To avoid a 5000-word post, I'm breaking the roundup into two parts. Today's covers the performances of Michigan's commits—plus a new offer—from the weekend's The Opening finals. Tomorrow's will cover the considerable recruiting fallout from the weekend.
McCaffrey Builds Rapport With Iowa McCaffrey
— Sam Webb (@SamWebb77) July 10, 2016
This year's iteration of Nike's elite camp, The Opening, has come and gone, and Michigan's commits and top targets acquitted themselves well. Team Hypercool, the squad comprised largely of Michigan recruits, made a nice run in the 7-on-7 tournament—knocking off Buckeye-heavy Team LunerBeast in the process—despite minor injuries causing Donovan Peoples-Jones and Nico Collins to both sit out by the end of the tourney.
Michigan commit Dylan McCaffrey - He looks like a pro on the field. Not in terms of his size or physical traits, not even his technique. The way he processes what's in front of him is elite though. He has a glaring technical flaw that he needs to clean up but when that happens, he's going to be special for Jim Harbaugh.
Unfortunately, Simmons didn't elaborate on the "glaring technical flaw," which I assume has something to do with McCaffrey's long delivery—he brings the ball down low before releasing, a habit that can be fixed over time.
With Peoples-Jones and Collins both sidelined by the final day, McCaffrey had to build a rapport with other receivers, and he found a pair of unlikely go-to targets. One was four-star MI CB Ambry Thomas, who flipped sides of the ball and showed he's a very talented receiver prospect. TMI's Josh Newkirk:
He already had a stellar Saturday showing at cornerback, but late in the evening he switched to offense due to injuries at wide receiver for Hypercool.
And the switch worked for Thomas, how well exactly? Well, the four-star standout caught four touchdowns of 40+ yards on simple go routes, he simply just out ran his opponent. It was one of the better performances you’ll ever see in a camp setting.
While Thomas is first and foremost a (very good) cornerback prospect, he's got the potential to play both ways in college. His performance earned him a spot on the all-tournament team.
McCaffrey's other favorite target came in as a nondescript three-star who'd had only MAC offers until last month. IA WR Oliver Martin left with a Michigan offer after earning the trust of his potential future teammates, per Sam Webb:
His chemistry with McCaffrey was readily apparent on an over the shoulder throw 40 yards down the seam for a score in the semis. That was clearly Martin single biggest play, but where he consistently did damage was in the short and intermediate areas. He consistently moved the chains. Michigan fans should picture Grant Perry, but bigger, stronger, faster, and with more shake. This isn’t a kid that the Wolverines were heavily involved with before The Opening, but they are now. Thanks to some not-so subtle suggestions from the Michigan commits at The Opening, the Maize & Blue offered Martin a scholarship Sunday night. He spoke to The Michigan Insider afterward and expressed his strong interest.
247's Steve Wiltfong wrote a feature on Martin today that is well worth your time; in addition to being a football prospect who's going to rise up the rankings considerably, Martin is a D-I baseball prospect and state champion swimmer, and his younger sister just nearly made the Olympic swim team as a rising high school junior. Their father was a standout swimmer; their mother the same in track. Michigan might have just found the Iowa McCaffreys.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
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, DT Rashan Gary, DE Carlo Kemp, OL Ben Bredeson, OL Michael Onwenu, OL Stephen Spanellis, TE Nick Eubanks, TE Sean McKeon, TE Devin Asiasi, WR Eddie McDoom, WR Nate Johnson, WR Kekoa Crawford, WR Chris Evans,
WR Brad Hawkins.
|Egg Harbor, NJ – 6'3", 205|
|Scout||4*, #131 overall
|Rivals||4*, #139 overall
#26 WR, #4 NJ
|ESPN||4*, #216 overall
#33 WR, #7 NJ
|24/7||4*, #324 overall
#17 ATH, #8 NJ
|Other Suitors||OSU, MSU, ND, FSU|
|YMRMFSPA||Greg Mathews or
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace.|
|Notes||Twitter. Early enrollee.|
Like Chris Evans, Ahmir Mitchell might not actually be a wide receiver. He is one now and so here he goes, but all you have to do is look at the 2017 safety depth chart—Tyree Kinnel, a Khaleke Hudson who really needs to be taking over for Peppers at SAM, a couple question marks, and tumbleweeds—and then plug available safety-shaped objects in that hole. Meanwhile, Mitchell's stock as a wide receiver has been on a steady slide over the past year and a half. His rankings dropped from top 100, near top 50 in some cases, to outside of the top 100; 247's dramatic revision of his ranking saw him barely hold on to four-star status.
Mitchell is a safety-shaped object, and an intimidating one. Hypothetically. This post won't talk about that much because nobody evaluated him as a defensive player past brief mentions that his athleticism could lend itself to a switch. Don't rule out linebacker, either.
Let's start with the good bits. Mitchell's a grown-ass man already. His high school coach says he has an "NFL body right now and you can say he comes from special genetics"; Nick Baumgardner noted that Mitchell "looks nothing like a prospect who should still be in high school" after Michigan's trip to IMG this spring. ESPN's evaluation leads with Mitchell's impressive physical package:
Thickly built and sturdy with good height ... Moves and looks like a tall tailback. Displays power as a runner and top end speed is very competitive. May not be a jet or overly fluid speed guy, but he can accelerate on a straight-line.
Mitchell attended various Rivals camps:
…every wide receiver at Sunday's camp was tall and fast, but even in a physically impressive crowd like that, Mitchell stood out. With that physique, it should be no surprise that the 6-foot-2, 197-pound Mitchell has a powerful stride and he pops in and out of his breaks. Defensive backs that try to press him are going to lose either the strength or the quickness battle, but Mitchell even exploits off coverage with his ability to create separation in his routes and by using his body to shield defenders from the football.
Reports about Mitchell's speed vary. Some say it's "good for his size". 247:
…very impressive specimen and will arrive ready to play … Runs well for a young man his size (4.67 laser-timed 40-yard dash), Mitchell is a physical football player, catches the ball well and is another that could project at other positions including safety.
Rivals repeatedly praised his ability to move to the moon: "athleticism jumps off the page": "athleticism and potential is off the charts"; "one of the best athletes in the country"; "athleticism, explosiveness, strength and speed make Mitchell one of the top wide receivers in the country"; "very explosive." Meanwhile ESPN praises his "imposing get off," which arises from a combination of strength and speed—Mitchell can blow through most attempts to press him.
When Mitchell was trying to get an OSU offer at one of their camps, Bucknuts pinged someone "inside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center" for their opinion:
"I really like him as a player,” the source said. “He's big, he's strong, and he can move for a guy who's already 215 (pounds). That said, I know we're looking at him and asking if he'll grow out of wide receiver."
His physical ability lends itself to the strongest part of Mitchell's game: YAC. He is equipped with a nasty stiffarm and once he finds himself in space with the ball he's got enough wiggle to turn opposition tackle attempts into arm tackles, which he is strong enough to blow through. Touch The Banner:
…ability to run after the catch is probably his strongest attribute. He frequently uses his long wingspan and a stiff-arm to brush away smaller defenders.
…rugged wide receiver that is at his best running after the catch. like a running back after the catch … [picks] up tough yardage with his strength and explosiveness. He’s got strong hands and the ability to out-muscle defensive backs on jump balls or in close coverage. Mitchell… size, strength, toughness, and quick-twitch make him a coveted player. …thrives catching short passes underneath, as well as smoke-screens.
ESPN calls him a "power runner" and says he "makes most of his big plays … because he is so difficult to tackle in the open field":
he makes things happen with the ball in his hands especially when he can quickly transition after the catch as he is a one-cut, slashing type of runner. He is far more elusive that he is sudden, fluid or laterally agile. He builds to top end speed and when you think he's going to get walked down, he will somehow pull away. He's as fast as he needs to be.
He’s physically ready to play college football right now. … decent change of direction skills, but his straight line speed is the differentiator for him. His ability to accelerate and hit another gear is outstanding. …dynamic after the catch. …strength to run through tackles … really makes him great. He has a good stiff arm that compliments and his size and power. He looks very much like a running back after the catch.
There's not much question that Mitchell is an NFL athlete. There are some scattered concerns that he got too big as a senior and lost the necessary quicks to play wide receiver, but he's listed on Michigan's roster at 205. That should be fine even if he adds the usual 15-30 pounds players usually do once they hit college. Mitchell's game is never going to be separation. If he's going to stick at wide receiver and perform it's going to be as a guy who goes up and gets contested balls.
Reports about his ability to, you know, receive things are varied. Mitchell was a big-deal top 100 prospect to just about everyone when he went to that OSU camp and dropped a bunch of passes:
"The performance at Ohio State really killed him rankings-wise," Farrell said. "That was his first appearance where he was consistently dropping passes. I wasn't at Ohio State but there's video out there, and Josh Helmholdt was there, and he just had a lot of drops. That scared the heck out of some because wide receivers need to catch the ball."
"His hands are not a concern for me. They're really not," Farrell said. "I saw him at the Rivals Camp in New Jersey and he was very good."
While dropping a guy 50 spots based on one camp when he did this…
…really stood out during the drill portion of camp, separating himself with explosive speed and he made a bunch of tough one-handed catches. He is a big receiver with a lot of ranginess and he can create space against most defensive backs. Mitchell was a little too quiet during the one-on-one session.
…size, explosiveness, competitiveness and reliable hands were on full display on Saturday. Cornerbacks that tried to jam him at the line of scrimmage were quickly dispatched and errant passes were hauled in with ease. There was one pass that Mitchell hauled in with one hand between two defenders. He had to pin it against his body because the defender was holding onto his other arm.
…at various preceding ones is a bit of a hair trigger reaction, Mitchell didn't provide a counterpoint. He came off a reasonably productive junior year (47 catches, 872 yards) with a bunch of hype, and then his stats fell off a cliff. As of mid-November Mitchell had just 13 catches. Per MGoBlue he finished with 30; I'm guessing most of those were within five yards of the LOS. He averaged barely ten yards a catch, and his highlights have a ton of YAC in them. The half-season senior highlights above consist of a lot of handoffs on which he gains five yards and tackles made while he plays corner. While that's not necessarily Mitchell's fault—his QB manages to wobble a two-yard crossing route in that video—recruiting sites can only go on what they see, and they didn't have much data to go on after that camp.
Mitchell's overall polish and routes are also frequently questioned. Brewster notes he's a "raw player" and "still learning from a technical standpoint"; Son of a Coach says he's "not a sharp route runner at this time". After watching his highlights I have to agree. Mitchell appeared to run three routes in high school: bubble screens, crosses, and fades—mostly the former two. The fades that should be his bread and butter don't even see him leap most of the time. He doesn't high-point the ball, and there are only a couple of catches that are contested.
As a result I don't necessarily trust a lot of the praise in Mitchell's scouting reports. Given available evidence much of it reads like "here is a trope about a big receiver". Scout:
… good hands and knows how to use his body to gain position against smaller defensive backs. He comes out of breaks well but needs to be a bit more precise in his route running. He is a tremendous competitor, and it shows when the ball is in the air. He high-points the ball, and doesn't mind going over the middle.
Former ND QB Evan Sharpley praised Mitchell's "exceptional ball skills"; BGI says the same thing. I guess this could be something he showed in camps. There's nothing in any of his highlight tapes to confirm or deny such a thing.
Mitchell enrolled early, but didn't leave much of an impression. When I saw him at Ford Field I thought he looked like a "big time athlete, very unpolished". He dropped a couple of quick passes. Meanwhile Michigan's official twitter feed tweeted out a video in which Mitchell loses a slant route to Reon Dawson because he misses his attempt to paw him away on his cut:
Good battle between Ahmir Mitchell and Reon Dawson pic.twitter.com/4oOrV8h8DE
— Michigan Football (@umichfootball) March 1, 2016
Despite a dearth of options that saw Shane Morris pressed into duty as a slot receiver, Mitchell wasn't targeted much in the spring game. That's not a ton of data, freshmen wide receivers are often behind, etc. Still some data, none of it pointing the right direction.
Compounding some iffy returns from Mitchell's first spring practice is an off-field incident that all the insiders have muttered about but nobody has detailed. Per Scout's Brian Dohn, Mitchell nearly decided to transfer afterwards. Some variety of suspension may be forthcoming. Whatever the issue was it was serious enough to imperil Mitchell's career at Michigan before it even started. That greatly increases the chance he ends up washing out for reasons other than his talent.
Major battle in the #WarOnRutgers:
Why Greg Mathews or Jonas Mouton? Mathews was a tall, relatively burly mid-four star guy a while back. He was reasonably fast but didn't get a ton of separation; his hands were okay, but not great. He played early largely because Michigan didn't have a lot of other options shaped like him and topped out as a 30-catch receiver as a junior and senior. Mitchell is much more of a wild card than Mathews, who seemed boring and okay from the drop. Mitchell could be anything at all.
Other comparables include Junior Hemingway, a jump-ball maestro who played at 230 pounds one year, and—if Michigan gets very lucky—former Notre Dame receiver Michael Floyd. BGI brought the latter comparison up in their film evaluation, so don't blame me for that one. Floyd ran a 4.4 40 at the NFL combine and Mitchell is unlikely to match that, but speed wasn't really Floyd's game in college.
As a safety, Mitchell's physical package is similar to Jarrod Wilson, who ran probably-generous 4.5s at Michigan's pro day at 6'1", 205… but Mitchell is already that size now. Jonas Mouton is a better fit. He entered a college a 210-pound safety and exited it a 240-pound WLB who alternated terrible plays with excellent ones for the duration of his career.
Guru Reliability: Low. Mitchell's high school is very small and their QB very limited; really no idea what he looks like in a college context. Many scouting reports seem arbitrary.
Variance: Very high. Lack of production, potential position switch, raw even at his main high school position, had early off-field incident of some variety.
Ceiling: High. NFL player lurking in there somewhere.
General Excitement Level: Moderate-minus. Washout potential is high. Pure athlete at the moment.
Projection: I'd redshirt the guy for the same reason we're all mad that neither starting safety redshirted: his ability to contribute this year is minimal and he's got a ton of upside. His early enrollment might complicate that; he would be a frustrating burned redshirt.
Either way this year is likely to be a learning experience for Mitchell at wide receiver, and then they'll poke around with him on defense during the bowl practices. Since I can read a depth chart and am high on the rest of this WR class and Moe Ways, I expect Mitchell to flip to defense at that point. There's another year of apprenticeship in there, and then maybe Mitchell can break through in year three or beyond as either a safety or linebacker.
Nico Collins Update: M Still #1
Another week, another positive Nico Collins update. This time, the top-100 receiver from Alabama told AL.com that Michigan still leads for him. Collins has built a rapport with Dylan McCaffrey, who's targeting Collins with both passes and recruiting pitches:
McCaffrey and Collins are on Team Alpha Pro at The Opening with more targets that the Wolverines are after. The two have thrown together plenty in the first two days of competition.
"Every day we're up here, he's having a conversation with me about Michigan," Collins said. "We were walking through the headquarters and we saw some Jordans. He said, 'You'll get these every day if you come to Michigan.' It's just the little stuff. We're getting to know each other out here, running routes."
McCaffrey has put on his recruiting hat at The Opening; 247's Isaiah Hole reports he's also working on Donovan Peoples-Jones and four-star CA TE Josh Falo—that is, when he's not dealing with the perils of being a McCaffrey:
But being in the shadow of Christian McCaffrey has its...challenges, the younger McCaffrey says.
"I have plenty of girls asking me, talking to me--cute girls--and they'll be like, 'Hey! Can you introduce me to your brother?'"
Chin up, kid. Michigan quarterbacks have done okay in that regard.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
2016 four-star Michigan commitment Brad Hawkins officially announced on Friday that he will be enrolling at Suffield Academy in Connecticut, meaning he will not sign or enroll with the Wolverines this year.
That move was more or less expected after Hawkins failed to show up in the Michigan directory with the rest of the freshman and took down all the Michigan stuff from his twitter page. Steve Lorenz says the door is still open for him next year, and Michigan does take guys out of prep school.
There won't be much impact on this year's team. Michigan's wide receiver corps is strong this year and gets an infusion of talent from both this year's class and a couple of five-star sorts most expect will join up in 2017. They also have a couple senior safeties. If he gets whatever academic stuff he needs to get done and enrolls this spring it's more or less status quo.
If he does not get to Ann Arbor that's more of a hit for safety depth, where many people including myself believed he'd end up, than wide receiver.
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, DT Rashan Gary, DE Carlo Kemp, OL Ben Bredeson, OL Michael Onwenu, OL Stephen Spanellis, TE Nick Eubanks, TE Sean McKeon, TE Devin Asiasi, WR Eddie McDoom, WR Nate Johnson, WR Kekoa Crawford.
|Indianapolis, IN – 5'11", 186|
|Scout||4*, #190 overall
|Rivals||3*, NR overall
#32 ATH, #7 INL
|ESPN||3*, NR overall
#69 RB, #8 IN
|24/7||4*, #305 overall
#7 APB, #4 IN
|Other Suitors||OSU, MSU, Indiana, Purdue|
|YMRMFSPA||Dennis Norfleet or
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace. Future Blue Originals vs Brandon Peters.|
Ace and Dave got single-game film from that FBO:
Chris Evans is one of the most unpredictable recruits in Michigan's class. One site likes him a lot, another likes him just fine, and a couple are meh. He listed at three different spots by those sites and could be any of four different things in Ann Arbor:
"[I’ll play] either defensive back, slot, running back."
At Ben Davis, Evans was a heavily utilized all-purpose offensive threat who rushed for over 2300 yards and caught 91 passes for over 1000 yards in his final two years, one of which ended in a state championship. His highlights see him line up in the backfield, in the slot, and on the outside. Meanwhile his seven-on-seven team used him as a defensive back frequently:
…definitely looked the most natural playing cornerback … started his day by making a big interception down the field and then came back with several pass break-ups. …outstanding top-end speed
entered camp wanting to work on his DB skills and did just that. … improved the most out of every position, playing both CB and FS. His vision of the field continued to get better as he intercepted a great deal of passes during 7v7.
Pick an outcome, any outcome. Yes, that is a reasonable outcome.
While a lot about Evans remains uncertain, one thing that's not is his speed. A 4.4-ish 40 at the Army Combine just after his junior year is legit. Last March Steve Wiltfong noted that Evans has run a "4.4 hand-held every time" he lays down a 40 yard dash. At Best of the Midwest he ran a 4.37 40, and while that's solidly in the realm of combine fiction Evans's track career was impressive. Tracking Football places him in the 87th percentile of RBs based on his lycra exploits, which include a state championship in the 100 meter relay and a narrow defeat in the regular 100 meter state finals. And caveat-ridden, "quicker than fast"-deploying ESPN finally admits a person can run good:
…versatile athlete. … catches the ball without effort. …speed is better than anyone else on the field. … Displays a feel for finding an opening and then accelerating through it. He is slow to the hole and then displays a burst to slide through it. … Exhibits good feet and an ability to avoid direct hits. Can slide laterally and avoid a shot.
When Ace checked out the Avon-Ben Davis game featuring Evans and Brandon Peters last fall, Evans was largely bottled up until a 52-yard screen touchdown that is the last play on the FBO video above, but he did demonstrate that speed:
We got an early glimpse at how fast Evans is when his teammate returned a kickoff to the house (0:30 mark) and Evans, who lined up as the other return man, went from nearly a dead stop ten yards behind the play to a dead sprint, getting out in front to wall off the final defender who could've made a tackle.
…excellent downfield speed and is a long strider. …excellent explosive quickness coming out of his breaks. …. mismatch on third down coming out of the backfield matched up against a linebacker. … Nice agility and plus balance. Feet keep moving in tight spaces.
Evans can go. Full stop, no caveat, Chris Evans is going to be one of the fastest players in the Big Ten as soon as this fall.
Evans isn't just fast in a straight line, with many evaluations focusing on his fluidity and change of direction.
Chris Evans is elusive!! Best rep in this drill so far: pic.twitter.com/2XJao1xvGc
— Allen Trieu (@AllenTrieu) May 31, 2015
ESPN praises him as a "smooth, balanced, athletic player." He showed at Michigan's Indianapolis satellite camp last year and wowed onlookers. Wiltfong:
Evans has speed … but it’s how fluid he is that impresses. The 5-foot-11, 186-pound Evans is so smooth changing direction. … a cut above the rest [in] running back agility drills and in 1-on-1s it was easy for him to abuse the linebackers on the field. He’s sure-handed.
Scout compared him to five-star OSU commit Demario McCall (who you will not like very much over the next few years) because they were similar dudes:
…elusive and fluid …juked some guys out of their socks and as usual, caught the football well.
Excellent hands and pass-catching ability. Very comfortable running routes. A smooth kid who glides through traffic. Has good, maybe not elite speed and can make cuts and moves while going full speed. He's elusive and does a great job of finding running lanes.
Wiltfong again, at another camp:
… from the moment drills started he was on another level, showcasing the speed, balance and agility that will eventually make him a sought-after prospect. … Evans could not be checked during the competition portion, as there wasn’t a running back or corner that could match up athletically.
Evans showed his quickness, fluidity and pass catching skills at the Core 6 Showcase yesterday.
Those pass catching skills pop up a lot. Evans isn't a running back who has to move to receiver in college because he's small. He's already advanced in that department.
… can catch the ball, and not just the easy ones, and has good quickness and route running skills as well.
…runs routes and catches the football with his hands like a wide receiver.
…seemed to make a catch on every other play. A one-handed grab while staying in bounds on a downfield pass was perhaps the play of the day.
Evans is a guy with nearly 400 rushes who also keeps pace with many D-I high school wide receivers downfield. He'd be brutal to defend in a spread offense. He came to Michigan.
I think Evans ends up playing safety in Ann Arbor. This goes against the grain. While many people mention his potential at DB nobody outright projects him there; ESPN evaluates as a running back and the other sites keep bringing up his hands and routes. This isn't limited to analysts. In early January, Steve Lorenz relayed some information from the staff:
Michigan coaches were happy to hear that Chris Evans will not take any more official visits as they view him as a potential playmaker on the offensive side of the ball. … From what we're told, he could see carries directly out of the backfield or get touches at the slot wide receiver position.
There have been a few major changes since then. NJ WR Brad Hawkins—a player many were projecting to safety—looks unlikely to make it to campus. NJ WR Ahmir Mitchell, another potential safety, nearly transferred. And Don Brown replaced DJ Durkin at defensive coordinator.
The current situation:
- Michigan has an ungodly pile of tight ends to suck up skill position snaps.
- They bring back sophomore Grant Perry and brought in 1-3 other players who can play in the slot.
- The safety depth chart yawns like a crevasse.
- David Long and Lavert Hill exist.
- Michigan's new defensive coordinator built the nation's best defense with two converted corners with great range at safety.
Evans has the best chance to be an impact guy at safety. Even if he's the best slot, he's probably the best slot by an inch. He might be the best safety option by a mile. Brown runs a lot of cover two and blitzes a ton; he needs guys who can eat up ground and prevent his aggressive ways from resulting in quick touchdowns. Evans promises to be that kind of guy… eventually.
There are some external indicators that Evans is best suited for the defensive backfield. His camp performances indicated potential:
…began his day playing cornerback where he was able to keep in check the best receivers at the camp with his lateral quickness and ability to turn and run.
Ohio State's late offer was sincere and a tad insulting, as late offers always are; it was as a defensive back. When Evans committed he said Michigan wanted him in the slot or at DB and that he had a preference:
"I want to play defensive back. I think that's the best spot for my future."
Soon after that preference was replaced with the usual "I'll play anywhere" quote, but I think that's illuminating all the same. A few months later he mentioned that Michigan was talking to him about corner and slot, but mostly they just wanted him because he was very fast.
Evans can probably get to a weight where he won't be a liability as a tackler. He's already put on around about 20 pounds…
As a sophomore, Evans weighed just 167 pounds. … “My sophomore year (Lawrence Central’s) Darrin Kirkland hit me and I felt like I’d go back 10 feet,” he said. “This year when we encountered, I didn’t feel like a toy getting thrown around.”
…to get to 185 or 190 depending on who you listen to; Wiltfong believes he can "easily add 20 pounds and be just as dynamic." When Tim Sullivan caught him in person he was impressed with his lower half:
…isn't very big but he's extremely well put together and chiseled. His lower body is very thick and allows him to be quick, fast, sudden, and also quite powerful.
And he seems to have the mental wherewithal that is a main asset for the last line of defense:
"I think I'm a good student of the game so I know where things are supposed to hit and what happens when this happens. I'm a student of the game and I work hard at it and my vision helps me on the field."
See also the upcoming "nah" quote about that OSU offer. He can hack safety, probably, and Michigan needs those. But if you told me he was anything else I'd believe you, too.
Etc: I submit to you the greatest quote in the history of rejecting late recruiting offers:
“It's like there's two girls and one girl is Beyonce, which is Ohio State. I’m like, dang, I want Beyonce because she looks good and has everything, so I want her. However, she is like 'nah' and I’m going to hold back. I don’t know if I want to go out with you right now. I’m like alright cool, then I will just hold back and do whatever I can and just chill. Then Halle Berry comes in and is like, hey Chris, what’s up and I like you. I’m like okay cool, so I am going to go with Halle Berry and have been going out with her since June. However, Beyonce pops back up and is like, hey babe, what’s up and remember me? We can go out if you want to? I’m like I got Halle Berry and I’m happy with her. That is what I want. I tried to get with you, but you didn’t want it, so I chose otherwise. Now that you want to jump back in, I got nothing for you.”
"If you're going to write anything on me," says Evans, a star running back at Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis, "you've got to mention all of my offensive linemen, too, by name."
A quick, talented and rather humble young man, Evans knows his potentially bright football future might not be as shiny without the help of his five super-sized Ben Davis pals.
Jalil Brewer, Dylan Runyon, Pompey Coleman, Ahmad Malone and Quinton Tyler.
"That's the best O-line in the state," Evans says with pride.
Was considered a "heavy Michigan State lean" on March 23rd, visited Ann Arbor a week later, and then it was all over but the shouting.
Why Dennis Norfleet or Dymonte Thomas? Norfleet was a very good high school running back with the ability to pop it between the tackles and juke in tight spaces. Michigan moved him to slot receiver, where he was little more than a predictable jet sweep threat, and eventually to cornerback. Evans is considerably bigger than the 5'8" Norfleet but they're ranked around the same place and Michigan hasn't had another spread H-back type guy recently. I have similar fears that if Evans ends up being that slot/RB hybrid guy he'll be similarly lost. I have a hard time envisioning that as a major role under Harbaugh.
Thomas is a reasonable comparison if Evans ends up on defense. Thomas is taller, at 6'2", but even now he's listed on the roster at 195, a number Evans can hit as early as next year. Both dudes are super fast. Thomas was a high school running back first and foremost; he also played OLB. Evans shades more towards the corner side of the hybrid safety continuum, but as a terrific athlete with a lot of positional uncertainty and probable eventual destination as a cover-oriented safety Thomas is a kindred spirit, down to the length of time it'll take before he's ready to go.
Guru Reliability: Low. Big split, Indiana doesn't get a lot of focus, positional uncertainty, no All Star game.
Variance: High. For the same reasons listed above, more or less. Also my bet that he's a safety brings questions about tackling to the forefront.
Ceiling: High-minus. Evans's speed and intelligence could make him into a very good safety, but he's not 6'2" and also a bolt.
General Excitement Level: Moderate-plus. Very fast gentleman with a lot of question marks.
Projection: Redshirt. I expect his position will remain a question mark through most of fall camp and possibly through much of his freshman year; the guess here is that he ends up a DB by spring practice, either safety or corner. If so he'll be thrown into a melee as Michigan loses its top five defensive backs after the season.
He's not likely to win that melee at corner. He's not likely to beat out Tyree Kinnel at safety. That fourth spot, though, is wide open if Khaleke Hudson is indeed the Peppers heir apparent. If it's Evans that's almost certainly going to be painful in the short term. In year three and beyond I'd be pretty comfortable with Evans out there as a super fast safety who can turn and run when the opposition attempts to go over his head.
When Ace was scouting Kai-Leon Herbert, the offensive tackle prospect who announced his commitment to Michigan this week, we took note of the big disagreement in his rankings:
4*, #22 OT,
4*, #10 OT,
4*, 83, #15 OT,
3*, 86, #72 OT,
4*, #22 OT,
Some variation for a project recruit with big upside isn't that weird, but one site having him threatening the top 50 while another has him barely among the top 700 is some serious disparity. BiSB even wondered aloud if big disagreements like that portend anything for a guy. And well, I have a database. Let's see.
I'm going back to my STARs ratings, which are a composite of the four main recruiting sites' scoring systems/stars/rankings normalized to a sliding scale of five stars. I cut out specialists, then used only players for whom we have at least three rankings to go from, and ran a standard deviation.
So What Happens When They Agree?
This wasn't very useful because most of the guys with high agreement were very well scouted (duh) and a few were like the toppomost of the tippytop. There were 12 guys who sparked almost total agreement (ordered by rating):
Teric Jones, Christian Pace, and Chris Fox lost their careers to injury, but after that only Marcus Witherspoon (for off-field reasons) didn't end up a regular starter, pending the careers of Bredeson (who may be the first tackle in this year) and Rashan Gary (who may be the greatest tackle in years).
So What Happens If They Disagree?
Here's the 15 biggest disparities. I've highlighted the biggest outliers.
*247 hasn't ranked Lasater yet
Big winners on there are Koger, Hemingway, and Huyge, though BWC turned out okay once Hoke got his hands on him. FWIW the one guy Scout and Rivals really disagreed on before ESPN entered the ring was Alex Mitchell. Meanwhile I had to go back to the blogspot page to find Brian's take on the huge disparity over Junior Hemingway:
So, yeah... those numbers above disagree fiercely. Hemingway is either in the top 10, 20, 30, or 40 receivers in the country, depending on who you listen to. Rivals went so far as to downgrade him to a three-star after season's end for reasons unknown (read: plain old provincialism on the part of that particular region's rankings guru). Meanwhile, ESPN is freakin' out over here. Scout and Creepy Tom Lemming split the difference.
Ironically he turned out exactly as advertised:
Leaving aside his exact proportions of shirtlessness for the moment, Hemingway is a leaper capable of ridiculous grabs. His overall athleticism has been questioned by those skeptical of his talent, but no one debates his body control, leaping ability, and hands.
The most noticeable thing other than how many of those guys didn't pan out was that ESPN was usually the oddball.
How Do the Sites Compare?
Was ESPN always so odd? They ranked Koger as a DE (Brian did posit at the time that a move to DE was likely, since Michigan had few), while Rivals and Scout had him the #4 or #6 tight end. But it came up enough I had to look at them versus the average to see if that was normal:
(click makes big)
Mathematically (by deviation of squares) they were by far the most likely to disagree with their peers:
If they were highly accurate that would be interesting, but as you see by the outliers, only one of the dudes they seemed super-way-excited about even started (though Metellus has time).
It was also interesting to see which players each site was most panting/skeptical about. I'll highlight if they got it right:
WHEN THE SITES ARE BEARISH:
|Nolan Ulizio (-0.5)||Jason Kates (-0.9)||John Ferrara (-1)||Austin White (-1.3)|
|Bryan Mone (-0.5)||Brandon Moore (-0.7)||Kevin Koger (-0.8)||Conelius Jones (-0.9)|
|Jr Hemingway (-0.5)||D.J. Williamson (-0.6)||Brandon Smith (-0.7)||Jake Butt (-0.5)|
|Chris Wormley (-0.5)||Davion Rogers (-0.6)||Will Campbell (-0.7)||Jourdan Lewis (-0.4)|
|Patrick Omameh (-0.4)||Reuben Jones (-0.5)||Rocko Khoury (-0.7)||Devin Asiasi (-0.4)|
Some of those guys it's too early to tell. But I might be a bit more leery of Rivals skepticism and hoping Reuben Jones proves Scout can be wrong.
Meanwhile in high expectations, here are the guys certain sites thought would outperform the consensus of their peers:
WHEN THE SITES ARE BULLISH:
|Jason Kates (+0.9)||Austin White (+0.9)||Jr Hemingway (+0.7)||Chris Wormley (+0.6)|
|Mark Huyge (+0.7)||P.Omameh (+0.6)||Isaiah Bell (+0.7)||Nate Johnson (+0.5)|
|John Ferrara (+0.6)||Josh Furman (+0.5)||Brandon Moore (+0.5)||Dennis Norfleet (+0.4)|
|Greg Mathews (+0.5)||Sam McGuffie (+0.5)||Q.Washington (+0.5)||Erik Magnuson (+0.4)|
|Conelius Jones (+0.5)||(tie* +0.5)||Conelius Jones (+0.5)||Mason Cole (+0.4)|
* Marrell Evans, Brandon Smith, Tom Strobel, De'Veon Smith, and John Ferrara.
Some of the guys I didn't highlight were fine but only insomuch as they met their recruiting expectations. At least Rivals knew before everyone else that Huyge was unkillable but otherwise woooooof. Meanwhile Scout got burned by some major athletes (Furman and McGuffie at least wound up starting elsewhere), but the only real diamond they pointed out was Omameh; the five-way tie varied from slightly too positive (D.Smith, Ferrara) to vastly overrating (Evans, Strobel, B.Smith).
Of course these are just small sample sizes—useful for gauging extreme outliers but little else. So I used scatter charts to see if there was a major difference in the aggregate, tracking all their recruiting ratings by deviation from the mean and their starts/eligible seasons. The best scouting site would have the most bubbles very high and to the right, and fewest bubbles high and to the left (guys they were skeptical about who got a lot of starts).
A few major outliers got cut out but a picture has emerged. When Scout says a guy is good you should probably pay attention. Rivals has a low batting average but will connect as often as they whiff. ESPN appears to lose track of guys who aren't ranked at the very top, so their outliers may be more cautionary than anything. 247 plays it mostly safe but once in awhile takes a calculated risk that usually pays off.
Or that they're huge Norfleet fans. One understands.
What does that mean for Herbert and the OL this year?
We haven't seen this kind of distribution before, honestly. These rankings could change so much before February however that I wouldn't put much stock in them anyway. The Herbert disagreement doesn't look so bad in the STARs. With nothing else to go on, I'd say keep an eye on 247's rating to see if that jumps after the Opening, and otherwise trust that Scout has him pegged.