A massively important piece for the 2017 Wolverines will stick around:
Maurice Hurst: "I've decided I'm going to come back for my 5th year." pic.twitter.com/LCMdbLLx1e
— Sam Webb (@SamWebb77) December 21, 2016
Hurst was a rotation piece this year who did not start but played in crunch time next to Matt Godin; in about half of Michigan's snaps he had massive production in both UFR and PFF metrics. With the entire starting line off to the NFL draft, Hurst will start and get the lion's share of playing time as a three-tech next to Bryan Mone. They'll be flanked by Rashan Gary and Chase Winovich; that line project to be about as good as this one.
Depth remains an issue, which is why Hurst's return was so mission-critical.
As 2016 winds down, the Big Ten will be getting ready for conference play. Despite the league being off its usual standard, it should still be a compelling conference race – Indiana, Purdue, and Wisconsin probably are the teams with a shot at the conference title, but there’s a bloated middle that could produce a surprise contender and should give us plenty of competitive games for the rest of the winter. Since this post was getting long, I split it in two and will be covering the other half of the conference later this week.
Teams are listed in alphabetical order.
After experiencing year-over-year declines in win totals throughout his Illinois career, John Groce might have entered the season with the least job security of any coach in the Big Ten, despite a strong recruiting class that will be arriving in Champaign next season (featuring 5* big man Jeremiah Tilmon). The Illini returned several players from injury and still have senior swingman Malcolm Hill – probably the most underrated player in the conference. Hill has had a good year, averaging 18 points per game; he’s still drawing fouls at a high rate and leads Illinois in shot attempts by a healthy margin, but he’s been less of a distributor with 6th-year senior PG Tracy Abrams back on the court. After two seasons on the sidelines, Abrams has been a revelation for the Illini: his eFG% leapt from 37.7 to 65.6, the 5th-highest mark in the league.
Outside of an unfortunate home loss to Winthrop in overtime – a game the Illini led by ten with three minutes left in regulation, and a game in which 5’7 reserve Keon Johnson scored 38 points on just 23 shot equivalents for the Eagles – there have been few surprises in non-conference play. Illinois did lose to West Virginia (by 32) and Florida State in Brooklyn, though those are both good teams. They notched wins against NC St., VCU, and BYU, but it’s not likely that any of those teams will represent a particularly quality win come March. Winthrop wasn’t a terrible loss, and Illinois could theoretically play their way into the tournament with a strong showing in conference play – which would be a surprise. They’re the most experienced team in the Big Ten per Kenpom, and it seems like they’ve reached their ceiling.
[Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, MSU, and Minnesota after the JUMP]
With the commitments of FL C Cesar Ruiz and MI DE Deron Irving-Bey Michigan has picked up four touted recruits in the past week. Do not be deceived. Just when you think you can poke your head out of the foxhole without getting conked by a four-star recruit, here come some linebackers. FL LB Jordan Anthony announces Thursday and there are rumors that NJ LB Drew Singleton may announce in the near future. In both recruitments it is unclear who is currently running second.
Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy coach Kevin Wright saw Cesar Ruiz’s finger as he ran to the sideline and it was bent sideways.
For the first time in two years, Wright thought the nation’s No. 1 center recruit per 247Sports would have to sit for a snap or two.
Ruiz had other plans.
A trainer popped Ruiz's finger back into place in the 2016 season finale, and the blue-chip recruit hustled back on the field to finish out IMG’s 16-6 victory over Bishop Sullivan Catholic.
Ruiz is naturally described as a "warrior". Scout's more in-depth take on Ruiz:
...true center prospect with a lot of experience and the ability to play early on the next level. He checks a lot of boxes when going down the list on prospects at his position. He has a great frame. He is very strong. His punch is a real asset. He has shown the ability to get to the second level. He is very smart. He has great awareness. He likes to compete and finish. Michigan is getting one of the top offensive linemen in the country and Ruiz will give the Wolverines an anchor in the middle in the years to come.
TTB gave Ruiz a 99(!), which I don't think I've seen before from Magnus:
Ruiz also does a very good job of staying low out of his stance, and he moves his feet well to down block or reach block defenders to either side of him. IMG Academy plays a rather difficult schedule, so he’s playing some of the best competition in the country, and he’s having success. As a pass blocker, he anchors well without getting driven into the backfield, and his low center of gravity makes him a good match for any really technical nose tackles who try to use leverage.
Ruiz is unique amongst Michigan center prospects in recent memory in that he actually plays the position in high school. Most college-level OL end up at left tackle for obvious reasons; Ruiz was afforded the ability to play center since he's surrounded by fellow college-level OL at IMG.
That gives Ruiz a shot at playing early—even very early—at a spot that usually sees a veteran deployed to make the call. ESPN says he can "at least" make the two deep as a freshman, and Sam broached the idea he could play in year one if Speight was able to make the line calls a la Andrew Luck. In a normal year there's no way he starts, but with the rather looming hole at tackle and Cole's ability to play there you might see some odd things.
per @NaptownJazz12, we have a successor to the Ludicrously Oversized Ben Braden photo
Meanwhile, Irving-Bey is an interesting prospect who came from nowhere to be a near-unanimous four star (Rivals is the outlier). The MSU spin that Irving-Bey isn't much of a loss because of an indifferent senior season has nothing backing it. 247 just moved him up about 100 spots—I did not see an explanation as to why, but it happened just a couple weeks ago, so "senior film evaluated" is the most likely explanation. Meanwhile Trieu specifically debunks the spin:
...has turned in two dominant seasons at Flint Southwestern. That is not always against the best competition, but it evens out as he has not always been on the best team either. Even in situations where his team has been down in games, he gives consistent effort and shows motor.
Trieu thinks he's a bit raw but that some folks are exaggerating just how much, FWIW. In the same article, Sam Webb says he's "quick twitch" and uses Maurice Hurst as a comparison. Isaiah Hole caught up with his coach and you can see a bit of Hurst in his description as well:
"He's a kid that plays well with his hands. He's good on either side of the ball -- offense or defense. He's a kid that's very explosive. He comes off the ball pretty fast. He had to be a two-way player for us this year, so he's got good stamina. Able to go the distance. Those are the things I like most about him. He's able to shed offensive guys pretty quick. He plays a lot on the other side of the ball, meaning he has a lot of tackles for loss."
possesses very good first-step quickness and can be disruptive presence. With a quick first-step he can develop into a handful as a pass rusher, though needs to better use his hands and refine his arsenal.
Interestingly, Irving-Bey has the longest arms of anyone in the class, which would help him either at DE if he sticks there or OT if that's the way it works out. (Given the OL class, it probably won't.)
Touch The Banner is not so much about Irving-Bey:
Irving-Bey isn’t particularly athletic or physical, and he does not play with a non-stop motor that might overcome other deficiencies. He reminds me of Columbus (OH) St. Francis DeSales defensive lineman Chris Rock from the class of 2011.
That is pretty harsh.
Also commit aftermath
this is a very silly picture
I also have some tabs about 5* MI WR Donovan Peoples-Jones open that I'm sure you'll enjoy. Steve Lorenz:
Michigan is getting about as sure a star prospect as you will see at the high school level. Immense athleticism, but he's somebody who worked hard in the weight room and bulked up too to match his physical stature with that athleticism. A true instant impact prospect who not just could, but should be a guy who will see the field and make plays from day one in Ann Arbor.
He has great ball skills. He can make acrobatic catches and has good overall athleticism and body control. As a route-runner, he can still be polished. At Cass, he ran a lot of go-routes and screens which allowed him to use his run after the catch ability, but he still has room to grow and get better which should be exciting for Michigan fans given his talent.
Peoples-Jones has tremendous length and range to be an acrobatic playmaker when the ball is in the air. He brings the height and arm length that coaches covet, but he moves like a smaller receiver with the ball in his hands. He can accelerate, tempo his routes, and take the top off the defense with a combination of size and speed.
FWIW, I went over the last three years of WR recruits. Amongst the top five guys in the country there were 4 players I would describe as immediate stars: Christian Kirk (A&M), KD Cannon (Baylor), Demetris Robinson (Cal), and Cameron Ridley (Alabama). There were a couple other guys who got 20 or so catches and Speedy Noil, who got 43 on what I assume were a bunch of screens. It's not easy for a WR to be an instant star.
DPJ probably needs a year to polish up his routes. As Ace mentioned in the Hello post, Cass mostly sends him deep and cackles at the results.
Obligatory Najee section
There is no announcement scheduled for 5* CA RB Najee Harris and there may not be one. Scout's John Garcia Jr:
A separate source near him says he's not expecting a formal announcement or anything in terms of his final decision, whether it's been made or not. It goes along with Najee's personality, as he may not sign any FAAs and simply enroll somewhere in three weeks. That would be the most Najee thing ever in terms of ending the process.
I wouldn't believe anything you hear about a date unless it comes from an established reporter. Also in this vein: I have seen some Najee threads around the internet that talk about his latest follows being Michigan players. Najee Harris does not have a twitter account, so nope.
In terms of actual news, there is none. The closest to it are rumblings that Cal or Florida might hire Tosh Lupoi, Harris's primary recruiter, as their defensive coordinator. This would obviously be very good for Michigan. When Harris talks about his recruitment, he mostly talks about Jim Harbaugh and Tosh Lupoi.
Getting to 32: maybe, maybe not
We've been projecting a 32-man class since the season started, but that might be difficult to pull off without some weird guys showing up. Michigan has 24 commits. We have 12 guys listed in "top group" or "leader" on the recruiting board, and we're not sure if IA WR Oliver Martin and FL OG Tedarrell Slaton are takes right now. Let's assume Michigan holds out for AL WR Nico Collins, leading Martin to commit elsewhere, and Slaton's testing doesn't go sufficiently well to get Michigan back in the game; let us further assume that both of those upcoming LB announcements go well.
To hit 32 without going off the board Michigan would have to get six of the following eight recruits: Harris, Collins, TX OT Chuck Filiaga, VA OT Mekhi Becton, UT DT Jay Tufele, AL DT Aubrey Solomon, MS LB Willie Gay, and CA CB Elijah Hicks. And that's without any decommits.
Possible. Maybe not probable, and with Michigan's board so restricted right now it's hard to see where a potential hole gets filled. There's nobody outside of the aforementioned 12 who seems at all likely at this instant. Now, you may recall Michigan's recruitment of Nick Eubanks last year, which went like this:
- Nick Eubanks is on campus
- who is Nick Eu—
- he committed
- <furious googling>
But those are uncommon. Weird guys who pop up late have usually been on the radar at least somewhat.
A listing of potential weird guys
I do have a few names in this category:
- 4* AZ S Isaiah Pola-Mao. Currently ticketed to Washington by the Crystal Ball, Pola-Mao is a ninja type who could follow the Eubanks script. Hyphenated last name so it's a surprise he's not already committed.
- 4* UT RB Sione Lund. Lund recently told Brice Marich he still plans an official to Michigan in January.
- 3.5* CA OT Jalen McKenzie. McKenzie's popped up from time to time in articles where he's pining for offers from USC and Michigan, and he just did so again on Scout. Two, in fact. If Michigan offers he will at least take a visit.
- 3.5* MI CB Donovan Johnson. He's small but he's not that small, right? One of the enduring oddities of this recruiting cycle is the lack of M and MSU interest for Johnson—especially the latter given how things are going for MSU right now. If Michigan does not get Hicks they might throw an offer Johnson's way, and since he's at Cass you never know.
- 3* CT CB Brandon Sebastian. Michigan kicked the tires on the BC commit earlier this year but withdrew.
In addition there will be random guys Michigan offers if they think they have spots to fill.
3.5* OH OL Joel Honigford is a bit of a forgotten man in the class what with all the five star types Michigan's been chasing. Matt Wenzel profiles him and gets some more detail. His coach:
"I think they're getting a hell of a ballplayer," Wallick said. "Obviously, with that length - 6-6, 280 - that much bend and athleticism. He's got a lot of room to grow, a great frame to build on. They're not going to get anyone that's going to work harder in the weight room and on his footwork than he is. He has put a lot of extra time and effort into becoming the best football player he can become."
Fairly generic coach quote but the bit about "that much bend" is interesting. Compare that to this evaluation of Aaron Banks's "areas for improvement":
Needs to polish some areas in his game like first step explosiveness, reactionary quickness, and a more consistent pad level. A focus on range of motion exercises will improve new bend, and allow him to better his setup prior to the snap.
I was led to believe that "bend"—the ability to play in a somewhat crouched position so that you can explode on contact—is largely a you-have-it-or-you-don't kind of thing. Michigan has prioritized that with their tackle recruits, and that's the most likely reason they didn't put a full court press on Banks
If you'd like to read Lorenz extensively quoted about Michigan locking down the state, this Matt Wenzel article is for you.
Nico Collins got recruited by a bunch of Bama guys at that All Star game they have against Mississippi; while our bet is on Michigan here, Collins is more in the DPJ boat than the Ruiz one—it wouldn't be a total shock if he decided on somewhere else. It would be a surprise, gotta dodge some visits, etc.
Harbaugh acolyte on Harbaugh violence as Oregon offers 2018 NV QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson. Robinson plans to decide over the summer after a suite of unofficials including M, Oregon, UCLA, and a couple Florida schools.
[This series is a work-in-progress glossary of football concepts we tend to talk about in Upon Further Review and Neck Sharpies, etc. Previously:
Special Teams: Spread punt vs NFL-style]
In the Iowa UFR Brian talked about how opponents had solved Michigan’s Peppers-as-Option-QB (we were calling it the “Pepcat”) package with an old fashioned zone read beater: the scrape exchange. Brian on the above:
Peppers is reading the DE and pulls; Iowa inserts a linebacker directly into his path since that DE is covering up the inside gaps the LB would usually be tasked with.
Since I watched the Rodriguez era at Michigan this is familiar to me. Also familiar to me: the various counter-punches Michigan threw at this. Remember that brief era when Carlos Brown and Brandon Minor were running directly off tackle for big chunks on the regular? That was due to Michigan's response to this kind of approach: blast that guy slanting even further inside, kick the linebacker out, and thunder directly to the secondary.
Since that was buried in a UFR I figured we might discuss scrape exchanges in some more detail here.
What’s a scrape exchange: It’s a defensive concept that flips the roles of two backside defenders, thus covering both sides of a quarterback’s zone read. The guy the offense thinks it’s optioning, usually a defensive end, “crashes” (move horizontally across the line of scrimmage) and is “exchanged” for another defender, usually a linebacker, who “scrapes” to the area the end vacated.
What’s it for? It’s the paper to the zone read’s rock. So you remember zone read:
This is the play that Rich Rodriguez invented to dawn the spread era. The offense leaves the backside defensive player unblocked and the quarterback options that guy. If the player (usually a defensive end) takes the opportunity of no blocker to scrape across to the running back’s path, the quarterback keeps it and runs into all the space left behind. If the optioned defender forms up to keep the quarterback contained, the running back gets the ball with the benefit of that extra blocker.
After decades there are lots of variations, but this is the gist of that offense. A scrape exchange makes the quarterback keep it, and makes that decision also wrong:
The quarterback running a zone read will see the defensive end crashing and keep the ball, only to find the linebacker appearing where the quarterback was about to run it. What the QB is expecting is on the left below; the result of the scrape exchange is on the right:
[After the JUMP: see it in action, and ways to beat it]
Four-star Flint Southwestern DL Deron Irving-Bey committed to Michigan this afternoon to end a long in-state battle between the Wolverines and Michigan State. The Spartans were long thought to be the leader in Irving-Bey's recruitment. SpartanTailgate expected him to be an imminent addition to the class after MSU offered in May:
Per a source, Michigan State had the lead for Irving-Bey even before he had an offer from MSU. Michigan State co-defensive coordinator Harlon Barnett has been in touch with Irving-Bey since January and has done an outstanding job recruiting him. Irving-Bey plans to visit Michigan State again very soon. A source added that if MSU stays on Irving-Bey that he’ll end up a Spartan soon.
In October, SpartanTailgate posted a slideshow of MSU's top five most-wanted recruits. Irving-Bey topped the list*:
Some recruiting insiders are hearing Irving-Bey is leaning towards Michigan, but a source close to him told Spartan Tailgate, "I know he loves Michigan State and I'm surprised he hasn't already committed." Irving-Bey plans to take an official visit Tennessee later on this month. We are also told Irving-Bey plans to visit Michigan State again in the near future. Irving-Bey is a high priority for Michigan State because he has the ability to play the same positions for MSU as Malik McDowell does. He can play multiple positions on the defensive line and with McDowell likely to declare for the NFL after his junior season, Irving-Bey is a must get for the Spartans in the class of 2017.
By that time, however, Irving-Bey had become an increasingly frequent visitor to Ann Arbor. A visit to East Lansing (for the Michigan game, incidentally) was sandwiched between an October unofficial and December official visit to Michigan. As Crystal Ball picks to Michigan came flooding in, SpartanTailgate sources changed their tune:
According to a Wolverine source, "The only way Michigan doesn't get Irving-Bey is if he waits too long."
Irving-Bey has taken official visits to Maryland on Dec. 3 and Michigan on Dec. 10. Irving-Bey is announcing at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and likely to select Michigan but could still visit MSU.
A source close to Irving-Bey said, "Deron is still looking at Michigan State and plans to visit there in January."
A separate source said, "A darkhorse in Irving-Bey's recruitment is Maryland." ...
247Sports ranks Irving-Bey as the No. 5 strong-side defensive end in the country. Michigan State is recruiting to Irving-Bey play defensive tackle.
A source added that, "Irving-Bey's senior film wasn't that impressive and doesn't play with a high motor."
Spartan Tailgate was told Irving-Bey is not likely to end up at Michigan State unless they miss out on several other defensive linemen targets ahead of him. That's one of the reasons why Irving-Bey hasn't taken an official visit to Michigan State yet.
Here are a couple totally unrelated screenshots:
Here is a full list of 2017 Michigan State commits on the defensive line along with their 247 Composite rankings:
Three-star SDE Jacub Panasiuk (#26 SDE, #641 overall)
Three-star WDE Lashawn Paulino-Bell (#39 WDE, #709 overall)
Three-star WDE Donovan Winter (#73 WDE, NR overall)
The Spartans do not have a defensive tackle in the class and zero of the 13 DTs in the 247 database holding offers from MSU are listed with more than "cool" interest in the Spartans. Seven of them have already committed to other schools, including Michigan commit Phil Paea. The remaining six don't have a single MSU Crystal Ball selection between them. The only strongside end listed as "warm" for MSU weighs 215 pounds and is ranked 1240th overall. They're expected to pick up a commitment from a 230-pound weakside end they offered yesterday who's ranked 2106th.
But, yeah, I'm sure they passed on the consensus four-star from Flint because he was too far down their board.
A source tells me Irving-Bey is not expected to make that January visit to East Lansing.
*The rest of the list: #5 Christian Cumber (Colorado State commit), #4 Lynn Bowden (Kentucky holds large lead on Crystal Ball), #3 Ambry Thomas (heh), and #2 KJ Hamler (Penn State). I'm noting this both for the lols and to save for posterity in case it mysteriously disappears from SpartanTailgate's archives.
4*, #24 DE,
|3*, #18 SDE||
4*, 81, #18 DT,
4*, 93, #5 SDE,
4*, #9 SDE,
Scout and ESPN both have Irving-Bey at the tail end of their top 300 lists; 247 is the bullish outlier, Rivals the bearish. His position rankings are all over the place because there isn't a consensus on whether he'll wind up on the inside or outside of the defensive line. Like fellow 2017 commits James Hudson and Donovan Jeter, Irving-Bey could be a DT or SDE at Michigan, and like Hudson he even has some potential as an offensive tackle.
Irving-Bey is listed at 6'5" by every site save ESPN (6'4") and somewhere between 265 and 284 pounds to every site save Rivals (a comically low/outdated 245).
[Hit THE JUMP for scouting, highlights, and more.]
The nation's consensus top center, IMG Academy's Cesar Ruiz, committed to Michigan this afternoon over Auburn and Florida, who I found out were the other finalists only when Ruiz made his announcement. This may have been a foregone conclusion. You should watch his announcement video if you're into such things:
I Have Officially Committed To ... pic.twitter.com/zgUjbNUPyL
— S A U C Y ™ (@_OverCees) December 19, 2016
Michigan beat out a significant portion of the country's best programs to land Ruiz. He's the 23rd commit in the class and the fifth on the offensive line.
4*, #2 OC,
4*, #1 OC,
4*, 84, #1 OC,
4*, 95, #1 OC,
4*, #1 OC,
Ruiz is the nation's #1 center to every site save Scout, which lists him one spot below Texas Tech commit Jack Anderson. Scout is a minor outlier in Ruiz's rankings and still has him in the top 100, and his rankings are in such a tight range that his composite ranking is higher than any individual ranking. There's a strong consensus on Ruiz's talent.
There's also a strong consensus on his size: he's listed at 6'3" and 313-321 pounds. He's got the ideal build for a center and enough bulk to play guard.
Ruiz has been a well-regarded prospect since his time at Camden (NJ), where he was teammates with freshman DE Ron Johnson and incoming WR Brad Hawkins. He picked up his first offers, from South Carolina and Temple, in March of 2015, and was one of the underclassman standouts at the RCS New Jersey a month later. By the beginning of May, he held offers from Alabama, Auburn, and LSU, and Bama's 247 site listed him as the starting center on their fantasy two-deep for 2018.
Ruiz was part of the group that won the Big Man Challenge at that summer's Rivals Five-Star Challenge, and he showed that he's a natural center at the Under Armour Future 50 camp to end the year, per 247's Luke Stampini:
Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy center Cesar Ruiz was the smallest offensive lineman on hand on Friday, but the four-star prospect looked natural snapping the ball and handling bigger defensive tackles. He was able to sit back with a wide base and stay in front of pass rushers using his feet.
After transferring to IMG for his junior season, Ruiz was back on the camp trail this past summer. Rivals considered him one of the best players at February's RCS Orlando and liked his potential to get even better with added strength:
Ruiz was his usual steady self. The four-star prospect is a well-rounded lineman that can play center or guard. He moves well for a player of his size and has been well-coached throughout his career. He will continue to improve rapidly as he gets stronger.
He earned an invite to the Opening finals at the Orlando regional with a performance Scout considered the best of any offensive lineman in attendance:
Ruiz worked at guard in the Final Five, but he is a center, and that is where he did most of his damage Sunday. He is very strong at the point of attack, he set a great base, and at times he wasn't moved. If Scout had to name a Top OL, it would have been him.
He soundly won two of three reps in that Final Five while working at guard:
Ruiz didn't draw much mention from the Rivals Five-Star Challenge save for in Mike Farrell's awards column, when the recruiting analyst praised Ruiz for missing only one rep after taking a nasty poke to the eye.
Ruiz was stoning defensive lineman after defensive lineman last week. He has great lower body strength, he showed great punch, and he was rarely pushed backwards. It is hard to find a better center out there in 2017. Ruiz is considered to be a strong Alabama lean at this time, but there are others involved here. One to watch is Michigan, but like the Wolverines, all others are chasing the Crimson Tide right now.
OL Cesar Ruiz vs DT Jay Tufele. No. 1 center in the country pic.twitter.com/ONE7AaPds0
— Brian Perroni (@Perroni247) July 9, 2016
247's Barton Simmons was blown away by his Saturday performance:
I didn't realize Ruiz was this good. He just couldn't be moved. It's not that he's a massive guy on the inside, it's just that he plays with such good leverage, such good hand placement and such tenacity that he won almost every rep. Even massive bodies like Marvin Wilson and Tyler Shelvin weren't able to overpower Ruiz but the more active defenders like Jay Tufele couldn't out-quick him either.
247, unsurprisingly, named him to their Dream Team, saying he "looked like a total star" during the week. Follow the Opening finals, Scout moved Ruiz into their top 100, and 247 jumped him all the way from outside the Top247 to #67 overall.
There's surprisingly little out there on Ruiz from his senior season even though he played at the most heavily scouted high school program in the country. This recap of IMG's win over Georgia powerhouse Grayson from 247's Steve Wiltfong is the closest thing to a single-game scouting report from the 2016 season:
I thought the left side of IMG’s offensive line played well in the second half in Notre Dame commit Robert Hainsey, Top247 2018 offensive guard Curtis Dunlap and the nation’s No. 1 ranked center in 2017 Cesar Ruiz. Mond did some damage running behind those three.
Rivals's latest rankings update, from two weeks ago, bumped Ruiz up 41 spots into their top 100:
“Ruiz boasts an incredibly strong upper body with massive legs and a great base. Still, his true worth is in his versatility. He can easily play guard at the next level but is also capable of remaining at center, where he has a heap of experience. Ruiz will likely go north for college. Michigan is the heavy favorite to land his pledge, but North Carolina and Penn State are also options.” – Cassidy
ESPN's evaluation concludes that Ruiz could be an early contributor and should be a multi-year starter at center:
Ruiz is a very good center prospect with good experience at the position. Looks to be progressing well and continuing to get better and has experience working against good competition on a daily basis. With continued growth as a player has potential to come in and compete for time as freshman, but if not in the big picture can be a guy who anchors a line for several seasons for a Power-5 program.
Scout's free evaluation praises his pad level(!) and doesn't have too much to critique:
EvaluationRuiz plays with a low pad level and explodes well. He is quick to the second level and his agility allows him to manipulate his body and make square blocks on smaller targets. He has a strong initial punch and once engaged, he drives his legs and turns the defensive play to open a hole. He retreats well in pass protection and he reads blitzes well. Adding more knee bend and getting his hands inside more are key to his development. -- Brian Dohn
- Body Control and Balance
- Quickness Off Ball
Areas to Improve
Ruiz is the rare true center prospect who's considered such not because he's undersized, but because he's a great fit for the position. He's much more experienced at the position than most high-level high school prospects—who often play tackle no matter what in high school—and he's proven he can hold up on the interior against the best competition in his class.
Alabama, Auburn, Baylor, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Louisville, LSU, Miami (YTM), Michigan State, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Penn State, Tennessee, Texas A&M, and Virginia Tech, among others.
IMG is a sports academy in Florida with a crap-ton of top-flight talent. Michigan held their spring practice there last year for reasons that should be obvious by now.
Is OL, no stats.
FAKE 40 TIME
ESPN lists a combine time of 5.26 seconds, which gets zero FAKEs out of five. That was less than a tenth of a second off the top SPARQ-recorded time for a center in this cycle. He had one of the better shuttle times among centers at 4.66, posted a solid 28.7" vertical, and missed the best powerball throw by half a foot at 42'0". His 97.92 SPARQ score is best among centers in the class, per ESPN. His Hudl profile also lists a 375-pound bench press and 610-pound squat. That is a lot more than I can do.
Single-game reels from his senior year can be found on his Hudl page.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Ruiz probably won't get a chance to play right away unless Mason Cole goes pro and Patrick Kugler is needed at guard—let's not do that, please—but once Cole graduates there's a good chance he takes over the center spot as early as 2018.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Ruiz is the only center commit Michigan needs, and he's the fifth total commit along the offense line; M could take up to three more OL to round out a class that should reach 32. Their next commitment could (probably should) come at 4 pm today, when in-state DL Deron Irving-Bey makes his announcement. More could come later this week. Ruiz's IMG teammate, four-star LB Jordan Anthony, is scheduled to announce on Thursday, and there are rumors that more decisions could be bumped up to this week.
Other top targets include five-star CA RB Najee Harris, five-star GA DT Aubrey Solomon, top-100 UT DT Jay Tufele, top-100 NJ OLB Drew Singleton, top-100 TX OT Chuck Filiaga, and four-star MS OLB Willie Gay.