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Wednesday, February 02, 2005

MARQUES SLOCUM - DT - West Catholic(PA)

Height: 6'5" Weight: 310
Lemming: #78 overall, #6 G
Rivals: ****, #37 overall, #1 G ****, #87 overall
Projected Role: Gabe Watson 2.0

Slocum managed 75 tackles this season--an extremely high number for an interior lineman--despite playing part of the season with a hairline ankle fracture. Then he went down to the Army-All American game slimmed down and pissed off that he had to play guard. When an East DL went down with injury, though, Slocum stepped in on the defensive line and "beat the hell out of" one Alex Boone, five star OSU commit. During the game, he was man the West's offensive line focused on, doubling him almost every play.

Part of the reason that Slocum impressed so many at the Army game is that Slocum showed up at a relatively svelte 310 pounds, down from the 330 he played at in high school. He's clearly preparing himself to play early and should be better prepared than Gabe Watson was coming into college. He'll probably see the field quickly as part of the DT rotation, and in time should end up as good as Watson.


Height: 6'1" Weight: 285
Lemming: #85 overall, #6 DT
Rivals: ****, #98 overall, #8 DT, #3 MI ****, #12 DT
Projected Role: Extremely large ball of hate

Terrance Taylor is a little bit like Grady, a player who was dominant from the start and earmarked for Michigan for a long time--except for a brief period where he declared LSU his leader and scared the pants off Michigan recruitniks everywhere. Taylor was all-state honorable mention.

As a freshman.

As a senior, Taylor made 47 tackles, 16 for loss, and lead his Muskegon team to their first Division 2 state championship since 1989, wasting OLSM 31-7 in the final. Taylor and Muskegon held OLSM to 56 yards of offense. Did I mention he won his weight class in powerlifting... three times? And that he set state records doing it?

So Taylor is a) a freak athlete who b) has tons and tons of high school experience. Taylor seems like he's underrated, even though he is a top-100 player according to Rivals. He has a (relatively) short, compact, powerful body with long arms, the perfect recipe for a penetrating, disruptive interior lineman. If he can add 15 or 20 productive pounds and get even a little stronger, he will be a monster.

JAMES MCKINNEY - DE - Louisville Central(KY)

Height: 6'2" Weight: 277
Lemming: #78 overall, #8 DE

Rivals: ****, #99 overall, #9 DT, #2 KY ****, #97 overall, #11 DT
Projected Role: Bad cop

McKinney is your runaway winner in this year's "weirdest recruiting process" category. McKinney originally committed to Michigan a year ago as a junior, but backed out of that commitment and began his long, strange journey, which culminated when McKinney took an official visit to Louisville and was asked to leave. He also rated his Michigan official visit a "6", mentioning that there wasn't much to do in Ann Arbor during finals week and that he was bored. Then he committed to the Wolverines anyway, but not before flirting with Clemson, Nebraska, Florida, Kentucky, Angelina Jolie, and my sister.

So we went from enthralled enough to commit early to traipsing about everywhere else to bored with Ann Arbor to getting sent home from an official to Michigan commitment once more. So we've established that McKinney might be a little eccentric. Fortunately, he's also extremely good at football. McKinney was primarily a defensive end and tight end in high school but moonlit at fullback and middle linebacker when the situation called for it. He is a natural for the defensive end position, a 270 to 280 pound athlete who can get the edge or burst inside with his strength, making 70 tackles and 10 sacks as a senior.

But my favorite thing about James McKinney is that he always looks angry. Every picture I've ever seen of him, and I've probably seen all of the ones that made it to the internet in my somewhat-disturbing scouring thereof, feature James McKinney, Mean Looking Hombre (see above). I figure there's a significant chance McKinney spends at least a year in the doghouse, but he's a natural for the defensive end spot who's been performing at a high level for a long time. He'll bring some attitude to the defense. Hopefully he doesn't bring too much to get himself on the field.


Height: 6'4" Weight: 275
Lemming: #88 overall (2004)
Rivals: ****, #86 overall, #3 DE, #9 CA (2004) ***, #20 DE (2004)

Projected Role: DE/DT tweener

Germany is the first-runner up in the aforementioned "weirdest recruiting process" category. Germany was long considered a heavy lean to Michigan last year, but when USC got involved with him in the days leading up to signing day, Pete Carroll's siren song was too powerful to resist. Germany disregarded the advice of his coaches --who counselled him to consider the amount of respect the Trojans paid him earlier in the year--and became Carroll's twenty-fifth or -sixth #1 guy.

At least, that is, until Petey needed to free up some scholarships. Germany came down with some NCAA clearinghouse issues that prevented his enrollment as a part of the 2004 class and pushed his scholarship offer back to 2005. But as winter rolled around, Carroll made Germany's scholarship contigent on him taking and performing well in three classes in the winter semester... an unheard of move and one pretty transparently calculated to inform Eugene that he wasn't really wanted. Germany took the hint, reopened his recruitment, and eventually committed to Michigan after considering various Pac-10 schools and Kansas State.

So what does Michigan have in Germany? A pissed off 275-pound defensive lineman who was a top-100 recruit in 2004. Germany actually played middle linebacker in high school, racking up over 300 tackles in his final two years to go with 14 sacks. He's a big, big guy who will start out at defensive end but may move inside.

Germany participated in a number of practices with USC before coming down with his case of noscholarshipforyou-itis and there is some confusion as to whether Germany will be able to enroll and play at Michigan without counting as a transfer. If the NCAA declares him to be a transfer expect Michigan to appeal.

MGOBLOG Editorial Stance

A+. Are you kidding me? Four top-100 recruits? This class is silly good, the strongest defensive-line class Michigan has ever had in the Lemming era of recruiting. No offense to the Bowmans, Stevens, and Heuers of the world, but these guys are on another level of potential. Gone are the days of 260-pound bulked up LBs at DT and 230 pound converted safeties playing DE. Michigan has had occasional NFL prospects on the line--James Hall, Will Carr, Shantee Orr, Josh Williams--but never the kind of players that could go in the first or second round. Now they have an entire defensive line of them.

I'm most excited about the defensive tackles. Taylor seems like the kind of player who may be underrated because he doesn't have the leviathan size that is en vogue for interior linemen to have these days, but he has a compact and powerful frame that will make him a huge problem for opposing linemen to handle. Slocum is 6'5" or 6'6" and massively powerful and nimble... plus he had never seriously started a weight program until last year. He was extremely effective at the Army All-American game practices against the top offensive linemen in the country and has only begun to scratch the surface of what he can do. I expect both of these guys to be impact players.

Both Germany and McKinney are reportedly around 270 or 280 right now, so there is some concern one or both could outgrow the defensive end position and have to slide inside. McKinney is explosive for a player his size and would be best on the outside. There was actually some talk he would play OLB if Michigan retains the 3-4. Germany has already added 15 pounds from where he was as a high school senior and will probably get even bigger at UM. He could actually end up inside at some point, but defensive tackle is a position where four or even five players will see significant time--as DTs have gotten larger their stamina has declined proportionally. Replacing a tired Watson with a fresh equivalent is a luxury few teams have. Michigan has the opportunity to have a deep, talented line, perhaps the deepest in a long, long time.

It, of course, remains to be seen whether Michigan can actually take advantage of these athletes, but this is a recruiting summary, not (yet another) coaching diatribe. The raw material is here. Molding it into a dominating force... well, let's keep those fingers crossed.