2018 Early Signing Day Summary: The Class of Intrigue — Part III — The Offense
The Class of Intrigue — Part III — The Offense
GBMW Readers: The last part of our signing day discussion between CoachBT and Doc4Blu centers on the offense. Some of the offensive recruits were discussed in the first part of the series that centered on the somewhat surprising signings. The entire offense will be briefly discussed, needs assessed, and a final summation provided.
Doc4Blu: Coach in this segment I will address the offense and ask you a couple of not so pointed questions. Then we will both end with a final summary of this early segment of recruiting and what Michigan should do to best finish out the class.
The offense struggled in 2017. Even against “moderate” teams like Indiana, Purdue, Cincinnati, and Air Force the offense was not really dominating, dynamic or inspiring by any measure. Wilton Speight was injured against Purdue and John O’Korn and the offense were stopped against a Spartan defense that was always one step ahead. The running game was emphasized and some progress came about. Then came better competition and Michigan did not have enough fire power, or other essentials, to finish the quest. Freshman Peters went down against Wisconsin and once again John O’Korn hit the field.
Regardless of the quarterback, the passing game never got in gear, whether due to ineffective quarterback play, lack of playmaking from receivers, or scheme and play calling deficiencies. Most likely all three factors were heavy contributors to Michigan’s lack of a passing game, which in turn had to hinder the running attack. As a result, the dominoes of blame fell like bowling pins and no one could lay claim to good offensive play.
As a result, and in response, Michigan entered this early signing day event with several needs on offense. So, it takes little informed discussion to successfully identify Michigan’s needs on offense. My list goes as follows: (1) proficient offensive tackles that can provide run support, but more than anything else consistent pass protection; (2) quarterback play, a problem that likely cannot be completely addressed by simply recruiting more quarterbacks; and (3) a home run hitting running back that can run north and south, go east and west, and be a real part of the passing game. Perhaps, say, a guy like Saquan Barkley. There is also a need to restock at fullback and keep stocked at tight end/h-back.
Michigan may have met the last two needs cited above. Ben VanSumeren should fit in fine, and the tight end position has been reinforced with the signing of top tight end prospect Mustafa Muhammad. Muhammad is big enough to fit in quickly. He should be of value in both the passing and running games. Luke Schoonmaker is nowhere near tight end size yet, unless the idea of a hybrid is under consideration. He is athletic and with his size and jumping ability, Luke could be a situational player until he gains the weight and strength necessary to be a three down tight end. Who knows, Ryan Hayes could be an early tight end, but obviously all are hoping Hayes morphs into the type of athletic linemen like Lewan and Schofield.
Offensive tackle is still a need in limbo with no supers being signed. Two interesting and promising developmental types were signed; Ryan Hayes (mentioned above) and Jalen Mayfield. This gives Michigan four or five developmental types to get ready for the years to come.
Two interesting running backs signed with Michigan, Christian Turner and Hassan Haskins. Neither light up the star chart, even with nice senior years and very good stats, but both certainly have potential. If nothing else, the two seem to complement each other well. The bigger Haskins is more of a pounder and Turner is a guy who can do some damage at the second level.
At quarterback, Michigan signed mega-armed Joe Milton. Kevin Doyle remains an unknown at this time. As mentioned other factors must also be addressed to improve quarterback play. The safest path to a stable quarterback situation is a guy like Doyle. He has good quarterback traits and a nice release. At the very least, Doyle should be a competent backup and manager type. Joe Milton has an arm that cannot be ordered or developed, only spotted and signed. Joe is intense and the bet is he is patient enough to go through normal development. As with any quarterback, it will be up to the staff to provide a system that any roster quarterback can use his talent to turn the talent of others into offensive pluses.
So, overall, Michigan clearly met some needs, but the jury has not even yet met to start discussion. Tackle and running back are still question marks. It is possible that the running backs and tackles all turn out to be assets. But the wait will be like traveling the old Oregon Trail; pitfalls, up and downs, and plenty of time and patience will be needed.
An overall grade is premature because the class is incomplete and there will be additions and subtractions that at this time can only be inferred or conjectured. The defense is in a little better shape than the offense, but both now have developmental types, and both sides of the ball have limited impact types. The team still needs inside defenders and Harbaugh will probably pull one more rabbit out of the hat in February.
So, Coach, what do you see as the needs on offense, how were these needs addressed, and what is your overall assessment of the so-far class of intrigue?
CoachBT: Doc, I call the class of 2018 the work in progress. Most of the players signed will need a season or two of development before they are ready.
I actually like what Michigan has recruited on offense better than the defense. Your breakdown above is excellent. What I see is a few players who are a bit underrated. Turners’ injury held with back. Wide receiver Bell has a very nice skill set and if he had concentrated on football, he would be rated higher. 100% agreement on the quarterbacks Doc, adding both of them was a good thing. The tackle prospects need seasoning, but as with others, they have the skills to be solid players.
One thing I thought Michigan needed in this class but did not get, was one or two game changing speed players. We used to call them game breakers, players who stretched the field and back the safeties up. Guys like this could play wide receiver, slot, or even a Gronk style tight end.
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