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By Billy Tucker, Scouts Inc.Rich Rodriguez inherited a fine system-fitting class from Lloyd Carr last year, except a much-needed zone-read quarterback. The position that makes his offense run was missing its future Pat White, but Rodriguez struck quickly after national signing day, landing Kevin Newsome (Chesapeake, Va./Hargrave Military Academy) in late April and Shavodrick Beaver (Wichita, Texas/Rider) shortly after.
In a matter of weeks, Michigan impressively filled its requirement behind center with two of the more athletic, dual-threat quarterbacks in the country. While it looked like the goal of signing two system-fitting signal-callers was achieved, we still felt Rodriguez had the daunting task of keeping two talented prospects with similar skill sets happy for the next ten months leading up to signing day.
Kevin Newsome Sr. told us Wednesday his son was informed by Rodriguez in the very beginning that Michigan was taking two quarterbacks in 2009. With just one set of keys to the Wolverines' new spread offense, it was inevitable either Newsome or Beaver would be employed elsewhere with their striking athleticism. It now appears Newsome is no longer taking any chances or is at least exploring his other options. He announced Tuesday he was decommitting from the Wolverines.
"Kevin has officially opened up his recruitment and is going to reevaluate everything," said Newsome Sr. "Not that he doesn't care for Michigan; we still think it's a possibility."
Newsome, who recently transferred to Hargrave Military Academy for his senior season, showed some improvements on the camp circuit this summer and certainly moved the chains in exciting fashion last fall from behind center (over 1,500 yards passing and 600 rushing). However, we still feel he lacks a lot of polish right now as a pure passer. Newsome's throwing mechanics and footwork are raw, and his accuracy can be very inconsistent. After seeing him live and on film, we still feel adamantly that the Virginia native is a better runner and overall athlete at this stage than he is a quarterback prospect.
At 6-foot-2 and a chiseled 217 pounds, ESPNU's No. 17 overall athlete is very impressive-looking on the hoof and has the striking physical tools to match. Newsome's long stride, good foot quickness and smooth overall movement skills on his large frame make almost any skill position a possibility at the next level. Now, we're not saying quarterback is out of the question, particularly in a zone-read offense, but we simply feel Beaver is further along as a passer and is less apt to be moved during his career at Michigan.
Newsome may have also come to the realization that he would have legit competition to remain behind center during his four years in Ann Arbor. Exploring his other options (which includes more than 30 offers) may actually be in the best interest of the talented ESPNU 150 prospect who wants to stay at quarterback.
"He is going to concentrate on his season at Hargrave then we'll begin figuring his official visits," explained Newsome Sr. "Kevin is looking forward to being a quarterback and making it at the position."
As far as Michigan goes, the Wolverines will still sign another quarterback along with Beaver. They have been actively recruiting Tate Forcier (San Diego/Scripps Ranch) and Elite 11 participant Eugene Smith (Miramar, Fla.) -- perhaps anticipating the decommitment from Newsome.
In the end, Michigan might actually feel like Newsome's de-commitment was the right move for both parties. Both Forcier and Smith are definitely athletic enough to run the spread in Ann Arbor and are better passers at this stage than Newsome.
"I chose Michigan for its great academics and because it's a program on the rise," explained Fera. "But also because its kicker is a senior and the coaches said I have a good chance to become a four-year starter and three-year starter as a punter."
Fera connected on 15 of 16 field goal attempts in 2007 and has a career long of 58 yards. Kickoffs may be his best skill set though. The 6-foot-2, 215-pounder blasted 80 percent of his kicks for touchbacks last fall.
On offense, the class is led by Eric Samuels (Umatilla, Fla.), ESPN's No. 39-rated running back, and one of the biggest sleepers out of the Sunshine State this year. Defensively, it claims a commitment from Darrius McMullin (Birmingham, Ala./Spain Park), the No. 37 defensive tackle, and a prospect we feel has great upside in the trenches.
This surprising '09 class is also comprised of solid, middle-graded football players, like recent pledge Brady Brown (Argyle, Texas), who have the tools to develop into productive SEC players in time. Brown is a prototypical 6-foot-5 possession receiver with soft hands, sound concentration and a knack for making the big grab over smaller defenders. Aside from snagging most balls thrown in his vicinity with his long arms, the Texas native does all the little things right at the position -- including working the zone, reading coverages and positioning himself correctly for the throw. Brown lacks the speed and explosiveness that would have attracted more prominent SEC programs, but we feel the savvy receiver will haul in some big catches during his career in Nashville as soon as he fills out his lean frame.
This week Pitt landed Raymond Graham (Elizabeth, N.J.), its third committed back from New Jersey and the highest rated runner out of the Garden State. Graham's injury-plagued junior season and marginal overall size may have led to his sleeper status. If it weren't for a broken collarbone that ended his season after just four games, he might be more highly-coveted on the recruiting trail.
Graham may be short at 5-foot-9 but is by no means small. He is thick, built low to the ground and he attacks the line of scrimmage. His great initial momentum through the hole and sturdy frame allow him to consistently break through initial contact. The future Panther does lack great speed in the second level and his ability to remain a decisive, downhill runner at his size is a question mark. However, we feel he could at least develop into a good change-of-pace back at Pitt and help continue its strong ground attack.
Top athlete Dobson to the Pirates
East Carolina has a commitment from RB/DB Michael Dobson of Mount Airy, NC.
Dobson, who rushed for 1,639 yards and 30 touchdowns as a junior, also has offers from Duke, Akron and Ohio.
ESPN's Bill Conley elaborated on Dobson's decision, "The good news is East Carolina picked up its 12th commitment for the 2009 recruiting class with the addition of Michael Dobson. The problem is where do they play this talented athlete?"
"As a high school gridder he had five interceptions last season on defense but scored 31 touchdowns on offense. The Pirates have him listed as a safety, the third defensive back verbal of the class and they already have two running back commitments."
• Dobson's On the Trail archive
Newton to be a WildcatHighly-coveted signal-caller Morgan Newton picked Kentucky, he announced during a 10:30 a.m. press conference held at Carmel (Ind.) High School Thursday, over Florida, Clemson, Indiana, Purdue and Illinois.
The No. 16-rated quarterback mentioned that position coach Randy Sanders, who guided Peyton Manning at Tennessee and former Wildcat Andre Woodson, along with offensive coordinator Joker Phillips as main reasons for his decision, ESPN affiliate Web site KentuckyInk.com reports.
"To sum it up, Newton in time is a prospect that could remind Wildcat fans of departed quarterback Andre Woodson." Newton's On the Trail archive
• Complete On the Trail updates
Blake (Lynchburg Va.): Do you think Logan Thomas, the 6-6 tight end from Lynchburg, Va., could be a future All-American?
Conley: Thomas is a very well-rounded athlete who has all kinds of talent. He can run, throw and catch. To be a great tight end at the next level he will have to gain weight and prove he can be a sound blocker. No question about his receiving talent.Will (Denver): Hi Bill, do you see the Hurricanes getting any of the top offensive lineman this year? I think that is a point of need more than anything. Especially since we missed out on Patchan and Washington is not academically eligible and supposedly not planning on going to the U next year.
Conley: That position is a huge need for the 'Canes in the future. They have only two sophomores in their two-deep, the rest are seniors or juniors. I know they would like to get at least one of the two "X-factors" -- Xavier Nixon or Xavier Su'a Filo.Jake (Oregon): Where does Oregon stand on the national landscape of recruiting? Conley: Great question. There seems to be a real commitment to win at Oregon and everyone knows they have super facilities. They must, however, start getting some of the best talent in California. There's not enough in the state of Oregon on a yearly basis. Right now USC is ruling California. • To read the full chat, click here.
Jeffery uses his long arms to keep would-be blockers off his legs and takes great pursuit angles to the football. When the coach wants to call a safety blitz, Jeffery is the man he wants running it. He refuses to be blocked as he makes penetration into the offensive backfield.
|Michigan's 2009 verbals|