Winter Is Coming
I posted most of the post-Opening evaluations of Michigan commits yesterday, but these highlights of Benjamin St-Juste were published after that went up, and they make it clear why he's almost certainly headed for a ratings bump. St-Juste didn't just test well—though he certainly did that, posting the second-best shuttle time at the combine—he also made a lot of plays on the ball in the 7-on-7 portion, and his quickness is on full display in the drills at the end of the video. 247's Barton Simmons:
"(St-Juste) may have been the best big cornerback at the event," Simmons told Wolverine247. "He moves so well for a guy of his size and was the most impressive cornerback physically as well. He was challenged a lot but was rarely beaten. He was really impressive and really stood out throughout the weekend."
247 hasn't updated their rankings yet; when they do, I'll be surprised if St-Juste is still a three-star. There aren't many 6'3" corners that move like that.
Simmons also went into more detail on Dylan McCaffrey's performance for Steve Lorenz's latest post at the Freep:
"He was an upper-tier quarterback at the event," Simmons said. "The biggest reason for that is the mental grasp he has on the position. He's a guy that was so decisive with his reads. He knows where the ball needs to go and gets it there quickly. In that setting, knowing where the open man is and connecting with him quickly should be routine and he was able to do it all day.
"He has some slight mechanical issues he has to correct, but he has a coaching staff at Michigan that is obviously fully capable of getting him where he needs to be. The coaches at the event raved about his ability to take coaching and wanting to learn about the game. He's far beyond your average quarterback in that regard."
Still no word on the specifics of those mechanical issues, unfortunately, but Simmons clearly isn't too concerned, especially once Harbaugh gets involved—he called the Harbaugh/McCaffrey pairing "a perfect match."
File this away for later: Bleacher Report's Michael Felder, who helps coach at The Opening, had an enlightening exhange with Jaylen Kelly-Powell:
Jaylen Kelly-Powell worked inside CB and S, is strong in his man coverage & is working to feel comfortable in multiple zone looks
— Michael Felder (@InTheBleachers) July 12, 2016
@InTheBleachers Real talk. Have to master my weaknesses
— Jaylen Kelly-Powell™ (@JKellypowell) July 12, 2016
@InTheBleachers Yeah. I'm switching to the up FR this year so I can get use to it. Just used to playing man press/off from the SS and nickel
— Jaylen Kelly-Powell™ (@JKellypowell) July 12, 2016
Playing more free safety should help Kelly-Powell improve on his zone coverage. He's clearly a coachable kid—something that was noticeable at SMSB, too.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
NOTE: Since most of us can’t remember who’s in what division without looking it up, the Coastal teams are Duke, Georgia Tech, Miami, North Carolina, Pitt, Virginia, and Virginia Tech. The Atlantic teams are Boston College, Clemson, Florida State, Louisville, North Carolina State, Syracuse, and Wake Forest. No, it doesn’t make sense to me either.
Like the Big Ten, the ACC suffers from imbalanced divisions (though to a lesser extent) – the winner of the annual Atlantic Division matchup between Clemson and Florida State has gone on to win the conference five years running, and there’s a very good chance that it will remain the case this season. The ACC’s nonsensical division split was designed to keep Florida State and Miami – the two clear powers back then – in separate divisions with the possibility of a championship game rematch (which still hasn’t happened). Miami’s struggles since joining the ACC, as well as Clemson’s rise under Dabo Swinney, has made for a “Big Two, Little Twelve” situation, with both power programs sharing a division. The league’s well-documented parity – or mediocrity, depending on your point of view – behind those two has left an amorphous tier of programs fighting for the scraps beneath FSU and Clemson. For the other teams in the Atlantic, there’s an enormous mountain to climb and cracking the top two would be a monumental achievement, based on the presumed staying power of the Noles and the Tigers.
The Coastal is a different story. Though Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech have most often represented the division in the ACC Championship Game, UNC and Duke have each won the division in the past three years. With GT and VT in states of uncertainty (the former went 3-9 last season, the latter is replacing a legendary coach who saw the program atrophy in the last few years of his reign), the Coastal is quite unpredictable. Miami and Virginia Tech, ostensibly the programs with the most inherent advantages in the division, are breaking in new coaches (Mark Richt and Justin Fuente). Like their in-state rival, Virginia also made a good hire (Bronco Mendenhall). ACC newcomer Pitt was a pleasant surprise under first-year head coach Pat Narduzzi* and with Penn State’s malaise, they could be primed to build a formidable program there. Duke and Carolina are actually seeing some gridiron success these days. While the Atlantic will deservedly receive more attention from the college football world at-large, the Coastal has a lot of intriguing subplots for the more diehard college football junkie.
*please don’t go to State when Dantonio retires
[Team previews after the JUMP]
We are drafting Big Ten teams because the off-season should be torturous.
Previously on Draftageddon:
A Heisman candidate QB and the reigning Thorpe winner go after two members of Michigan's secondary. (Peppers, Lewis, & Butt)
An underwhelming first swing through receivers, and lots of linemen. (Chesson, Cole, Wormley, Glasgow)
A Michigan second-teamer goes before Purdue-Matt Godin. (Charlton, Hurst)
How things stand:
That's nine Michigan guys in the top 24 picks. Guys, are we good?
ACE: Round 7, Pick 1: Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State
OFFENSE: QB CJ Beathard (IA), RB Saquon Barkley (PSU), WR Jehu Chesson (M), WEAPON Jabrill Peppers (M)
DEFENSE: NT Ryan Glasgow (M), DT Jake Replogle (PU), DE Sam Hubbard (OSU), OLB/NICKEL Jabrill Peppers (M)
SPECIAL TEAMS: KR Jabrill Peppers (M), PR Jabrill Peppers (M)
Sam Hubbard will take over Joey Bosa’s spot at Ohio State. While he’s not Bosa, he’s got a remarkable profile: the former high school safety came to OSU as a 225-pound linebacker in the 2014 class, and in the two years since he’s worked his way up to 265 pounds.
As a redshirt freshman last season, Hubbard started for the suspended Bosa in the opener against Virginia Tech and immediately recorded a sack. He finished with 6.5 sacks last year despite being a backup; while he’s not on Bosa’s level against the run, he’s got the makings of an elite pass-rusher. One anonymous Big Ten offensive coach called him a “future big-time NFL player.” Athlon saw enough to put him on their preseason All-B1G first team).
Hubbard is quick, tough to keep blocked, and he can even drop into zone coverage and make plays on the ball. I’d be surprised if he doesn’t reach double-digit sacks in what should be a breakout season.
Seth: This conference is ridiculous with DL.
Ace: good year for front seven players in general.
Seth: Funny thing is a Godin highlight reel would look almost exactly like a Replogle reel. And Replogle's reel is amazing. Most years I would imagine Godin is a starting SDE and we are fine with this.
Alex: Sort of late on this but I'm amazed Hurst made it to the sixth round
Seth: Well he isn't "starting"
Alex: but isn't it a "well this player would be in this role on MY team" sort of thing? Seems like he makes it into the backfield untouched on every third play
Brian: Tbh I should have waited on Wormley. There are still a bunch of dudes on the board.
[After the JUMP: A wild badger appears, possibly before ANOTHER Michigan backup goes. Also we argue about who's Hodor.]
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.]