Hecklinski / Singletary Class Review (Part 2)

In part two, Michigan's recruiting brain-trust – recruiting coordinator / WR Jeff Hecklinski and director of player personnel, Chris Singletary discuss Michigan's philosophy on wide receiver recruiting, the progress made by last year's wideouts - Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson, the recruiting inaccuracies propagated on twitter, the defensive back haul, and much much more. *With video**

  • For those that missed part one of this feature, click here.

Getting right back into this recruiting class, 27 players strong, and people nit-pick, you know, you look at a class, and everyone says it’s great, they try to find a flaw. One of the things that they say when they get to your position group, they say ‘hey, you know what, Michigan didn’t really get any blue chip receivers. They didn’t really get any speed. They didn’t get a big play wide out.’ Tell me what the misconception may be about what a big play wide out is. Do you have to run, or do you have to be a four three guy to be a big play wide out? Break down your philosophy.

HECKLINSKI: I think, first off, the hardest thing to judge on high school football film is how truly fast a kid is. It’s just hard to judge because of the amount of people that are actually running as fast as they can possibly run, compared to those kids. I mean, they’re usually the best athletes on the field, and there’s usually one of them, maybe two, but usually just one of them, so it’s hard to compare. A guy can look really fast, and he’s running by me. Let’s be honest, now, right? You’d probably look good on film if you were running by me.  So that’s hard to judge. I think a big point of emphasis when we recruit receivers is player development.  You know, we have the best ranking conditioning coordinator in the country in Aaron Wellman, and the fastest gains that a kid makes when he enters our program is in strength and speed, so what we look for – the one thing a wide receiver has to be able to do is catch the football. Has to be able to catch the football. And just look, what’s Junior Hemingway known for? Big play catches, right? So when we recruit wide receivers, the first thing we look at are ball skills. Can he extend? Can he get the ball away from his body? Can he jump? Can he get over the top? If a kid can be full stride, take off on one foot, get over the top of one or two guys, adjust to the ball, torque his body, go catch it in his hands, come down, and continue running and score a touchdown, that’s a pretty athletic kid, and he can do it on a consistent basis over and over again – you look at C’Sonte York’s highlight tape, and what’s he doing? Jumping over guys, making great plays, plus then you counter it and you look at it, and say well, he plays on both sides of the ball, he’ll stick his face in contact, he’ll knock the heck out of you as a DB, and he can do this as a wide out. That’s a kid that’s very intriguing to us. Now, then, when he enters us, I mean, they do call us coaches for a reason, now. We have to coach these kids, you know, they’re not going to know the techniques and the fundamentals from a receiver standpoint. They’re just not going to be taught that in high school, so that’s where it comes in that we have to develop them as players, but they have natural instincts to be able to catch the football. A wide receiver that can’t catch the football, that’s a bad deal, now.

So a lot of the same critiques we’re hearing about this year’s receiving class, we heard about last year’s receiving class. You had the fortune of coaching Amara Darboh, Jehu Chesson, for a year, so what maybe don’t people know about the guys you already have in the fold? I mean, you have some fast guys with ball skills here now, right?

HECKLINSKI: Right, right, and they’re developing, and that’s what you want. Some of these kids are going to come in and play early. Amara played, and Amara played because we knew – number one, we needed a wide receiver to play this year, and we needed a kid that was going to gain some experience, because we knew, going into next year, with losing Roy, we were going to need somebody who has been on the field, and done some things, and done some things special teams-wise for us too, so now we have Amara coming in, he has game experience, so now throughout the spring, we’re working on getting him catching experience and big play experience, and that pressure’s going to fall upon him, and now we have the spring to teach him, so it’s not going to be all brand new when he hits Central Michigan next year in the Big House. He’s been in the Big House before. Now Jehu, on the other hand, has not, which was the perfect fit, because now we’ve separated them in eligibility, year of eligibility in between them now. Jehu has four years to play. He was a little bit more on the raw side, but I’ll tell you what, from a speed and agility standpoint, you talk about fast, Jehu came here, and he ran in the mid 4.4s. I mean, that’s pretty fast. So I mean, you’re not getting a whole lot faster, but again it comes back to ‘can he catch the football?’ Because if he can’t catch the football, you’re not a receiver, so that’s what we’re building this off of, so if you look at all the kids – you look at Jaron, if you look at C’Sonte, and you look at Damario, all those kids make plays, catching the football in their hands, away from their bodies, and all those kids are on the field almost the entire game playing both sides of the ball, so then they bring value in the special teams game. You know, they’re returners, they’re punters, they’re guys that are on the kickoff return, on the front line blocking. I mean, there’s a lot more that goes into this than ‘ok, can I run straight ahead fast?’ Now, believe me, I like them straight ahead fast too, don’t get me wrong.

Guys, do this for me, because rarely do you guys get a chance to talk about what your impressions are of the ratings. We kind of heard what you think of people’s perception of receivers, so was there a guy, or were there guys that you looked at, that you recruited, that you landed, and you said ‘man, the service has got it completely wrong on that guy. They completely missed the boat, they don’t know what they’re talking about’? Are there any guys that kind of stuck out like that to you when you looked at the rankings, that you said ‘oh, they completely missed the boat on them’?

HECKLINSKI: Not, not – you know what…

I know you really don’t put – you know, rankings are the be all, end all, but –

HECKLINSKI: No, because you guys have a job to do too, and –

Oh, that’s nice. I don’t do rankings, by the way.

HECKLINSKI: No, but I mean, those services have a job to do, and if all those kids from one state, or one area, are all these highly rated kids, and all the rest of the kids around the country are low rated, then they’re only going to get subscriptions from a certain part of the state. So, look, they do their jobs, that’s why they get paid to do their jobs, and we get paid to do our jobs, and our jobs at the end of the day are to bring the kids into the University of Michigan that we feel best fit, and are going to help continue build the brand, and put Michigan football into the national spotlight on a greater level.

So, do you guys – because I know social media is a part of what you guys do now –

HECKLINSKI: Did all your reporters get together before hand and just take a script of all the questions, because you’re all asking the same questions.

No, I had no idea. I wasn’t even there to grill you with those guys.

HECKLINSKI: And they’re going in order, too, let me tell you. You’re going right down in order.

Really? Well, social networking is clearly a part of it. I’m curious if you guys ever sit and take a chuckle at all the wrong information that comes across Twitter.

HECKLINSKI: Oh my gosh…

All the guys that you haven’t offered that have offers, all the guys that have committed to you that you didn’t offer.

HECKLINSKI: What’s the old saying that your momma told you when you were growing up? Don’t believe everything that you read, right? Just because somebody Tweets it doesn’t mean it’s true. I’ll leave it at that. It’s like a Tweet is –

SINGLETARY: It’s the gospel truth.

HECKLINSKI: Yeah, he Tweeted it, it must be true.

SINGLETARY: Man, we sit in the office and laugh about it sometimes, like ‘did you read that?’

One guy who was maybe the source of the most Twitter action was Henry Poggi. I think it’s fitting that we talk about Henry Poggi, and what you guys have landed in that young man? He clearly was a heavily recruited guy. Some people say he’s an interior guy, some people say he’s more of an edge guy. What is Henry Poggi going to be at Michigan?

SINGLETARY: Henry is a football player. That’s what he is. When you watch Henry on film, he’s almost like old school throwback. He doesn’t care what he plays, he’s productive, he’ll go in there on offense – sometimes you’ll watch him on offense and he’s the wing, and he’s wedge busting and he’s doing the wham block, but Henry is a productive football player. He is not flashy, but he has substance, and at the end of the day, when you’re that guy who’s looking at the stats, or watching the film, and our coaches have done that, they’ve said ‘man, you see how he affects the game’. He might not necessarily make the tackle, he might be eating up blocks, but he’s slippery, he productive, and he’s a football player. Well coached on the fundamentals.

Certainly, he put on a show down at the Under Armor game. Another guy who put on a show at an All Star game was Derrick Green. We’ve heard a lot, talked a lot, about Derrick Green, and we’ll get to him shortly, but what I’ve noticed is, in all of the excitement about Derrick Green, and all of the excitement about the other tailbacks that were recruited along the way, people tend to forget that you had another big time running back in the class already in DeVeon Smith, so tell us a little bit about Deveon.

HECKLINSKI: Well I think what you have to remember is all these kids are going to come in and transition differently, so who knows how this transition’s going to take place for each individual kid, because it’s all different. I think in Deveon and in Derrick, I think in style you’re getting two classic Michigan, ‘we’re going to pound you, we’re going to smack you, we’re going to hit you square in the mouth, and we’re going to get up, we’re going to hand the ball to the official, and we’re going to get back in the huddle, and give me the ball again, because I’m going to hit you again, and then I’m going to get up, and give me the ball again coach, because I’m going to hit him again. I want him’. And that’s what we’re looking for. That’s our style, that’s what we’re building towards. And then you have another kid in there, Wyatt Shallman, who in my opinion, has adds so much versatility to an offensive football game, because he can line up in so many different places and do so many different things, and he’s not just a blocker, he’s a kid that can go back very easily and play tailback in short yardage, and in passing situations, because he block, catch, and run, so I think you have three kids there that continue to build upon what we’re starting here, and if you put the two classes together, I think it becomes pretty clear how we’re going to build this. We’re going to pound the ball offensively, you saw us in the South Carolina game, once Devin got moved to quarterback, we’re going to double move you, we’re going to throw the ball over the top, I mean, get ready, because we may triple move you. Sam, we may put you out there and quadruple move you, to get the ball deep, but all that takes place – you have the ability to do that because you have the ability to run the ball and pound it, and that’s offensive linemen and power tailbacks; and then defensively, stop the run with the front seven.

Before we let you guys go, I do want to focus on defense a little bit. We talked about Henry, but there are other notable guys in the defensive class. Let’s talk about that secondary, Chris, because there was a clear, clear motivation to get bigger in the secondary.  So you get Reon Dawson, you talked a little bit about Channing Stribling, you get a guy like Delano Hill; talk specifically about Reon and about Delano, the two most recent additions to the defensive secondary.

SINGLETARY: What you see with those two young men is they bring not only great height, but great length with their wingspan. With Reon being a corner, Delano being a safety, they’re able to affect the passing lanes, whether they’re playing zone coverage, and with Delano, he’s a hitter. He’s going to come across the middle, and he’s going to let you know he’s there. With Reon, he can play bump coverage, he has great hips, great feet, great speed… and at 6’2” and change, and the wingspan, he can press cover, or he can play zone, and he has great ability there. So what you do now, is now you bring some length to the game. With more teams having bigger receivers, now you’re able to match up, and now it’s more of a fair game. And then, when you have a guy like Dymonte Thomas back there to match up with Delano Hill, and then you have Stribling, and you have Jourdan Lewis, and you have Ross Douglass, I know one thing, Kurt Mallory is feeling a little bit better.

You know, one of the questions that people keep asking is ‘is Delano going to be a safety or is he going to be a corner for you guys?’ What’s he going to be?

HECKLINSKI: Let him figure that out. I mean, and I think that’s with all these guys, you know? We have to let them come in, get their feet underneath them, and play. They’ll figure it out. And again, everyone says ‘well who’s going to play early?’ They’ll figure it out.

SINGLETARY: They’re all going to get the same opportunities.

HECKLINSKI: That’s right, they’ll show us. There is no entitlement, and the best person’s going to play. If there’s a great player out there, we look at it like this, this is the easy way to describe it, if we have a great – two great, we have two returning, obviously, Taylor Lewan, great offensive tackle, right? And we have Mike Scofield, started a lot of games, very good Big Ten offensive tackle, has a chance to be really, really good. Now, if we have a third offensive tackle, and he’s one of our best five offensive linemen, do you sit him, or do you move him down to guard because he’s one of your best offensive linemen? They figure it out. Sometimes necessity makes them move to another position, and then they eventually move up to tackle. How many times have we seen that? Kid starts at guard and he ends up being an all Big Ten tackle. Let the kids come in and play, and let them play at their own rate, because if you do that, then you’re going to get them comfortable fast, and then transition happens real quick.

As we close things up here, guys, Brady talked about, at the beginning of his press conference, the things that you emphasized in this class. You wanted to get bigger and more physical in the trenches, you wanted to go out and get some tailbacks in there, he said you wanted to get some more length at receiver as well. When you look ahead, now that this class is in the books, they were saying something about maybe at this point, about 16 scholarships, give or take a few, in the next class, what are the points of emphasis in the next class. What are the things that you kind of highlight in the next class, to say ‘hey, we want to go get this’?

HECKLINSKI: I think now what you’re going to start to see us doing is build from positions of strength. We’ve addressed a lot of needs in the last two classes, and now we’re going to build from positions of strength, so you know, in the offensive line, now because it is a small class, we have the opportunity to be a little bit more selective, and look for specifically targeted individuals and positions now, and I think that’s what you’re going to see. Obviously, there’s going to be a quarterback in there, and we know that, and then from there, you take great athletes, and it comes back to the same thing. When a kid walks through the door, we have to be able to look at him and say ‘that looks like a Michigan man’, and when we go out, and when we went out in December and January, that’s what we’ve been looking at. We want Michigan men that walk through the door, and you guys say ‘that’s a Michigan man’. So don’t target individuals, Sam, quit trying to pinpoint.
SINGLETARY: We’re targeting football players.

I’m just saying, when you look at the last class, for instance, you have six linemen, a lot of guys, you know that – more interior guys that can play on the exterior. Can we expect that in the next class, maybe more tackle types, for instance?

HECKLINSKI: I don’t know if you can determine that right now, because I think the market kind of helps determine that too. You know, maybe – hey, if there’s a great guard, and we feel he’s the best offensive lineman, and he’s better than five offensive tackles, then we’re going to take the best player that fits Michigan, and that’s going to help us to continue to build the brand, so that’s why it’s hard to say, and that’s why everybody says ‘well, you were only going to take this, but you ended up taking this’. Well, the market kind of dictates that to us to, now, because we don’t want to  bring somebody in here – it’s not fair to bring an individual into Michigan who doesn’t fit Michigan, and who isn’t going to be able to play here at Michigan, just because we said ‘ok, we wanted a corner, and we took that kid as a corner’.

Right, so if the market is strong in Michigan, then you go in Michigan, and you basically pillage and plunder and take all the best players, you don’t leave any scraps for the –

HECKLINSKI: Stop, stop, stop!

That wasn’t, I’m just (Laughter) –

HECKLINSKI:You did not – don’t do it, don’t do it.

I’m not putting that in your mouth, I’m just saying (Laughter). That’s me, that’s not him!

HECKLINSKI: Look, we are Michigan.

Yes, that is right.

SINGLETARY: Sam, at the end of the day, we’re just going to take care of us.

I hear you. That said it best, I like that. This is Michigan.

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