hat in the ring right now). His size and quickness would have most college coaches salivating. Not as well developed as Laquon Treadwell, but still has a very high ceiling for development down the road, so long as he adds significant weight. If he comes to Michigan, he would probably need a redshirt year and some time on the bench, but could be a top-flight WR with NFL potential as long as he takes to coaching.
ENTIRELY-TOO- EARLY-TO-CALL CALL: I really don't know. I'd like to think Michigan's right in there for Gladney, and we certainly got a leg up from offering early, but he's said OSU is his likely favorite. If they offer him, I think he'll probably end up there.

Marquez North NC WR
Highlights consist mainly of North playing the QB position. Runs a triple-option offense, so it may take him some time to adjust to a difference scheme and new position in college. At 6'3, 205, he probably has the most college ready body of any wide receiver I've discussed so far, though. Not a shifty runner, but his strength and speed could make him a threat in the open field. Has a decent stiff arm, but relies too heavily upon it. Competition looks to be very good. Doesn't shy away from contact, willing to initiate the hit on defenders, and not simply absorb it. Change of direction skills need some work. Route running ability is likely very raw, but I can't be sure about that, since most of his highlights are from the QB position.

Verdict- North is a hard prospect to evaluate, based on the available highlights. I think he has the potential to be up there with Laquon Treadwell and Robert Foster down the road, but an adjustment period will be needed in college as he adjusts to a new position. There are some clips, here and there, of North lining up out wide, so I'm hoping more of those become available down the road so I can re-evaluate his play and get a better feel for the type of player he is. Anyway, he does have his pick of offers, at the moment. It seems like UNC is in the driver's seat, with Clemson and OSU not too far behind.

Marcell Ateman TX WR
Just like Dukes, there's very little film out on Ateman. There are, however, a few things you can take from his highlight reel. He moves very well for a guy his size (6'5), but not as well as someone like Gladney. Route running isn't very precise, and he doesn't seem to effectively use the physical advantage gifted to him by his size very well, after the catch. Very impressive vertical leap and concentration on the jump ball. Comes down well and can usually grab some YAC.

Verdict- The evaluation, like Dukes', should be taken with a grain of salt due to a dearth of film. However, he's another player like Gladney, Quick, and North, with a very high ceiling if he responds well to coaching. I'm not certain that Texas will offer, in which case our primary competition will probably be some of Big-12 schools like Oklahoma, OK State, Baylor, and the Arizona schools. However, when he was offered, he expressed an interest in visiting Michigan with his dad, a visit that may take place in the summer. If it does, Michigan should have a real shot at landing Marcell.
ENTIRELY-TOO- EARLY-TO-CALL CALL: Big 12 School. Maybe Oklahoma. Or Texas, if they offer.

Eldridge Massington TX WR

Exceptional ability to high point the ball, even in traffic. Has strong hands that allow him to bring down contested balls on a consistent basis. Shows adequate ability to use body to shield ball with body. Not an especially explosive runner after the catch. Shows decent shake, but not the consistent ability to avoid defenders in the open field. A bit slow off the line of scrimmage. Flashes the ability to run crisp routes, but isn't consistent enough in that regard. Shows great awareness when bringing down the ball, which normally allows him to get a foot in on sideline catches. Has a good feel for finding the empty part in the zone, settling down, sensing where the defender is, and planning his next move accordingly.

Verdict- As of right now, it looks like Michigan is slow-playing Massington, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Looks like an exceptional possession receiver, but after taking Darboh (and presumably Dukes, this year), the staff may be wiser to keep Massington on the second tier for now, and focus more on someone like Treadwell or Quick.
ENTIRELY-TOO- EARLY-TO-CALL CALL: Another Big-12 School. Again, maybe Texas or Oklahoma if they offer. Michigan if they offer soon.

James Onwualu MN WR
Could be recruited as either a WR or RB, so you know the kid's an elite athlete. Above average top gear and has quick feet that allow him to explode off the line better than most high school kids. Above average route runner as well, sinks his hips well. Strong lower body and pretty good balance enable him to stay on his feet as he pushes through trash. Keeps his feet churning through contact, which normally allows him to pick up a few yards after contact. Still very raw as a receiver. I think he has a tendency to peek at the player who's about to hit him and take his eyes off the ball. High-pointing the ball isn't a strength, and vertical leap isn't overly impressive. Has a tendency to trap the ball against his chest, and sometimes fumbles around with it before he gets possession. I think ball security may end up an issue for him. He doesn't switch hands away from the defense, and is a bit cavalier in his handling of the rock.

Verdict- Onwualu is a kid I had been waiting to get offered for a bit. I don't think you can go wrong bringing him in. If WR doesn't work out, he could contribute on special teams, as a running back, or even mold into a defensive back. Might contribute early on special teams, but I think it'll be a few years before he's a contributor at WR. If this were an athlete category instead of WR, I might have him a bit higher.

Jaron Dukes OH WR
1 minute of highlight film is not nearly enough to break down a kid's play. What you can grasp from his film is that Dukes is a very tall, physical kid with a good pair of hands, who is a touch on the slow side. Generalizing from that would be a mistake. Consequently, I will not.

Verdict- My opinion should obviously be taken with a grain of salt, based on the dearth of highlights. While I'm willing to be any extended version of his highlights would display a lot of catches over CBs that are 7 inches shorter than him (not an insult..I'd be fine if he did that at Michigan for 4 years), while not showing that great of athleticism. I'm a bit confused why Michigan jumped on him that early, but in a year where we may take 3 WRs, it certainly isn't a bad thing to wrap up a 6'5 receiver from Ohio, who grew up a Michigan fan.

Rob Wheelwright OH WR
His top end speed won't wow anyone. Shows only adequate ability to break away from the pack in high school, which normally doesn't translate well to college. Leaping ability is above average, and shows an affinity for high-pointing the ball. Has a tendency to lean far back when leaping for the ball. This concerns me a bit. Obviously, this often means he'll end up on his back instead of getting YAC, but it also leaves him highly susceptible to injury. Not only could he suffer blows from a variety of defensive players, but if one player ends up in his falling pattern, both he and the player are at a very high risk. Doesn't seem like a real threat to shake any defenders in the open field. Strong hands allow him a consistent chance to grab any balls in traffic. Has a wide window where he can catch the ball, and does a good job adjusting to poorly thrown balls. Physical enough to shirk off arm tackles. Competition not overly impressive. Many of his catches are because the defense completely ignored him, or got pulled out of their coverage assignments. A bit lazy in his route running. Some of his curl routes look more like a move from the electric slide than a college level WR.

Verdict- Wheelwright got offered on NSD, along with fellow WR Jaron Dukes. As you may note, I'm not particularly high on either. I think Wheelwright will end up as a 3* recruit to some middling level Big Ten/Big East type school. Still, I suppose it isn't a bad thing to cast a wide net for a position group that will be a huge need in 2013, especially when the offer is going out to a kid in Ohio.
ENTIRELY-TOO- EARLY-TO-CALL CALL: There's some scuttlebutt coming out of OSU's junior day that Wheelwright is close to an offer. If that happens, probably Ohio State. If they don't offer, Wisconsin/MSU/Nebraska.

And...a couple others

Richard Benjamin FL WR- Benjamin is a very quick, pure athlete. Reminds me a bit of another WR from Florida that just signed with USC, Nelson Algohor. And just like Algohor, he has offers from, well, everywhere. WOTS is he's favoring Miami, but we'll see where he ends up. Likely won't be Michigan though. In most interviews I've read, he's more or less forgotten about the maize and blue from his recruitment.

Jake Oliver TX WR- A physical, tough, receiver, Oliver attracted an offer from Michigan during the season. At that time, however, he also received offers from just about every other school in the South, and is favoring the schools close to his home. He recently attended Texas' Junior Day, where he was offered. It is safe to assume, I think, that he will ultimately find himself in Burnt Orange. And if that doesn't come to fruition, he probably won't end up at Michigan anyway.

Some evaluations may sound sterner than others, but one should remember- this group of WRs represents Michigan's 1st tier of offer recipients. These are kids that the Maize and Blue staff really wants. For now, the rankings should be taken with a grain of salt, because, for the most part, I'd be happy landing any of these kids. I think just about all of them (with the exception of 3-4) deserve a four-star or better rating on the recruiting sites.

Just because the two of the three I have projected to Michigan are on the bottom part of the totem pole, doesn't mean I wouldn't be happy with them. Both come with heavy stipulations. Onwualu is a very gifted athlete that just needs some time at the WR position, and there simply isn't enough film out on Dukes to get a good handle on his style of play.

In any case, I'll try to keep this page updated as the season goes on and more WR offers roll out, and will alert you all, via twitter, when any such change should come about.