Michigan Wolverines: Noah Furbush

On the Michigan football team, the rich just keep getting richer.

The linebacking corps, which was arguably the deepest and most consistent position group this season, signed three more talented prospects on Wednesday and has an early enrollment already on campus in Michael Ferns.

Besides Ferns, the Wolverines picked up Noah Furbush, Chase Winovich and Jared Wangler.

Michael Ferns
John S ChristensenESPN 300 LB Michael Ferns leads a group of four linebacker signees that will make a position of strength even stronger.
Those four, in addition to the wealth the position already has, is very good news for the Wolverines. Between Desmond Morgan, James Ross III, Joe Bolden and Ben Gedeon at middle and weakside linebacker, and Jake Ryan at strongside linebacker, the 2014 class might not see a ton of early playing time, but it definitely gives the coaching staff plenty of options.

“I like their attitudes,” Michigan coach Brady Hoke said of the 2014 signees. “I like how they attack the game.”

What he’ll really like, however, is how versatile each player seems to be. Hoke said he could see Furbush playing the middle or weakside linebacker position, while Ferns seems set at middle linebacker. Wangler, because of his athleticism and experience in high school (he also played safety) could play weakside linebacker or be moved over to strongside linebacker, which is where the staff anticipates Winovich will play.

However, all of this is just projection until the coaches are really able to spend time with each player. Ferns is on campus for spring football, so the coaches will have a good idea on his position, but the staff will have to wait for fall camp on the other three.

With how much the coaches relied on Ryan last season after returning from his ACL injury, and how much they expect him to improve during the offseason, that will be a very interesting position to watch. Brennen Beyer, who played the first few games at SAM, will be back and could take reps at the spot to give Ryan a break, but that job could also go to the youth.

“You can go about your SAM linebacker two different ways,” Hoke said. “You can go with a guy who has long arms and has a lot of range on him playing over a tight end. If you’re playing more 4-3 then you don’t have to have that kind of guy, or if you are still playing in an under front your SAM can play a bit wider, like the Vikings used to play. ... We have to see them running around a little bit and see what they do best.”

Furbush is the biggest of the signees at 6-foot-4, 235 pounds. Hoke recalled the story of how he played his senior season with a cast on his arms before cutting it off by himself with hedge trimmers. Like Furbush, Winovich is also 6-4, but he’s a bit lighter at 215 pounds. Though Winovich is lighter, Hoke said his physical build reminds him of Ryan.

Ferns is shorter still at 6-3, 228 pounds. He weighs in similarly to Ross and Morgan but is two inches taller than both of them. Wangler is 6-1, 215 pounds.

Combined, the linebacking corps this season accounted for 31 tackles for a loss, including 12.5 sacks. The group also tallied nine pass break ups and seven quarterback hurries.

With all but Cam Gordon returning there might not be a ton of reps available for the 2014 class, but the coaches will play younger players if they step up enough, and the coaches certainly feel confident about this class. Even if they aren’t going to be players that start or contribute immediately, this class brings a tremendous amount of depth to the linebackers.
Brady Hoke will sign his fourth Michigan recruiting class Wednesday. Currently, the class sits at 16 commitments and the only real question mark still out there is defensive end Malik McDowell, who will chose between Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Florida State.

Hoke will address the media at 2 p.m. Wednesday, the first time he’ll be able to discuss these players publicly. Follow along on Twitter for updates throughout the day. Until then, here’s a primer to tide you over in your day-before-signing-day wait.

THE 2014 CLASS

Current ranking: No. 12 (16 commits)
Big Ten teams ahead of Michigan: Ohio State (No. 6, 22 commits)
Big Ten teams in the top 40: Penn State (No. 22, 24 commits), Wisconsin (No. 31, 27 commits), Northwestern (No. 35, 15 commits), Michigan State (No. 39, 20 commits)

Commits by position:

Quarterback: 1 | Wilton Speight*
Running back: 0
Wide receiver: 3 | Drake Harris*, Maurice Ways, Freddy Canteen*
Tight end: 1 | Ian Bunting
Offensive line: 2 | Juwann Bushell-Beatty, Mason Cole*
Defensive line: 3 | Bryan Mone*, Lawrence Marshall, Brady Pallante
Linebacker: 4 | Michael Ferns*, Noah Furbush, Chase Winovich, Jared Wangler
Defensive back: 2 | Jabrill Peppers, Brandon Watson
*denotes early enrollee, already signed letter of intent

WHAT TO KNOW

[+] EnlargeJabrill Peppers
Miller Safrit/ESPNThe Wolverines have been able to hang on to top cornerback Jabrill Peppers, which is no easy feat.
Dry spell: Michigan hasn’t received a commitment since Aug. 8, 2013 (Wangler). At that point, the Wolverines recruiting class was ranked No. 6 in the Recruiting Nation rankings. Between the on-field play during a 7-6 season and other teams stepping up their recruiting games, the Wolverines missed out on several top targets.

No. 1 at one time: Last April, when the 2014 class rankings debuted, the Wolverines were ranked No. 6. In May, Michigan climbed to No. 1. At that point, Michigan had nine commits, eight of whom were ranked in the top 150. Since that point, several Wolverines commits dropped in the rankings, and now they have nine commits in the ESPN 300. And when Michigan was the No. 1 class, the Wolverines were still in on several top recruits in the 2014 class. Of those big-name prospects, the only one to commit to the Wolverines was Peppers, the No. 1 cornerback in the country.

The players who chose other schools over Michigan were defensive end Da’Shawn Hand (Alabama), wide receiver Corey Holmes (Notre Dame), Alex Bars (Notre Dame), wide receiver Artavis Scott (Clemson) and defensive back Parrker Westphal (Northwestern). The most troubling part of that is how the Wolverines had personal connections with so many of those players. Holmes grew up a die-hard Michigan fan. Bars’ older brother is on the Michigan roster. Scott is best friends with Cole. Westphal’s high school position coach played at Michigan. And yet, the Wolverines missed on all of them.

Top commit: Peppers. Not only is he the most important commit from an on-field standpoint -- he should be an immediate contributor for a struggling secondary -- but the fact that a 7-6 Michigan team could keep the commitment from the No. 1 cornerback in the nation says a lot about the relationships that were formed. He had offers from Alabama, LSU, Ohio State and almost everywhere else. He could have left for any school. But the fact that the Michigan coaches were able to keep Peppers during a tumultuous season can be considered more of a coup than getting Peppers committed in the first place.

Lineage: Wangler. The name should sound familiar to most Michigan fans. John Wangler was a quarterback for Michigan (1977-80) and is most remembered for his 45-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Carter that gave the Wolverines a victory over Indiana in 1979. Jared’s older brother Jack, a walk-on wide receiver on Michigan’s roster, will be a sophomore when Jared enrolls.

More and more depth: Linebackers. It looks as though the Michigan linebackers group is going to get stronger. This season, that group was the most consistent defensive position group for the Wolverines, and now they’ll add four more quality players. Among Jake Ryan, Desmond Morgan, James Ross, Joe Bolden and Ben Gedeon, there won’t be much playing time for the taking, which means these players are going to be able to learn behind some very talented guys while also competing against them in workouts. Greg Mattison just keeps adding talent to the well he already has at linebacker, so look for this group to continue being the most consistent for the Wolverines in seasons to come.

[+] EnlargeBryan Mone
Courtesy of IntersportBy enrolling early, defensive tackle Bryan Mone could be in line for early playing time.
Early enrollees: 6. This is the second season in a row that Hoke has had six early enrollees. Last season, offensive lineman Kyle Bosch, offensive lineman Logan Tuley-Tillman, tight end Jake Butt, defensive end Taco Charlton, defensive back Ross Douglas and defensive back Dymonte Thomas enrolled early. Of those six, three were big contributors this past season, which bodes well for the six who came in early this year. Speight adds solid depth at quarterback, but he likely won’t need to contribute next season. Cole and Ferns are in similar positions in that they’re both talented, but because of the depth in front of them, it could take them longer to earn playing time. The two guys who could be the quickest to see playing time would be Harris or Mone, as both come in at positions that could use more bodies and talent. Both will have extra time with their position coaches and with the playbook.

No commits: Running back. The fact that the Wolverines aren’t bringing in a running back in this class isn’t a huge concern. Between Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith (and Drake Johnson, assuming he recovers well), the Wolverines are in good hands for the next few seasons. However, after losing the commitment of running back Damien Harris, the No. 1 running back in the 2015 class, there's a bit of a concern considering he was going to provide depth. Including Harris, Michigan has offered scholarships to three running backs in the 2015 class.
Michigan divides its linebackers in its meetings, so we’re doing the same here. Today, we’re looking at the middle linebackers and weakside linebackers. The unit was arguably the most consistent group of any -- on both sides of the ball --- this season for the Wolverines. For a team that went through a very up-and-down season, the linebackers were one of the few bright spots that remained bright (almost) all season.

[+] EnlargeJoe Bolden
Lon Horwedel/Icon SMIJoe Bolden and the rest of the Michigan linebackers have a bright future.
THE GOOD: Three of the Wolverines’ top five tacklers this season were Will and Mike linebackers -- James Ross III, Desmond Morgan and Joe Bolden. The three combined for 114 solo tackles and 14 tackles for a loss. They were the core of the defense and, behind a defensive line that didn’t get pressure consistently, they held their own. Freshman Ben Gedeon also got significant playing time late in the season and that experience will be huge for him moving forward. In his limited time he recorded 19 tackles and one sack and showed major potential. Additionally, this is a group that’ll have time to build chemistry during the spring and fall seasons as each member in the three-deep will return.

THE BAD: This isn’t completely the linebackers’ fault, but Michigan struggled against the run this season. The Wolverines’ 3.8 yards per rush allowed is actually the same as last season, and they allowed 10 rushing yards less per game in 2013 than in 2012. But it was the sixth best in the Big Ten behind Michigan State, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Iowa and Nebraska. And if the Wolverines want to be elite and compete for Big Ten titles, stopping the run is key. Michigan allowed 64 runs for 10 or more yards and 36 percent of opponents’ runs against it went for at least five yards. Michigan allowed five more rushing touchdowns this season than it did last season, and in clutch games against Ohio State (8.5 yards per rush) and Kansas State (4.1 yards per rush), the Wolverines struggled against the run. Obviously if the defensive line was able to get more pressure, the linebackers wouldn’t be called upon to make as many plays as they needed to this season. But stopping the run falls on the linebackers and they didn’t live up to the “expectation of the position.”

THE FUTURE: All significant contributors from 2013 return next season so the future looks bright. On top of that, Michael Ferns enrolled early and at 6-foot-3, 228 pounds, he’s a player who doesn’t have to go through a huge physical change before he’s able to start competing for time. The Wolverines also have a 2014 commitment from linebacker Noah Furbush (6-4, 235 pounds), another prospect who is a physical, hard nosed linebacker. This is a position at which the Wolverines have built very good depth and a position that will continue to have skilled players through the next few seasons.

Previous posts:
Quarterback
Running back
Wide receiver
Tight end
Offensive line
Defensive line

Big Ten recruiting mailbag

October, 18, 2013
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It’s time to dip into the Big Ten recruiting mailbag and answer some of your questions. We’ll try to give everyone a chance to get their questions answered. We encourage you to send your questions by Twitter to @bbournival or @TomVH.

[+] EnlargeDamian Prince
Tom Hauck for Student SportsOT Damian Prince, who is No. 22 in the ESPN 300, no longer seems like a sure thing for Ohio State.
@darkknight1093: Does the late offer to Frank Ragnow indicate that the Ohio State staff believes Damian Prince is trending away from the Buckeyes?

Brad Bournival: I won’t speak for the Ohio State staff, but I’m almost firmly convinced the Prince-to-the-Buckeyes ship has sailed. In fact, I would put it at 95 percent right now that he signs with Maryland in February.

That’s how confident I am that Prince (Forestville, Md./Bishop McNamara) he stays in-state at the end. When a program tells you it wants you to be the face of the program like the Terrapins have, it’s hard to argue against it.

@dannograef: Who is the biggest sleeper commit in the Big Ten?

Tom VanHaaren: It’s no secret that I think highly of Minnesota running back commit Jeff Jones (Washburn, Minn./Washburn), who completed his regular season with 39 touchdowns. I think he’s a candidate, I also like Illinois commit Mike Dudek (Naperville, Ill./Neuqua Valley), Michigan commit Noah Furbush (Kenton, Ohio/Kenton) and Northwestern commit Dareian Watkins (Galion, Ohio/Galion). Penn State commit De'Andre Thompkins (Swansboro, N.C./Swansboro) is in the ESPN 300, but doesn’t get talked about enough. He’s going to do big things for the Nittany Lions.

@HoosierHolmes: How much would making a bowl help Indiana’s recruiting efforts?

Bournival: To answer that question, I send you over to Penn State where recruits have gone on record to say they won’t choose the Nittany Lions because of the inability to go to a bowl for the next two seasons.

To be more precise, winning breeds winning and attracts more attention from bigger names. The proof is in the fact the same schools in the Big Ten stay on top of the recruiting rankings for that very reason. Kevin Wilson is slowly turning the program around. If he can end the five-year bowl absence this season, don’t be surprised to see a boost in recruiting as well.

@mike_albach10: I really like Malik McDowell's size and intangibles. What do you think his ceiling is?

VanHaaren: He is ranked No. 67 overall and the No. 4 defensive tackle. He is a giant, first of all. He has slimmed down some this season, but he is still head and shoulders bigger than everyone on his team. I think McDowell (Southfield, Mich./Southfield) would make an excellent 3-technique defensive tackle for any team in a 4-3 scheme. In Michigan’s defense, he would be able to slide outside to the strongside end spot in running situations and inside to tackle on passing downs. I think he is yet to tap a lot of his potential no matter where he ends up.

@WWEFan20134: Who do you think the final six will be for the class of 2014 for Ohio State football recruiting?

Bournival: With Mike Gesicki (Manahawkin, N.J./Southern Regional) picking Penn State I only see five. The others I feel much stronger about are Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga./Liberty County), Chad Mavety (Garden City, N.J./Nassau Community College), Thomas Holley (Brooklyn, N.Y./Lincoln) and teammates Marshon Lattimore (Cleveland/Glenville) and Erick Smith.

@Collin_Stauder: Could the play of Michigan State’s defense this year be enough to possibly sway (Parrker) Westphal or McDowell?

VanHaaren: Michigan State always plays good defense, so that’s not something new for those guys. I think that’s part of what attracted them to the Spartans in the first place, so I don’t think that’s a bonus at this point that will tip the scales.

I think the Spartans probably have a better shot with Westphal (Bolingbrook, Ill./Bolingbrook) than McDowell at this point, but at the same time I still think Northwestern has a lot to say in Westphal’s recruitment as well.

The play on the field has definitely helped attract some top prospects lately, but Michigan State needs to build on the Indiana win and show more than defense to some of their targets.

@buckeyefan686: Since the Buckeyes missed out on Gesicki who do you believe they land at tight end, or would they just not take one in this class?

Bournival: I think getting a tight end is an absolute must as I’m not convinced moving Sam Hubbard (Cincinnati/Moeller) over is the solution. Even though Ohio State doesn’t utilize the tight end much, there’s not a plethora of depth at the position. Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett will be back next season, but Blake Thomas’ career is likely done with the Buckeyes and Marcus Baugh is unproven at this point. Expect them to make a harder push for DeAndre Goolsby (Derby, Kan./Derby), who took an official visit for the Wisconsin game.

@hartley_nick: Any negative recruiting vibes with Michigan’s struggles on the field?

VanHaaren: Not yet. It was only one game and Michigan still only has one loss. It was an emotional loss for the fans because of how deeply they dig into things and diagnose the issues in specific games.

Recruits don’t tend to go that far into things like fans do. If you were to ask a recruit what they saw in that game, they would probably tell you two teams who fought hard into four overtimes and one came out on top.

If that type of play continues, though, and Michigan doesn’t show progress, then I think you could start to see some noise. I don’t think would be any issues with the 2014 class or even the 2015 kids that have already committed. If the season goes downhill, I think you’d see the most impact on uncommitted 2015 targets, but still that doesn’t seem too likely at this point.

 
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The summer camp season proved to be exciting, as it always is. Here are 10 things we learned through this summer.

1. Camp will always be a proving ground

The 2014 class will only have about 18 members, so when Michigan headed into this summer’s camp with 10 commitments, it was unsure how many camp offers would really exist (especially considering how many highly-ranked guys had, and still have, interest in Michigan). But for guys like Brandon Watson (Elkton, Md./Eastern Christian Academy) and Freddy Canteen (Elkton, Md./Eastern Christian Academy), camp was all they needed. Their performances there were enough to garner offers. Sooner rather than later, those two turned those offers into commitments. And it wasn’t just true in the 2014 class. Offensive lineman Jon Runyan Jr. (Philadelphia/St. Joseph’s Prep) became the Wolverines' third commitment in the 2015 class after he proved himself at camp and picked up and offer.

2. The barbecue in the Big House is still … big

Fresh Ideas: Linebackers 

July, 5, 2013
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Can a true freshman really contribute at the college level? Is it easier at one position than another? Over the summer WolverineNation has been breaking down the probabilities of playing time and projections of the Wolverines’ freshmen, position by position.

[+] EnlargeGreg Mattison
Lon Horwedel/Icon SMIMichigan DC Greg Mattison will experiment with different combinations at linebacker, which means some freshmen will be in the mix.
What it takes for a true freshman linebacker to play: The linebacker position seems to be a spot in which a true freshman can come in and contribute immediately. With the right combination of physicality, smarts and intensity, a freshman can rely on instinct and his foundation to make an impact on the field. That’s not necessarily the easiest thing to do, especially with defensive coordinator Greg Mattison wanting his linebackers to be more and more physical, but with more advanced strength and conditioning programs in high schools across the country (as well as several prospects working with individual trainers), the physical hurdle -- which used to be one of the highest -- now seems much more manageable.


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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan had several areas of need in the 2014 class, chief among them being quarterback and linebacker, largely due to injuries both position groups have suffered. Here’s a look at the top five areas of need and what Michigan has done to address them so far.


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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Even though late June and early July are often slow times for recruiting, the No. 1 recruiting class continues to add members. Michigan picked up three 2014 commits in the span of a few days and two 2015 commits last weekend.

Linebacker Noah Furbush (Kenton, Ohio/Kenton) gave his pledge to Michigan on Monday morning, his coach Mike Mauk confirmed to ESPN.com via phone.

“We’re excited for him,” Mauk said. “They were the first school to offer him. He’ll be an hour and a half away from home with Coach [Brady] Hoke and his staff and their great tradition. He’s excited about his commitment.”

Furbush chose the Wolverines over offers from Michigan State, Purdue, Tennessee, Kentucky and Nebraska, among others.

“Throughout my recruitment I just wanted to get around as see as many places as I could,” Furbush said. “I knew I wanted to commit before my [senior] season started. Michigan was one of the first to offer me and so right from the get-go it had me thinking a lot about Michigan and they were under high consideration.”

He liked how Michigan was close enough to his hometown but not too close. And he’ll have a bit of family close by as his older brother attends physical therapy school at the University of Michigan-Flint.

The 2014 prospect made up his mind this past weekend after having conversations with his parents and coaches, but it was his second visit to Ann Arbor in early June that really separated the Wolverines.

“My family believes in something called due diligence. We wanted to further evaluate Michigan and have them evaluate us,” Furbush said. “I think it was a good opportunity to engage with the coaches and form relationships with them.”

He’s the Wolverines’ 14th overall commitment and their third linebacker commit, joining Michael Ferns (Saint Clairsville, Ohio/Saint Clairsville) and Chase Winovich (Jefferson Hills, Pa./Thomas Jefferson). Michigan coaches have told the 6-foot-4, 235 pound-prospect that they’d like to use him as an inside linebacker, even though he plays outside linebacker for his high school.

“He runs like a defensive back,” Mauk said. “He moves and changes direction very well. He’s physical and very aggressive. He has a great nose for the football and a great burst, and he makes plays. I think his best years of football are still ahead of him.”

The rising senior hopes to study engineering at Michigan and holds at 4.0 GPA at Kenton High School in northwest Ohio. Mauk said he believes the Wolverines are picking up quite the commit with his four-star linebacker.

“He’s a tremendous leader and a great person,” Mauk said. “It’s just a great fit.”

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