January 11, 2008

Under Armour coaches impressed with Wolverines

While most eyes were on the Army All-American Bowl last weekend, a larger contingent of future Wolverines, including four-star receiver Daryl Stonum, participated in the Under Armour All-Star Game in Orlando. TheWolverine.com spoke to the recruits' position coaches to get the scoop on their practice performances …

Stonum, the Dulles, Texas, native that enrolled at Michigan on Monday, didn't play many snaps in the all-star game, but the lack of opportunity did not sully his experience or his attitude, receivers coach David Smith reported.

"Human nature is that in a situation like that you're not going to be positive, but that kid had a smile on his face all week and all game and he told me afterwards he was excited about the fact that in a few days he'd be up there in Michigan," said Smith, who coaches at Klein Oak in Houston. "His attitude was extremely refreshing. I don't know that I've ever met a kid with a more positive outlook."

Though Stonum only saw the field a few times, he had an excellent week of practice, according to Smith.

"He's very fluid in everything that he does," Smith said. "He's not even close to tapping out his abilities and you could see that in practice because from the first day to the last he had improved and gotten better each day.

"The thing with all receivers is so many of them in high school catch with their bodies so we really focused in on learning to catch with your hands, properly. If you look at a guy like Terrell Owens, he may have a ball or two hit him off the chest but that's because he's 100 percent focused on his hands. Daryl was one of the kids that really, really took to that coaching. He wanted to learn that skill and I told him what separates receivers are their hands. I think he can be great in that area."

At 6-foot-2, 180 pounds, and blessed with 4.4 speed, Stonum has the ability to impact wherever he lines up during his career in Ann Arbor.

"He's big enough, and physical enough, to be that guy you go to on third down," Smith said. "He's fast enough to get down the field and he has the speed and quickness that he could be a slot receiver, go over the middle and catch the ball on the run. He really has it all."

Smith also spent a good amount of time during the week with U-M four-star commitment tight end Brandon Moore. The 6-foot-6, 243-pounder from Trotwood, Ohio, had a different personality than Stonum - much quieter, shy even - but displayed the same tremendous work ethic.

"He's a really, really nice kid - a kid you'd trust with your daughter on Saturday night," Smith said. "He's a big kid, big hands, great frame. He was a solid blocker for us, No. 1. I could see him growing into another position if that's something they want from him. He could get huge and play tackle, but that's going to be up to the Michigan coaches someday.

"As a receiver, he's not ready to play right away, but you like to see potential and the potential is there. He has soft hands, but he's not fundamentally sound quite yet. He needs to learn some things about squeezing that ball with his thumbs and bringing it into his body properly so that a defender can't get in there and knock it away. But like I said, he worked hard at it all week and he's going to improve quickly with good coaching."

Though Stonum and Moore weren't granted significant access to the field during the 60-minute game, at least they had the chance to suit up all week at their preferred position. That wasn't the case for four-star athlete Christian Wilson. But even though he envisions a future on the offensive side of the ball at Michigan, he didn't complain once about playing his second-favorite position, linebacker.

"I talked to my linebackers early and he just said to me, 'Coach, I'm an offensive guy but I just want to play and work my hardest this week,' and that's what he did," Under Armour linebackers coach Joey McGuire said. "He didn't fight his assignment at all. He did a great job of picking everything up. I was really impressed how smart of a football player he was. He picked everything up quickly and when the ball was snapped he played like a maniac. He played hard."

At 6-foot-2, 228 pounds, Wilson has the body to add more muscle, eventually developing into …

"I could see him as a beast at middle linebacker if he ever decided to play there in college or even at defensive end," said McGuire, who coaches at Cedar Hill High School in Texas. "But I also see him becoming that big, bruising fullback that Rich Rodriguez had at West Virginia. Defensively, he has really good vision, very good lateral movement and great feet. I think those skills will translate well if he plays offense for them."

McGuire called Wilson "a great kid" and was impressed that the McKees Rock, Pa., native looked him in the eye when he addressed the linebackers.

"The thing you can't stand is when you're talking to a group and kids aren't paying attention," McGuire said. "It happens all the time, but that kid … I had his attention and you love it. He'd even come up to me after drills and ask a few questions, which shows just how much he wanted to learn about the game considering he's going up there to Michigan to play offense."

Perhaps the most impressive future Wolverine in Orlando was four-star offensive tackle Dann O'Neill. The 6-foot-8, 291-pound Grand Haven, Mich., native wowed those in attendance, earning rave reviews from his two offensive line coaches, including Mountain Brook, Ala., coach Chris Yeager.

"He's going to be a great one," Yeager said. "Whoever coached him did an unreal job. He's a very intelligent player and makes everything seem easy. We'd go through a drill with the kid and it almost looked effortless for him."

The Red team barely worked on its run-blocking techniques because the coaches knew they were going to pass often in the game, yet Yeager practiced it enough to get a feel for O'Neill's ability in both run- and pass-blocking.

"To me, he's a kid that will excel at both," he said. "He's the closest to being a complete football player that I coached.

"To me, the biggest thing was that day in and day out he was so consistent. I've done a few of these all-star games and I was dreading the all-star attitude, the prima donnas, but he was just so hungry to learn everything he could and was so eager to do it correctly. He didn't have a bad day, didn't have a bad drill or a bad play. He knew we couldn't afford to take him out of that game and he never blinked.

"The kid is an absolute stud. I think Rich Rodriguez is going to have the same reaction I did after the first day … 'I'm glad this kid is on my team.'"

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