Previously: Last year's profiles. S Josh Metellus, S Khaleke Hudson, CB David Long, CB Lavert Hill, LB Elysee Mbem-Bosse, LB Devin Bush Jr., LB Devin Gil, LB Josh Uche, DE Ron Johnson, DT Michael Dwumfour.
|Paramus, NJ – 6'4", 293|
|Scout||5*, #1 overall
#1 DT, #1 NJ
|Rivals||5*, #1 overall
#1 DT, #1 NJ
|ESPN||5*, #1 overall
#1 DT, #1 NJ
|24/7||5*, #1 overall
#1 DT, #1 NJ
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace.|
|Notes||Paramus Catholic (Jabrill Peppers, Juwann Bushell-Beatty, Chris Partridge.)|
Michigan has never grabbed the consensus top prospect in the country since recruiting rankings were a thing. Maybe Drew Henson would have been that guy if the recruiting-industrial complex had gotten going slightly earlier. It did not, and thus Gary is undisputed as the highest-profile prospect ever to don a winged helmet. And it's close when it comes to any helmet, any time.
There are many reasons for this. One is the fact that as a rising junior his SPARQ test was better than the average DL at the NFL combine. Ian Boyd:
The numbers on Gary are jaw-dropping, no matter how inflated high schooler measurables can be. In a partially laser-timed SPARQ test before his junior year, he produced the following results, blowing away all other 2016 stars tested at the national event.
Height Weight 40 time Shuttle time Vertical leap Rashan Gary as a high school junior 6'4" 287 4.74 4.38 32.1" Average 2015 NFL Combine defensive lineman 6'3 1/2" 286 4.96 4.5 32.2"
That group includes some relatively lean defensive ends; Gary's got a big enough body to play defensive tackle. His 40 time was better than what 15 linebackers produced at last year's Combine. Three wide receivers had slower shuttle times, and five linebackers had lesser vertical leaps. Some of those NFL prospects were as many as 80 pounds lighter than Gary.
Some perspective from Scout's Scott Kennedy:
He out-jumped a wide receiver, he out-shuttled a defensive back and he out-40'd a BCS safety commit. At 287 pounds, that's insane.
Those numbers were gathered at the Opening in 2014, and his play matched or exceeded the promise therein. Despite being one of only two 2016 players invited, he was amongst the best players—not just defensive ends—present. Scout placed him in their East top five afterwards:
He was a combination of strength, power, athleticism and freakish natural ability. He didn’t win every rep, but he darn near did. And he did it despite having limited technique. Gary used his speed, balance and competitive fire to stand out, and make plenty of other players step back and watch.
Other analysts declared him "ridiculous" with "incredible burst, balance and strength"; "ridiculous" (again); and exclaimed that "speed, power, agility, acceleration, strength… yeah, Gary has it all." All of this was as a prospect a year younger than the rest of the best dudes in the country.
By the time the 2015 version of the same event rolled around he left no question who the main dude was. Then he followed that up with an impressive high school season and more of the same at the Under Armour game, where he tied a game record with three sacks after spending a week in practice making every five-star OL in the game look foolish. (Ben Bredeson drew mention as the only guy to give him even momentary pause, but that's another profile.)
Let us now deploy the longest and most effusive bulleted scouting lightning round in the history of this series.
- Greg Mattison, Michigan DL coach: "The thing that's so exciting about Rashan is that you can watch a highlight tape and then you can watch an entire game. And it's the same thing."
- Adam Gorney, Rivals: "Incredibly active, he’s like a whirling dervish, he’s impossible to stop and he’s going to be the guy every single play that just keeps going after offensive tackles so in the third and forth quarter he’s going to wear a lot of people down and get a lot of his plays.”
- Josh Newberg, 247: "In my nine years covering [the UA] game, I think Gary may be the single most dominant player I’ve seen. When he’s not sacking the quarterback, which he’s done a lot this week, he is disruptive as hell."
- Adam Friedman, Rivals: “He’s been totally dominant, tossing guys around from the first minute of the first practice on, just totally dominant. Today, during one-on-ones, he was going over, around and through guys. … You can’t say enough good things about how he’s done out here.”
- Bill Greene, Scout: "Last year at Under Armour featured three tremendous defensive tackles in Christian Wilkins, Terry Beckner and Daylon Mack. All three played well this year as true freshman. What I saw out of Gary today puts him way above those three. There are very few true difference-makers coming out of high school every year. Rashan Gary is exactly that."
- Barton Simmons, 247: "everything you want out of an elite defender. He's coachable, plays with effort and intensity, he's one of the best athletes in this class and he's versatile."
- Same dude: "Rashan Gary is the best prospect in the country right now. The guy may not have had two bad reps the entire camp. If an OL didn't come correct with Gary lined up on in front of him, he was going to not only get beat, but also get embarrassed. How good is Gary? This was the best defensive line performance I've seen since The Opening's inception."
- Mike Farrell, Rivals: "Just an animal, 100-percent every drill, 100-percent every rep, constant motor, physical as heck, puts offensive linemen on skates, really dominant whether he’s playing end or tackle. Everything as advertised, today.” … "as dominant as I’ve ever seen from a defensive tackle who played mostly outside and was still too fast and athletic for everyone.”
- 247 collectively, post-Opening: "just dominant. In every drill, every situation, every rep, he was the best The Opening had to offer. In fact, he's one of the best we've ever seen at The Opening. … If we're making bets on what alumni from this event are going to be sitting in the green room on NFL Draft night in a 3.5 years, the smart money is on Gary."
- Brian Dohn, Scout: "Gary is the most impressive prospect I covered at the high school level. If it was a camp setting, he dominated. If it was a game, it took two and sometimes three players to slow him down. Even when he was not making a play, he was impacting the game because he freed up others to make tackles. His speed, acceleration and power was always amazing to see."
Finally, Greg Powers resorted to the same shrug Michigan fans are currently deploying when they talk about Jourdan Lewis:
Rashan Gary did Rashan Gary type things. He is the No. 1 prospect for a reason. There are not too many more superlatives you can throw on him.
I deleted twice as much as I included here; the only thing less than rapturous is his ESPN profile, which has some of that disconnect between ranking and report that crops up. It's not bad by any means; a ton of "excellent" and "very good"… it's just more clinical:
Gary is a talented prospect that can wreak havoc at the high school level and has the size and has flashed the maturity to be able to come into a program and be able to contribute quickly. While a very good player at this stage, still has room to improve and round out his game and that current ability coupled with some continued upside makes him an excellent prospect.
I guess that guy who evaluated Isaiah Bell is no longer with the company.
He's a consensus #1 player. He's the first defensive tackle to finish #1 overall on Rivals. While Rivals doesn't think he's the quite best prospect ever, he's "somewhere in the middle" of a list of luminaries including guys like Vince Young, Adrian Peterson, and Percy Harvin. For much of the year 247 had him as one of the rare players who they'll break their ranking scale for. In the six years that 247 has been around, only 6 have gotten a ranking above 100. Five have gone on to be college superstars: Fournette, Clowney, Kouandijo, Nkemdiche, and Garrett. These are guys who don't need first names for CFB fans to identify them. (Okay, maybe Garrett since his name is kind of common: that's A&M defensive end Myles, currently projected by many to be the top pick in next year's draft.) The fifth, Trent Thompson, just finished his freshman year at Georgia. 247 broke the scale for Gary, too, and only reeled it back in late. Instead of a 101, he's now a 100. C'est la vie.
Recruiting rankings are in fact gospel when it comes to the bluest of the blue chips. Aside from a few guys (Dorial Green-Beckham, Bryce Brown, Seantrel Henderson) who didn't make it for reasons other than their talent, every Rivals or Scout #1 player in the last decade has at least been good and has usually been excellent. And even Brown and Henderson stuck on NFL rosters, with Henderson starting every game as a rookie.
Gary doesn't have any apparent character issues—in addition to Gary's insane suite of physical skills, he's consistently praised for his effort level and coachability. When Mike Farrell put together his awards from the UA game he mentioned Gary a half-dozen times; he probably would have named him winner of all those categories if he wasn't aiming for some variety. The awards he did give Gary are illuminating. One was for being the guy with the highest motor; the other was for most consistency. Meanwhile Michigan has a guy on staff who knows Gary very well. Chris Partridge:
"There are certain players who just have something," Partridge continued. "A work ethic on the field and in the classroom and a love for the game where they've got a bounce in their step when they hit the field."
He stacks up towards the upper end of these #1 prospects given the various superlatives that apply not just to his class but to anyone many of these scouting veterans have ever seen.
The recruiting folks have a strike rate near 100% on guys of this caliber, and on average this cohort of dudes trails Rashan Gary. If he stays healthy he's a lock All Big Ten player and it would be an upset if he wasn't an All-American.
But where does he go? The same place a grizzly bear goes: anywhere he wants. Clint Brewster:
He fits in any defensive scheme. Gary’s got the edge rushing ability to be a finesse defensive end in a 4-3 or a defensive tackle. He can really play any technique along the defensive line because of his blend of athleticism, quickness, size, and explosive power.
That evaluation is repeated various places. Put his hand in the dirt and you're good. The Boyd article above is all about how to deploy him, eventually settling on a combination of end and three-tech depending on Michigan's needs on any particular Saturday, on any particular snap. Brewster projects he'll settle in the 310-pound range, which is plenty big enough for DT and could make it challenging for even Gary to get a consistent edge rush.
To start Michigan plans to deploy him as a defensive end. That makes sense given the composition of the roster, which is thick with talented DTs. That composition changes radically next year, when the only veteran DTs on the roster other than the probable starters—Mone and Hurst—are Brady Pallante and Michael Dwumfour. Gary will probably stick at SDE, nominally, and start there, but he'll get an increasing number of 3-tech snaps as Michigan spots the DT starters.
Long term he fits best as the rare defensive tackle who is an impact pass rusher. His impact at 3tech is going to be greater than it will at SDE because a pass rush up the gut is doom in a way that coming around the corner isn't always; the number of players who can be a disruptive force in the backfield shrinks as you go from WDE to SDE to 3TECH to NT. Gary will end up at the place his impact is most outsized, except insofar as his position is "Being Rashan Gary." That spot is three-tech.
Etc.: South Carolina is weird, man. The most convincing explanation I've heard for the racist voicemail his school received is that it was a Gamecock fan.
Why Ndamukong Suh? Gary has the same kind of size and outlandish athleticism that Suh developed over his tenure at Nebraska. Suh was a four-star recruit who took significantly longer to develop than Gary projects to, only making an impact at Nebraska as a redshirt junior. But when he did, Nebraska's defense was just about impregnable. Suh's NFL draft profile reads almost exactly like Gary's scouting above does:
Suh is an excellent combination of size, strength and athleticism. He isn't a massive body but has enough power to play as a nose tackle in a 3-4 scheme or as a 4-3 defense tackle or end. … often unblockable for one offensive lineman and draws many double teams from opposing offenses. ….supreme blend of power and explosiveness from the defensive tackle spot. Possesses great size and strength to hold up at the point of attack in the running game or bull rush the pocket. Uses his athleticism and instincts to chase down running plays. Highly-competitive performer with a big-time motor.
Suh bore that out in the NFL, albeit with some anger management issues that Gary doesn't appear to have.
The closest Michigan comparable is probably Allen Branch, who was the kind of massively disruptive three-tech Gary projects to be down the road. I thought about Lamarr Woodley and Brandon Graham since both were five star recruits who provided buckets of pass rush from the SDE spot, but both those guys are a couple inches shorter and 40-50 pounds lighter than the finished version of Gary projects to be.
Guru Reliability: Exacting. As per usual with the top player in the country he gets scouted top to bottom.
Variance: Low. Already college-ready size, speed, and strength—make that NFL-ready. Coachable, smart, and high effort.
Ceiling: Vast. NFL first round pick potential, yes. First overall potential, yes.
General Excitement Level: /tents fingers, cackles.
Projection: Should slot in at SDE behind either Wormley or Charlton, depending on how things shake out. Even the surest things along the defensive line usually take a season or two to wind up to full viciousness, and Michigan has really good players across the front. He will still get a ton of playing time at SDE and as a tackle on passing downs, enough to be a virtual… uh… sixth starter along with the actual starters and Bryan Mone.
As a sophomore he moves into the starting lineup, probably still at SDE. While the roster is pretty scanty at DT after Mo Hurst and Mone, there aren't any slam dunk guys at SDE either; the best line Michigan has will put all three out at the same time. In his third and probably final year at Michigan, he's highly likely to move inside to three-tech, where he has his highest upside. From there to the stars.
oh hey look who's ready for the Tennessee camp [via the incomparable Smoothitron]
Unless you're about six years late joining Twitter or doing something ridiculous like spending time outside enjoying the summer weather, you've noticed that there's a new component tucked into Jim Harbaugh's satellite camp tour in 2016. Harbaugh's a master of both connecting with people and efficiency, and what better way to break the ice as quickly as possible than wearing the jersey of a local legend.
Sometimes they have Michigan connections (he wore a Denard jersey in Jacksonville), sometimes they have Harbaugh connections (he wore an Andrew Luck shirsey in Indianapolis), and sometimes they just show off how insane Harbaugh's list of Known Friends and Trusted Agents is (he wore a Hank Aaron jersey in Atlanta and got Aaron to wear a Michigan hat). The Matlete asked Seth when our jersey prediction article was going to be published, and that got the wheels turning; once you picture the gloriousness of Jim Harbaugh photoshopped into a Charles Woodson jersey there's no turning back.
June 6: Baltimore, MD- St. Frances Academy, Patterson Park
Johnny Unitas? Joe Flacco? His own jersey?
I'm torn here. Unitas may not play that well with kids in high school, but it's a nice nod to the Colts' history and to one of the best quarterbacks ever. Then again, there's an elite QB (or is he?) playing for Harbaugh's brother; he also could go with a Willie Henry Ravens jersey if he's looking for a Michigan connection. The wild card would be throwing on his old Ravens jersey, a gentle reminder that he knows the NFL from just about every perspective.
June 7: Mobile, AL- University of South Alabama
Hank Aaron, part II
Harbaugh may have already worn an Aaron jersey in Atlanta, but I see no reason to shy away from wearing it again in Hammerin' Hank's hometown; there aren't many athletes more impressive to call your friend than baseball's home run king.
June 8: Cleveland Heights, OH- Raw Talent U Camp
Howard's been around the program a lot lately, and though there are a few good choices from Cleveland they haven't won a Heisman at Michigan, ipso facto it's Desmond.
[Does the Harbaugh-in-a-Woodson-jersey picture show up again AFTER THE JUMP? You had to ask?]
Jalil Irvin's commitment post is here.
One of many softball-related activities that did not occur yesterday [Brian Fuller]
Severe weather delay. Most of the WCWS was rained out yesterday, so they'll try again tonight. This might be good for Michigan since starting pitcher Megan Betsa has a sore back. Michigan plays LSU at 9:30, or after the conclusion of an Alabama-Oklahoma game that was stopped in the middle of the second last night. On the other half of the bracket, Georgia continued its Cinderella run with a win over FSU; Auburn beat UCLA. Game's on ESPN2 tonight.
Harbaugh just likes it man. While nobody is denying that satellite camps are about recruiting, for Harbaugh it's also about football. Pick a report from one of these camps and you'll get some insight into Harbaugh's maniacal intensity:
During one exercise -- a one-cut drill with running backs in linebackers -- Harbaugh was so into things he completely lost track of time.
Another staffer shouted over toward him after taking a look at his watch: "Ready to rotate, coach?"
"No," he fired back with excitement. "OK, I guess so."
247's Keith Niebuhr is an Auburn reporter who was at the camp for his own Auburn-related reasons:
-The kids loved being around Harbaugh. He's very personable when he coaches these guys. It seems genuine. He speaks their language. Makes them all feel special -- even the kids that have no shot of being D-I guys.
Dude just likes football more than most people like anything. But he dislikes "soup sandwiches."
Sliiightly misplaced priorities. Let's recap events in the SEC since Greg Sankey went on his smarm offensive about satellite camps:
- Tennessee is hit with a Title IX lawsuit that alleges Baylor goings-on in Knoxville.
- Alabama fires an assistant coach because of recruiting violations. Saban further bitches about NCAA drug testing policies, implying that someone got McGary'd.
- Ole Miss is hit with a half-dozen Level 1 NCAA violations that don't even include the revelation from Laremy Tunsil that he was paid by Ole Miss employees. Contrary to the lies Ole Miss fed various credulous reporters, most of the allegations concern Hugh Freeze's tenure, not Houston Nutt's.
- Mississippi State enrolls a five-star recruit who was caught on tape beating a prone woman. They suspend him for the Southern Alabama game.
- Texas A&M loses a quarterback commit, causing an assistant coach to go on a twitter rant that causes further decommits. This one is more dumb than troubling, but it's really dumb.
The comeuppance here is truly spectacular, not that any of the various mouthpieces down south have noticed. Here's Tony Barnhart setting the last vestiges of his dignity on fire:
Had Mississippi State not taken Simmons, there was no guarantee that he could not enroll at another SEC school. https://t.co/hIf7LjctRA
— Tony Barnhart (@MrCFB) June 2, 2016
Hooooooly shit. Turn around and show us Sankey's hand up your back, buddy. Barnhart's descent into the SEC's personal Iraqi minister of information has reached its climax. What an ass.
Oh right and also that. Baumgardner runs down why Saban's crocodile tears about compliance are particularly funny/enraging:
Harbaugh did more than that. He called him out -- a hypocrite, actually. And I'm not sure how anyone can find fault with it.
Saban -- who has, of course, won four national titles at Alabama -- is literally in the middle of a situation where recruiting violations within his program were found. An assistant coach has been forced to resign and the school currently is awaiting the result of that NCAA investigation.
And if that were the only thing going on here, it'd probably be enough. But it's not.
Like in 2009 when a businessman paid for stars Mark Ingram and Julio Jones to go on a fishing trip. Or in 2013 when a former Alabama player was caught giving Tide offensive lineman D.J. Fluker impermissible benefits. Or later that same year when Saban had to fire a staffer after he paid safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
Anyone remember that whole deal about the disassociated Alabama booster who continued to sell signed Crimson Tide merchandise -- from players who still were on the team -- back in 2014?
Like Ole Miss this is just the tip of an iceberg. It should be interpreted as a glimpse into a sophisticated NCAA rule violation factory that occasionally screws up. Alabama does not care about NCAA rules one iota. Saban doesn't want to know. Bo Davis's mistake was knowing.
Further Baylor fallout. Baylor's 2017 recruiting class turned into a ghost town, as you might expect. They're down to one dude. More pressingly, seven players from Baylor's already-signed 2016 class did not enroll as planned and are asking out of their LOIs. One of them is already free to pick another school because Baylor treated his LOI like a sexual assault and didn't report it to the relevant authorities. Baylor isn't releasing them yet because they're holding onto a vague hope that Jim Grobe will be able to salvage some of these guys. Survey says not likely:
The elder Cobb said it was a "good visit, but we let them know my son wants to pursue other options. His mind is made up."
"We bought in completely, and we're crushed," JP's mother, Emily, said. "And it's more than Briles. The whole environment is toxic, and there is no way a kid should have to go there."
"We were shocked and appalled when we found out Thursday the severity and widespread extent of Baylor's wrongdoing in multiple instances," Julian said. "We had no idea. Now that we know, we will not be a part of that."
Baylor has 30 days before it has to make a decision and can force the various players who want to go elsewhere to either delay enrollment or pay their own way for a year. It's unlikely it comes to that—it seems like most of the Baylor defectors have no intention of going to Waco, so Baylor would be further killing its reputation for no benefit.
This is another example of why the NLI does little to nothing for players and should be avoided if at all possible. Players can sign financial aid paperwork that locks the school in without locking the player in.
Revisiting potential NCAA involvement. I do think the NCAA is going to do something here. There's a recent precedent in which a school violated its own policies and got hit because of it: Syracuse. Syracuse had a bunch of different things go down under scofflaw Jim Boeheim. One of them was ignoring their own drug testing policy:
"Like many of the other severe violations involved in this case, the institution's actions regarding its dismissal of the written drug testing policies and procedures were aimed at preserving student-athletes' ability to compete for the men's basketball program," the NCAA report said.
Baylor's internal justice-type substances are in violation of their written policies and should be similarly actionable, since it was also in the service of preserving eligibility. Hopefully it's far more actionable than Syracuse's issues.
Uh, yeah, poke around these guys maybe. At least two of the Baylor defectors should be of serious interest to Michigan: four star OL Patrick Hudson and JP Urquidez are both high-profile players who can play tackle. That spot is a sore one for Michigan after Logan Tuley-Tillman was booted and Devery Hamilton flipped to Stanford. Michigan was vaguely involved with Hudson; Urquidez went off the board just a few months after Harbaugh was hired and did not appear to have any relationship with M beforehand.
Michigan will undoubtedly ask both about their interest once that's permissible—schools can't contact any of these guys until they are released.
A balanced schedule. A desultory hooray for Big Ten Hockey, which finally managed to put together a second half of the season for Michigan without a month and a half between games at Yost. Michigan's back half has eight games, all of them in the Big Ten, and the longest stretch without a game at Yost is three weeks. I'm slightly nonplussed by the two bye weeks Michigan has in the second half—the weekends of January 6th and 28th are open. But this is much better than the previous two years.
Adam covered the nonconference portion of the schedule when it was released. In short, it's nice for fans to get BU at Yost but other than that it's a bunch of middling-to-bad teams that won't help Michigan make the tournament if their record isn't as shiny as it was a year ago. Which… yeah. Probably won't be.
Play the penalties before extra time. If one team outscores the other in the subsequent 30 minutes of open play, then that result will trump the outcome of the penalty kicks. If extra time ends in a draw, then the game goes to the penalty winner.
That's brilliant. While the shootout does still have its unsatisfying place in the game, playing it early reduces its impact and guarantees that one team will always be frantically pressing for a goal. That change should be implemented immediately.
Etc.: Pay-to-play in US soccer is a necessity because the money has to come from somewhere. Ken Starr's personality is to the best of his ability. Seriously, can we not send him to jail? Are there not laws against this behavior? Michigan's not attending Baylor's camp anymore, it appears.
The second day of this year's satellite camp tour has already produced a commitment. After a premature report leaked out yesterday, 2018 Stone Mountain (GA) Stephenson OG Jalil Irvin made his pledge public this morning:
— Jalil Irvin (@only1_lil) June 3, 2016
Irvin is Michigan's third commit in the 2018 class, joining Springfield (OH) teammates Antwuan Johnson and Leonard Taylor.
|NR OG||NR OG||NR OG||NR OG||NR OG|
Irvin is flying under the radar to this point. He didn't have a Scout profile until his commitment. None of the other three sites have ranked him. That should change following his Michigan pledge; for now, there's little to go on.
The sites agree that Irvin projects to guard, which makes sense given his size: 247 lists him at 6'3", 245 pounds, ESPN at 6'3", 273, and Rivals at 6'4", 265. Unless Irvin grows a couple inches before entering college, he should be ticketed for the interior of the offensive line.
For now, there's only one available report on Irvin. Rivals' Woody Wommack named him one of the standout underclassmen at the RCS Atlanta camp in April:
Irvin’s underclassman teammate at Stephenson, Dylan Wonnum, won overall offensive line MVP honors but Irvin wasn’t far behind him when it came to total rep wins during one-on-ones. The 6-foot-3, 273-pounder is more of a true guard, but he showed excellent footwork and strong hands while handling bigger defensive linemen.
So: is a guard, good feet, strong hands.
We do have a short sophomore highlight reel, which I'll put here given the dearth of information:
I mostly agree with Wommack. Irvin displays excellent quickness, especially when working his way to the second level, and he's a good puller for a high school prospect. When he fires out low and gets his hands into defensive linemen, they tend to move backwards, though it's apparent he'll need to add strength before college—there are a couple plays in there where he gets stonewalled after initiating contact.
Irvin is not a camp offer; he added his Michigan offer last month, then committed to the coaches after watching the Atlanta satellite camp. Irvin also holds offers from Illinois and Tulane.
Stephenson has produced two D-I commits in the Rivals era (2002-present), both in the 2017 class: three-star safety Carlito Gonzalez (Auburn) and three-star DE Aaron Sterling (Alabama).
Is OL, no stats.
FAKE 40 TIME
ESPN lists a 40 time of 5.61 seconds, which could be worrisome if Irvin didn't move so well in his film. Short-range burst is the bigger concern with offensive linemen.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Irvin said right in his commitment announcement that he'll still take other visits, so this indeed involved a lot of projection—as other programs pursue Irvin in earnest, Michigan will have to fight to hold onto him.
Since Irvin is an offensive lineman, it's safe to project a redshirt, and he'll likely spend a couple more years developing on the bench behind Ben Bredeson, Michael Onwenu, Stephen Spanellis, and the interior linemen Michigan land in the 2017 class. Irvin is a guard unless he hits a late growth spurt.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
It now has three people in it.
Michigan moved one step closer to a monopoly on the top-ranked in-state 2017 recruits when four-star St. Joseph DE Corey Malone-Hatcher announced his commitment to the Wolverines this afternoon. He chose Michigan over a group of finalists that included such luminaries as Alabama, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, and UCLA.
Michigan's recruitment of Malone-Hatcher dates back to his freshman year, and he's held an offer since his sophomore season. He is Michigan's 13th commit in the 2017 class and the first at defensive end; he's expected to be joined by top-100 WDE Luiji Vilain when Vilain makes his announcement on June 12th.
4*, #24 DE,
|4*, #13 SDE||
4*, 80, #20 DE,
4*, 92, #12 WDE,
4*, #16 WDE,
Malone-Hatcher's rankings are in a close grouping, with 247 more bullish than the field and Rivals as a relative skeptic—CMH is the final four-star in their SDE rankings. His rankings are all the more impressive when accounting for the fact that Malone-Hatcher has missed large portions of the last two seasons due to injury.
All four sites list Malone-Hatcher at 6'3" with weights ranging from 225 (Scout) to 246 (Rivals and 247); he's on the higher end of that range at this point. He's destined to play with his hand in the dirt, most likely as a weakside end who might eventually grow to play on the strongside, though he has spent some of his high school career at linebacker.
Scout's free evaluation provides a solid overview. Other than Malone-Hatcher's injury issues—most recently, an ankle issue that required surgery last fall—there's little not to like:
Great pass rusher who can dip his shoulders, bend the corner and get around offensive tackle. Agile kid who does a good job with his hands as well. Closes on quarterbacks quickly and has improved on his ability in coverage but can continue to work in that department. Main concern are a couple of injuries the last few years, but when he's been on the field, he's made an impact.
- Backside Pursuit
- Pass Rushing Skills
- Techniques and Moves
Areas to Improve
- Injury History
Malone-Hatcher first earned notice from the recruiting sites in the spring of 2014, when he named an underclassman to watch at the RCS Detroit, NFTC Chicago, and Sound Mind Sound Body camps. His performance at Michigan's technique camp that June went a long way towards him earning an offer, and Tim Sullivan could already see improvement in his game over the span of a couple months:
St. Joseph's (Mich.) 2017 Corey Malone-Hatcher is one of the state's top rising sophomores. He's already improved since his April appearance at the Rivals Camp Series in Detroit, and the 6-3, 210-pounder is adding a variety of techniques to his natural abilities.
Video from that camp includes multiple one-on-one wins for CMH against 2016 five-star Notre Dame signee Liam Eichenberg:
Malone-Hatcher hit the camp circuit hard again in 2015, earning praise from Josh Helmholdt for his versatility at the RCS Cleveland camp:
Measuring in at 6-foot-3 and 246 pounds, Malone-Hatcher ended up getting reps at both defensive end and linebacker on Sunday. He did remarkably well running with tight ends and running backs in the one-on-one session and recorded a couple pass breakups. Defensive end still looks like the likely position for him in college, though. Malone-Hatcher showcased a great first step and built speed to the quarterback despite adding 15-20 pounds since his sophomore season ended. He's still mastering the finer points of the position, but the raw physical tools that have attracted coaches were certainly on display.
That May, he posted SPARQ combine numbers that were among the better marks for 2017 defensive linemen:
Will be fun to watch 2017 DL Corey Malone-Hatcher develop into a big-time player.
101.88 Nike Football Rating
— Todd Huber (@ToddHuberSS) May 4, 2015
Despite battling through injury—a recurring theme—he was the only 2017 prospect among the six defensive standouts at Notre Dame's Irish Invasion camp according to the Irish247 staff:
Saint Joseph (Mich.) High Top247 2017 defensive end Corey Malone-Hatcher played standout outside linebacker during drills and was a blur coming off the edge despite being banged up. With his size and quickness, offensive tackles had a tough time getting a hand on the Midwest standout.
In August, heading into his junior year, 247 moved him into their top 150 overall prospects on the strength of his spring and summer performances. Since then, Malone-Hatcher hasn't had much of a chance to push his way further up the rankings due to the ankle injury, which cut his senior season short after only a few games but made his camp play all the more impressive in retrospect:
"He took a few weeks off to recover [after the initially injury]," his father Orlando Malone said, "but the injury resurfaced at Rivals camp. He was able to play through it, but it impacted his explosiveness. The injury came back even stronger at the NIKE camp in Chicago. The issue kept surfacing whenever he would try to explode off his leg and accelerate. Even though Corey had good camp showings at Michigan and Notre Dame, he still had to shut down early due to pain. After that, we cancelled camp visits to MSU, Alabama, and Ohio State to get him healthy.
"Once we got into the season, Corey was playing five positions (WR, TE, FB/H-Back, DE, and LB) including special teams. He was having a great year on both sides of the ball as his athleticism still showed through. In his last game, Corey exited and didn't return. This time we decided to consult a specialist about the injury."
That foot specialist told Orlando that his son had been essentially playing on one leg since March.
ESPN's evaluation, which appears to have been updated for his junior year—there's also a prior underclassman eval—praises his "good-to-excellent size," strength that hasn't fully translated to his play yet, and overall physical attributes while noting the need for technique improvement; they're waiting on him to settle on a position:
Malone-Hatcher moves around and plays multiple positions for his team. He needs to settle in and find his best fit and develop in that area, which we feel is on the defensive line. Plays linebacker and while he has more limitations in that role, can still certainly offer some versatility in how utilized within the front-seven. There is room to improve and that should come as he narrows down his positional focus, but good versatile, active defender with some upside.
There's a lot of hedging throughout that report, but the underclassman eval had a more positive bent ("Regardless of where he lines up is a very good defensive prospect") and they rank him within their top 300.
Malone-Hatcher holds offers from Alabama, Cincinnati, Columbia, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisville, Michigan State, Minnesota, Mississippi State, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Penn State, Tennessee, UCLA, Virginia Tech, and Wisconsin. A very impressive list, especially considering his injury history.
According to the Rivals database, which dates back to 2002, Malone-Hatcher will be the first Power 5 signee to come out of St. Joseph High School. The only other prospect from the school to even be ranked by Rivals is three-star 2015 Western Michigan signee Wesley French.
I couldn't find complete stats for him.
FAKE 40 TIME
Malone-Hatcher has a combine-verified 40 time of 5.10 seconds, which gets zero FAKEs out of five.
Training and camp highlights from 2015:
Sophomore highlights and single-game reels can be found on his Hudl page.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
With both starting defensive ends (Wormley and Charlton) set to depart after the 2016 season, Malone-Hatcher could get the opportunity to play as a freshman—as of now, none of the other DEs on the roster have proven themselves on the field. It's more likely CMH will take a redshirt year before competing with Lawrence Marshall, Chase Winovich, Reuben Jones, Ron Johnson, Carlo Kemp, and Shelton Johnson for a place on the two-deep.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Malone-Hatcher is the first of what should be four defensive ends to join the class, and we have a very good idea who the second will be: Michigan is far and away the favorite for Luiji Vilain, and they're also in great position for three-star OH SDE James Hudson.
As for how in-state recruiting is shaking out, I'll leave this here:
Not bad, I guess.
Michigan is up to 13 commits in a class that should reach the upper 20s. Positions of need going forward include wide receiver, offensive line, defensive tackle, cornerback, and safety. Here's the class as it currently stands:
FOR THOSE WHO HAVEN'T PAID ATTENTION IN A YEAR OR TWO
If you're just joining us after the World Cup, hoo boy. The US has alternated impressive friendly victories over world powers with dismal performances against the likes of Jamaica and Guatemala in competitive matchups. The US had its worst-ever Gold Cup, limping through the group stage and getting bashed out of the competition by the Reggae Boys in the semi, then losing in the third-place match. Since then the USA has careened wildly from one thing to another; they're now in slight danger of missing out on the World Cup after a first-ever loss to the aforementioned Guatemalans.
Even Aussies writing for the Guardian have noticed:
Jurgen Klinsmann is …
… an average coach whose motivational abilities can’t disguise his tactical shortcomings. JW
… stretched too thin. The technical director of US soccer keeps interfering with the head coach in trying out new personnel to bring through, with a perpetual eye on a distant event horizon. The coach is unable to settle on a side with all this going on, and should maybe take that up with the technical director, but the technical director … etc etc. GP
… still unsure of his best team and tactics and surely ripe for replacement if the Copa is a catastrophe. TD
… relying on new blood. Pulisic, Brooks, Nagbe and Wood have excited in recent matches. Will they finally fulfill Klinsmann’s promise of proactive soccer? DM
… always a motivator, never a tactician. Klinsmann’s Achilles heel is that he doesn’t have a plan B. LME
For Michigan fans the parallels to Brady Hoke are many. Good recruiter; tactically deficient, in over his head, tends to clap a lot.
Some good things have occurred. Klinsmann was ahead of the curve on both Jordan Morris and Bobby Wood, and did call up Darlington Nagbe the instant he was eligible. (Starting him seems to be a bridge too far at the moment.) Along with the aforementioned three, the emergence of Deandre Yedlin as a legit EPL right back and John Brooks's continued development give the USA a player pool that is at least on par with the best they've ever had—even without Jozy Altidore, who will miss the tournament with another hamstring injury.
Meanwhile, there appears to be a light at the end of a long dark tactical tunnel. But first…
A BRIEF RANT ABOUT AVAILABLE TALENT
If any eurosnob you come across attempts to defend Klinsmann by trashing the USA's current talent level, please stab them. The USA got out of a World Cup group in 2010 with a striker corps of Altidore, Robbie Findlay, Edson Bubble, and Herculez Gomez. Fringe EPL defender Jay DeMerit, Belgian-league star Oguchi Onyewu, and either Jonathan Bornstein or an out-of-position Carlos Bocanegra were most of the defense. Ricardo Clark and Maurice Edu split time in the midfield; neither of those guys ever made it in a top league. (Edu did have a good run at Rangers.)
This USA team figures to feature:
- More or less the same goalies, Bradley, and Dempsey
- Two regular Bundesliga starters (Johnson, Brooks) and a guy just signed by Hamburg after scoring 17 in the German second flight(Wood)
- Two regular EPL starters (Cameron, Yedlin)
- A regular for Nantes (Bedoya)
- A former Schalke captain (Jones)
- aaaand Gyasi Zardes
Off the bench they'll bring Christian Pulisic and Darlington Nagbe instead of one the aforementioned strikers and Edu/Clark. Maybe the talent isn't better, but for it not to be the dropoff from Landon Donovan to Not Landon Donovan would have to be stunning.
Anyone who tries to tell you the USA doesn't have the talent to get out of this group or not get massively outshot at the Gold Cup last summer is the kind of soccer hipster who should be deported.
AT LONG LAST, A PLAN
The USMNT's long-standing lack of commitment to any approach, lineup, or even center-back pairing finally appeared to resolve itself into a formation and even a starting 11 over the past few friendlies. It looks like the US is set to deploy a 4-3-3 close to this:
This more or less makes sense. Without Altidore the US does not have a traditional burly center forward. They do have a couple of fast buggers and one ornery Texan with a nose for goal and sweet moves. The 4-3-3 accommodates these gents.
A lot of commenters hate Dempsey as a "lone forward" up top, including MLSsoccer.com's Matt Doyle. His desired formation inserts Wood up top and has Dempsey as a highly nominal right winger.* Doyle is an excellent analyst who I agree with most of the time, but not here. While Dempsey is without question the USA's most skilled and dangerous attacker, he's never been an industrious player. Now that he's into his 30s, expecting him to cover on defense is foolhardy. Putting him (again, nominally) up top allows him to marshal his energy reserves and allows a much more spry player to provide cover when the game demands it. Zardes, for all his flaws, runs his ass off to support on D.
Dempsey's best as a striker when the US is out of possession. When the US gets the ball his natural tendency to drop deep provides center backs with a dilemma: allow Dempsey time and space to turn in or near the final third, or challenge him and hope the space you're leaving doesn't bite your ass. Bolivia chose the latter and gave up chance after chance, including the opening goal:
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) May 29, 2016
In fancy talk this is Dempsey operating as a "false nine." (Fancy people will refer to the lead striker as the 9.) Dempsey facilitated several dangerous opportunities by playing like this; in addition to the goal you can catch him playing Wood in at around 1:30 on US Soccer's highlights of the game.
Dempsey is well suited to this kind of play. He's crafty, he's skilled with the ball at his feet, opponents are generally wary about getting too close because he has the ability to smoke 'em. This makes sense. Maybe. Probably.
We don't know it makes sense because Klinsmann has spent every friendly he's had on something that is not this. Whether the US can sustain this in a competitive match against a good opponent is unknown. Whether Klinsmann will even stick with this setup is unknown. He has rumbled about going with Beckerman when opponents deploy an attacking midfielder, ominously.
But still, I'll take something that looks like it makes sense, and might remain the same for a few danged games consecutively.
*[You may have heard me describe a 4-3 under in football as a defense halfway between the 3-4 and the under's 4-3 predecessor, the 4-3 even. Positional designations in soccer are far less rigid but the same principle applies here: a 4-3-3 often turns into a system that is a hybrid between one- and two-striker systems. If Dempsey is deployed on the "right wing" he is going to function like a slightly right-biased underneath striker.]