Rather athletic. [Left: 247Sports; Right: Bill Rapai/MGoBlog]
Four-star Detroit King cornerback Ambry Thomas, the #2 player in the state, committed to Michigan last night via video announcement.
An Army All-American and two-time state champion, Thomas chose the Wolverines over Michigan State in a recruitment that was very reminiscent of that of his former King teammate and current Michigan corner Lavert Hill. While the Spartans made a late push to try to convince Thomas he could be a program savior, Thomas chose a tougher path to the field and everything else that comes with being a student-athlete at Michigan:
"Grew up a Michigan fan," Thomas told 247Sports shortly after announcing his verbal. "I'm willing to accept Coach (Jim) Harbaugh's challenge and you can't go wrong with the life after football there."
Thomas is Michigan's 21st commit in the 2017 class and their second at cornerback, joining four-star Canadian prospect Benjamin St-Juste. Thomas also joins his cousin, Cass Tech safety Jaylen Kelly-Powell, whose commitment to Michigan played a big role in Thomas's decision. Michigan now has four of the top five in-state recruits in the class, and they're expected to land the fifth, five-star Cass Tech WR Donovan Peoples-Jones, who will take his official visit to Ann Arbor this weekend.
4*, #5 CB,
4*, #17 CB,
4*, 81, #22 CB,
4*, 93, #3 CB,
4*, #11 CB,
There's quite a split between the bullish Scout/247 rankings and the bearish Rivals/ESPN ones, and I've seen enough of Thomas in person and on film to confidently side with the former. I'd understand the Rivals/ESPN rankings if Thomas were being evaluated as a wide receiver, a position for which he's a bit undersized but still excelled playing at The Opening against the nation's top competition—and he's been quite a two-way threat for King over the last few years.
Thomas is a superior defensive prospect, however, and while 247's ranking may be a little lofty—he does need to fill out and improve his run support—I don't get how you can keep a player with his ability and versatility out of the top 100. If Thomas reaches his potential, he could be a lockdown cornerback who contributes in all three phases.
The sites are in general agreement on Thomas's size, listing him between 5'11" and 6'0" (Scout and 247 put him at 5'11.5") and 165-174 pounds. The consensus is Thomas is on the heavier end of that range; he'll still need to bulk up before he's an effective run defender at the college level.
There's a ton out there on Thomas, who first emerged as a promising two-way player as a sophomore at King. He was listed ahead of older Power 5 players like Demetric Vance among top performers at the 2015 Pylon 7-on-7 tournament by Rivals's Josh Helmholdt, and he was barely edged out by Lavert Hill as the best DB at that spring's RCS Cleveland camp:
Thomas showed some quick footwork during position drills and he was able to get in and out of his breaks with a strong burst. During one-on-one competition, he was at the top of his game. He was blanketed receiver after receiver. He was able to stick with the quicker guys and he was able to handle the physical play of the bigger guys. He had a few pass break-ups and made a very strong push for the defensive back MVP award.
He impressed at that summer's Friday Night Light's camp at Ohio State, where Tim Sullivan concluded that with more experience "his physical skills will allow him to be a special player."
Thomas excelled in his junior season, catching the eye of Scout's Allen Trieu in a major way in the season opener against Warren De La Salle:
King's four-star junior Ambry Thomas had the big play of the day, an electrifying touchdown catch where he made numerous players miss in the open field. He's gotten a little bigger himself and his length and blazing speed make him an elite prospect.
He was instrumental in King's state championship, playing both receiver and cornerback. This spring, he earned an invite to The Opening finals by proving he could hang with the best of the best at the Columbus regional, per 247's Steve Wiltfong:
247Sports Director of Scouting Barton Simmons’s favorite player was Detroit (Mich.) King cornerback Ambry Thomas, who not only was invited to The Opening but also received his invite to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. The day started off for the 5-foot-11 ½, 174-pound Thomas who posted one of the fastest 40-yard dash marks of the day, a laser-timed 4.48. Thomas was ready to go during 1-on-1s checking the top receivers at the event and it carried over to 7-on-7. Thomas has big-time make-up speed and went back and forth with five-star receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones.
Scout's Bill Greene, at the same event, called Thomas "wiry and combative, never giving an inch in coverage"
Before heading to the finals, Thomas participated in June's Sound Mind Sound Body camp at Wayne State, where the MGoBlog crew was present. I thought Thomas was the best college prospect in attendance:
Thomas was the most physically impressive player on the field. He's got solid height for a corner—perhaps a shade under six-foot even—with long arms, and he uses that length to play a physical brand of man coverage even in an unpadded setting. Even though he was bigger than most of the other corners, he had the smoothest backpedal and hip turn in drills—it wasn't hard to pick out the best athlete of the bunch even before one-on-ones began.
Thomas lost an early rep to [KJ] Hamler, then battled him to a relative draw in their next matchup; Thomas used his hands well to disrupt the route before Hamler broke free for a tough catch—one that probably doesn't get made in a game setting because the quarterback couldn't wait that long on one read. Thomas jammed another receiver so hard at the line of scrimmage that the QB didn't even bother with a throw, a rarity in that drill. He displayed great recovery speed and ball skills when a receiver got off the line—both are on full display in this video.
While cornerback is his future, Thomas also took a couple reps at receiver, torching the corner for an easy long completion on the first rep and high-pointing an underthrow on the second. He's got the potential to be as good as any corner from the state in recent years. Yes, that includes Jourdan Lewis—Thomas isn't quite as twitchy, but he's got better size. Like Hamler, he was itching to get back onto the field after each rep.
Steve Wiltfong agreed; while he had Hamler as the camp's best performer, he singled out Thomas as the best college prospect on the field:
Thomas is another with fantastic speed, moves very well laterally, a fluid, long athlete that plays with toughness and confidence.
Wiltfong suggested Thomas may be a five-star talent; of the four sites, 247 is closest to bestowing him that honor.
Thomas didn't plan to participate in Michigan's Bright Lights Big House camp in June, but his competitive spirit won out when he saw that top-100 AL WR Nico Collins was taking part, per 247's Isaiah Hole:
Collins also got to go up against Detroit (MI) Martin Luther King CB Ambry Thomas -- who was attending the camp as a spectator, but decided to lace up his cleats once he saw Collins there.
His competitiveness stood out all summer; he only wanted the top matchups at SMSB, took as many reps as he could, and clearly relished testing his ability against the very best receivers he could find.
At the finals of The Opening, Thomas made spectacular plays on both sides of the ball. The camp named him one of the six all-tournament defensive backs in a loaded field. Scout named him to their defense "Super Team" while their writeup focused on his offensive exploits:
Thomas was one of the more reliable targets of any team at the Opening, able to work the underneath routes with quickness before breaking out during deep shots with his top end speed. The 4.43 he clicked Friday was no hoax.
247 put him on their "Dream Team" as an all-purpose defender:
He's on here on the defensive side but Thomas made his mark as our best two-way threat. He was a lock-down guy at cornerback but on a [team] hampered by injuries on offense, he was one of the day's top deep threat at wide receiver too.
Notably, Thomas was catching those passes from Dylan McCaffrey, Michigan's 2017 QB commit.
After that performance, ESPN listed him first among prospects who improved their stock over the summer:
Thomas tore up The Opening, especially in 7-on-7 play. The Detroit prospect is well-known around the Midwest and is an ESPN 300 prospect, but he wasn't talked about as much nationally as other recruits. Normally a defensive back, Thomas played both offense and defense at The Opening and he scored multiple touchdowns for his team. He showed off his speed and athleticism that most around the state of Michigan knew he had.
Then they didn't move him into the top 200, because ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. 247, in stark contrast, shot Thomas up from #113 to #32 in their post-Opening re-rank, and he's remained in that range ever since.
The Wolverine's Brandon Brown caught Thomas in a preseason scrimmage setting, where his reputation preceded him:
Thomas was not thrown at virtually all day. His length, speed, and quickness made it very tough for any receivers to get separation and quarterbacks did not want to test the four-star cover man even in a scrimmage.
Even though he's slight at 165 pounds, Thomas showed an ability and an eagerness to come up and help against the run. He'll never be a big-time hitter or a physical presence, but he will keep contain and tackle in space when he needs to.
Thomas was featured twice in Future Blue Originals posts on this here site this season, first after his Prep Kickoff Classic game against Southfield A&T. Adam's takeaway from that game:
Thomas has been lauded for his camp performances over the summer, and it seems that the skill he showed on that circuit is translating well to the field. He’s excellent in press man and off coverage, and as a receiver he ran great routes; he’s a technician. He has the football IQ, speed, and athleticism you’d want in a CB who, should he commit to Michigan, will likely spend his college career primarily as a press man corner. As for his downside, it seems to be nothing that a college strength and conditioning program can’t fix.
His subsequent performance against Cass Tech had Adam convinced he could be a two-way player in college:
All told, he’s incredibly athletic and seems to be a more legitimate two-way threat than I thought he was after our first viewing. Thomas is talented enough as a receiver to at least merit experimenting with him on offense if he eventually chooses Michigan.
I wholeheartedly agree with Sam Webb's assessment from after Thomas's commitment last night:
To say Thomas has the highest ceiling, coming out of high school, of that whole group [of Detroit defensive backs], is not a stretch.
"I’ve watched a number of big time defensive back prospects come out of Detroit over the past 15 years, and Ambry Thomas has the talent and heart to be the best of them all," said The Michigan Insider's Sam Webb. "I think he is a taller, faster version of Jourdan Lewis. He is an excellent bump and run defender. He has great feet, loose hips, recovery speed, and tremendous ball skills. Lewis was better technically at the same stage of development, but Thomas is more physical. Jourdan grew into being physical and is now one of the best tackling corners in the country.
"I think Ambry can make the same leap with his technique. Once he does that I think you’ll see him start impacting the game on offense. He told me his wants to immerse himself in the defense for a season or two before trying his hand at receiver. When he is ready Michigan will definitely give the opportunity because he has shown himself to be a big play threat every time he touches the ball.
Thomas should be able to make an early impact at cornerback and he's got the potential to do a whole lot more down the road. Despite his lofty composite ranking, I think he's a little underrated; he's in the top handful of prospects I've seen in the state in the last six years.
Thomas holds notable offers from Arkansas, Arizona State, Auburn, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Louisville, LSU, Miami (YTM), Michigan State, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Oregon, Penn State, Pitt, South Carolina, Tennessee, UCLA, USC, West Virginia, and Wisconsin, among several others.
You're probably well-acquainted with Detroit Martin Luther King, which has developed quite a rivalry with Cass Tech in the PSL. The Crusaders repeated as Division 2 state champions this season, albeit in less dramatic fashion than last year. Notable recent King recruits include four-star 2016 CB Lavert Hill (Michigan), four-star 2016 WR/CB Donnie Corley (MSU), three-star 2016 RB Martell Pettaway (West Virginia), four-star 2015 OL Kyonta Stallworth (MSU), three-star 2015 OLB Tyriq Thompson (MSU), four-star 2012 RB Dennis Norfleet (Michigan), four-star 2008 DE Nick Perry (USC), and four-star 2002 DT Larry Harrison (Michigan).
As you can see, MSU has done quite well recruiting King in recent years, in no small part because two prominent recruiting staffers—Curtis Blackwell and Butler Benton—are MLK grads. Michigan has grabbed a lot of momentum back by winning head-to-head battles for Lavert Hill and now Thomas, though losing out to State for Donnie Corley is going to sting for a couple years.
None that were easily googleable.
FAKE 40 TIME
Thomas ran one of the ten fastest 40s at The Opening finals, posting an electronically timed 4.43, which gets zero FAKEs out of five. He also posted one of the better shuttle times (3.90), a measure of agility that is of particular importance for a cornerback, and a solid 35.9-inch vertical leap.
Junior highlights and single-game reels can be found on his Hudl page.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Thomas will get the opportunity to see the field at cornerback immediately upon his arrival, especially if Jeremy Clark isn't granted a sixth year of eligibility. He'll have the chance to prepare both physically and mentally by enrolling early. At the very least, I expect him to get his feet wet like Lavert Hill did this year, and he's more college-ready than Hill was coming out of high school. With Hill, Thomas, St-Juste, and David Long, Michigan has some very exciting young prospects at cornerback. The battle for playing time between them will be fun to watch.
As Sam mentioned in his evaluation, Thomas should ease his way into an expanded role as a potential triple-threat: cornerback, wide receiver, and return man. While it may be hard to crack the receiver rotation with the talent Michigan is bringing in there, Thomas is skilled and athletic enough to earn snaps on offense anyway.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan sits at 21 commits in a class that is projected to get up to 32 or so. They'd like to take one more cornerback. Darnay Holmes, who cancelled a planned official for this weekend, looks likely to end up at UCLA, so Michigan will probably move on to other options like Notre Dame commit Elijah Hicks. Other positions of need include wide receiver, a few more offensive linemen, defensive tackle, and outside linebacker. Here's the class as it currently stands:
MI CB Ambry Thomas, the #2 player in the state, just announced his commitment to Michigan:
Thomas is the #3 CB and #31 overall player in the country to 247; he's 5th and 58th, respectively, on Scout. The other two services have him around 200th. Sam Webb on Thomas:
"I think he is a taller, faster version of Jourdan Lewis. He is an excellent bump and run defender. He has great feet, loose hips, recovery speed, and tremendous ball skills. Lewis was better technically at the same stage of development, but Thomas is more physical."
Michigan now has commits from 5 of the top 8 players in the state and hopes to add Donovan Peoples-Jones and Deron Irving-Bey in the near future.
A full post is coming tomorrow.
Jaylen Kelly-Powell gets coached up by Mike Zordich at SMSB 2016. [Bill Rapai]
Four-star Cass Tech safety Jaylen Kelly-Powell committed to Michigan this morning live on Sam Webb's WTKA radio show, fulfilling a long-awaited expectation that he'd join the 2017 class—an expectation that may have gone back to birth, as Kelly-Powell was named after Jalen Rose.
Kelly-Powell is the 19th commit in the class and the second at safety, joining three-star AL S J'Marick Woods. His commitment could help Michigan reel in his cousin, four-star Detroit King CB Ambry Thomas, and his five-star Cass Tech teammate, Donovan Peoples-Jones; Michigan is already considered the favorite for both prospects.
4*, #23 S,
|3*, #31 S||
4*, 81, #18 S,
4*, 93, #17 S,
4*, #21 S,
Kelly-Powell is regarded as a four-star prospect by every outlet save Rivals, which has him two spots outside of four-star status in their safety position rankings. Rivals is balanced out by 247, which is the most bullish on JKP, and his composite ranking ends up right in the area of his Scout and ESPN rankings.
There's a strong consensus on Kelly-Powell's measurables: he's listed at 6'0" and either 175 or 180 pounds by all four sites. While JKP has mostly played safety at Cass Tech, he's also moonlighted at corner, and he's got enough cover skills that he could be either a safety or nickel at the collegiate level. In Don Brown's system, he should wind up at safety, where he'll be utilized much like a fellow Technician: Delano Hill, another safety who the coaches are comfortable putting head-up on a receiver at the line of scrimmage.
As you'd imagine for a highly regarded Cass Tech prospect, there's quite a bit of scouting on JKP, including plenty from this here site.
The earliest scouting report I've got open is from MGoAlum Tim Sullivan, who watched JKP participate in Ohio State's Friday Night Lights camp in July of 2015:
Kelly-Powell looks very impressive physically, boasting a build that looks chiseled with no fat. He doesn't have great size overall though, coming in under 6-0 and 190 pounds, looking more like a cornerback with up close observation than a safety. However, he showed that his skill set is well-suited to safety, with an understanding of large-concept defensive ideas. He doesn't quite have the hips to play corner (other than in a pinch), and will continue building up to be the bigtime safety that he has the potential to become.
That fall, I watched Cass Tech take on Southfield, and in a game featuring a number of high-level prospects, JKP stood out:
Kelly-Powell has good size and athleticism and he plays with the type of controlled aggression you want from a strong safety. That aggression got the better of him on an early missed tackle when he overran an outside run play; otherwise, he tended to end up around the football, and the play tended to end when he got there. He had one especially impressive trackdown from the opposite hash of a ballcarrier going down the far sideline, laying a lick that knocked the ball free when he got there—unfortunately the ball flew out of bounds. When he tackles he does a good job wrapping up and he reads plays well.
Kelly-Powell was generally solid in coverage, even holding up well in man coverage against slot receivers. He got victimized on a corner route when he got caught peeking into the backfield instead of playing the receiver. Otherwise he displayed quick feet and good hips for a safety.
In the summer, Kelly-Powell went all-out to get to The Opening. When he didn't get an invite despite making Scout's top ten defensive performers at the Columbus regional, he took part in the Chicago regional the following week and punched his ticket to the finals:
Detroit Cass Tech four-star safety Jaylen Kelly-Powell came to Chicago with a mission: to be invited to The Opening Finals after not being invited in Columbus. Mission accomplished as he was once again a physical presence in coverage and challenged himself against the best receivers at the camp. While he did not win every single rep, he won a lot of them and proved himself worthy of the challenge.
JKP made it clear he deserved his spot with his performance at the finals. His one-on-one coverage stood out to 247's Tom Loy:
The Detroit (Mich.) Cass Tech four-star safety was one of the top performers when it came to one-on-one drills. In a three-play stretch, Kelly-Powell had two pass breakups and an interception. He had a strong week in Beaverton.
Kelly-Powell, the No. 27 safety in the nation and top safety in the Midwest, demonstrated an ability to drive on the ball and he tracked the ball well.
In addition, Kelly-Powell has the length to match up with bigger receivers down the field, and he plays physical in the secondary. He reads plays well in front of him.
Although I didn't see JKP take as many reps of as I'd hoped, his play at Sound Mind Sound Body was a cut above the other safeties in attendance:
In the early drill session, Mike Zordich pulled JKP and a couple other safeties aside for a separate drill that had them start off the line, go into a backpedal, and then close on the ball. That was the spot in which JKP stood out the most to me; despite being the biggest of the three prospects, he had the quickest feet and most impressive closing speed.
Kelly-Powell isn't as smooth an athlete as [Ambry] Thomas, and on the first rep I saw of him in one-on-ones he allowed a catch after getting a solid jam at the top of the route because he stopped moving his feet. He's fast and physical but doesn't look totally comfortable in man coverage; from what I've seen of him, he's better suited to full-pad settings—as a safety, he's not usually alone on an island like he is in camp one-on-ones. With some refinement in technique, however, he could become a solid cover safety, and he's already excellent playing the run.
TMI's Brice Marich got an illuminating quote from Cass Tech coach Thomas Wilcher after CT's victory over Oak Park at this fall's Prep Kickoff Classic:
The Technicians headman turned to his senior safety Jaylen Kelly-Powell for that defensive adjustment, moving him over to cornerback.
Said Wilcher, "that's something we've got to do... we've got to try to figure out how to get the best guys in the best positions so we can get control of the game,” said Wilcher.
It’s a switch he’s not afraid to make because of Kelly-Powell’s unique versatility.
"He moves around. He is the only one that knows the defense well enough to move around. He is like a person that goes from spot to spot to spot. He's just got to do that.”
Oak Park QB Dwan Mathis had two early touchdown strikes before JKP shifted to corner; he didn't have another after the switch.
Adam scouted the marquee Cass-King matchup in this season's PSL title game, which CT won 27-25 as JKP took on multiple roles in the defense:
His awareness extended beyond recognizing plays as they developed (which he did really well) as he seemed to be the one responsible for making checks and getting his teammates lined up on every play.
Cass likes to line Kelly-Powell all over the place. They’ll have him walk down into the box and play near the level of the linebackers in run support, play man over the top as a safety, and play press man in the slot or on the outside. He can cover almost anyone; in Cass’s first meeting with King this year, Kelly-Powell won most of the times he was covering [Ambry] Thomas (more on that in a Future Blue Derivatives post sometime down the road). That wasn’t the case in this game. Kelly-Powell flips his hips quickly and can stick with Thomas for a bit, but once Thomas gets downfield he’s usually able to gain a step or two of separation. That’s what happened at 00:49, and a closer matchup can be seen at 1:23. It didn’t make the highlight reel for the sake of avoiding repetition, but that same jam-turn-trail happened over and over again that night.
At 1:27 Kelly-Powell moves laterally for a split second before he realizes that Thomas didn’t get the ball, at which time he reverses course, loops around King’s blockers, breaks down, and misses in the open field. At 1:36 he’s still directing traffic when the ball is snapped, but he reads the handoff, bounces a gap over, and sticks the ballcarrier. When I’ve watched him play, I’ve seen much more of the latter. Kelly-Powell is agile enough to weave through traffic and fast enough to get from sideline to sideline in a hurry, and he also takes good angles to the ball. He’s generally an excellent run defender, and I don’t recall seeing any open-field struggles in the earlier Cass-King game. It’s a concern as a safety, but the (extremely) small sample size caveat definitely applies here.
Speaking of agility, Kelly-Powell’s was on full display on offense. He sticks a foot in the dirt and explodes past defenders at 1:43 and 1:52. He had his best game as a running back against King, but his collegiate future is likely at safety, where he has all the tools needed to succeed as one in a Don Brown defense.
Thomas is nearly as good a wideout as he is a cornerback; that JKP could stay competitive with him in man coverage is an excellent sign for a safety, even if he lost some of those battles. His command of the defense, meanwhile, is a consistent theme across several scouting reports. ESPN's underclassman eval called him a "savvy defender," and while their senior-year eval says he's a little undersized, they mention that he plays bigger than his listing, and they have high praise for his run support:
Not consistently smooth with footwork but transitions quickly in and out of pedal. Shows good burst coming forward jumping routes. Sharp in his redirection skills mirroring receivers tightly out of breaks. Quick to recovery and make up ground when ball is in the air.
Aggressive box player who will set the edge. Plays with some pop and edge to him. Lacks size behind him but will stick his nose in the mix and work leverage maintain force. Runs the alley with proper angles when aligned at safety. Understands fits and retaining leverage on ball. Tackles high with some pop but slides off some tackles as well.
Kelly-Powell has some playmaker qualities to his game. He plays fast, competes hard and has great recovery quickness. Lacks some size and and at this time may project best as a Nickel corner with safety still being the position with the highest ceiling with continued physical development
Finally, Scout joins the chorus of those praising JKP's football IQ in their free evaluation:
EvaluationNot considered 'big' for safety, but not small either as he's at right about the average for height and is well put together as far as his build. Can play man to man and has been out on an island at cornerback before. Changes directions well and has good coverage technique. Aggressive both at the line of scrimmage jamming and when in run support. Solid wrap-up tackler more than he is a striker. Very smart and disciplined and gets himself in the right places. Would like to see him make more plays on the football as far as turnovers, but he is a good, smart, productive football player.Strengths
- Change of Direction
- Coverage Awareness
- Jamming AbilityAreas to Improve
- Ball Skills
Kelly-Powell doesn't have prototype size and he's not quite fluid enough to be a full-time corner, but he makes up for that with his intelligence, instincts, and physicality. I expect him to become a very good safety, even if his size prevents him from being considered a big-time NFL prospect. He possesses the well-rounded skill-set and football IQ required to succeed as a safety playing multiple roles in Don Brown's complicated defense.
Kelly-Powell has an impressive offer sheet that includes the likes of Alabama, Auburn, Cal, Colorado, Michigan State, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Oregon, Penn State, Pitt, Stanford, Tennessee, Virginia Tech, UCLA, and Wisconsin, among many others.
I don't need to tell you about Cass Tech, Michigan's most important in-state pipeline program.
I couldn't find complete stats for JKP; MaxPreps only has bits and pieces from his sophomore year.
FAKE 40 TIME
Kelly-Powell has a SPARQ-verified 4.66 40-yard dash, which gets zero FAKEs out of five.
Regular season highlights from this season:
Clips from The Opening:
Junior highlights and single-game reels can be found on his Hudl page.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Kelly-Powell should get an opportunity for immediate playing time with Delano Hill and Dymonte Thomas both graduating after this season. Tyree Kinnel looks to have one safety spot locked down; Josh Metellus has the inside track at the other, but there will be snaps to go around between him, Khaleke Hudson, and the incoming freshmen. JKP is likely to find his way into the rotation, either as a slot corner or backup safety, and he should be an integral part of the secondary by his junior year.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Kelly-Powell fills a big need at safety, and Michigan may be done recruiting that spot—while they have other offers out to safety prospects, none stand out as likely to join the class, and Michigan can also take an extra corner and move somebody back. (Darnay Holmes, for instance, is a corner who's also a promising free safety prospect.)
Michigan now has 19 commits in a 2017 class that should reach the low 30s. Biggest needs going forward include wide receiver, a few more offensive linemen, defensive tackle, and linebacker.
Three-star Warwick (RI) Bishop Hendricken DE Kwity Paye committed to Michigan this morning. Paye had been committed to Boston College, where he was originally offered and recruited by current Michigan DC Don Brown, but the Wolverines moved to the forefront of Paye's recruitment when he took an official visit for the Wisconsin game. After going to BC last weekend to make sure of his decision, Paye made it official.
"When I went to take my official visit there, it felt like a huge family," Paye said. "The coaches there aren't really focused on winning. They are more focused on the players, and making sure the players are succeeding and they are making sure they are preparing them for after football, and not just a football career.
"Obviously, they you to be great as football players, but after football, and they stress that a lot."
Before ever suiting up in the Maize and Blue, Paye has already taken a remarkable journey. Like current Wolverines Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson, Paye and his family had to flee civil war before settling in the United States:
Paye was a mere six months old when his mother, Agnes, took Kwity and his older brother, Komotay Kossia, and immigrated to Guinea from Liberia -- to escape the atrocities of a civil war -- where they settled in a refugee camp.
Eventually, Agnes Paye immigrated to the United States and took up residence in South Providence. ...
“My mother told me we were in a refugee camp and we moved around a lot,” said Paye. “There wasn’t a place for us to stay so we moved to Guinea where I was born.
“I believe she would have still tried to come to American as the (civil) war was going on. I don’t think they would have let us stay in Liberia. I don’t think we would be alive.”
Paye started out as a track athlete when he arrived in America—his mother was a runner—before discovering football at the early age of seven.
Paye is the 18th commit in the class. While he's listed as a weakside end, where Michigan already has two four-star commits in Corey Malone-Hatcher and Luiji Vilain, he could very well wind up as a strongside linebacker in Brown's defense—Michigan doesn't have a commit yet in the class who's an obvious fit for that position.
|3* #70 DE||3*, #40 WDE||4*, 80, #26 WDE||
3*, 86, #42 WDE,
3*, #45 WDE,
Every site save ESPN has Paye rated as a low-end three-star, and it's worth noting ESPN—which gives him a four-star rating—appears to be the only site that has done in-depth scouting on him. It wouldn't be surprising if Paye moves up in the composite once the other sites take a second look; BC commits from Rhode Island don't tend to garner much attention.
As mentioned above, Paye fits the mold of a pass-rushing strongside linebacker in Brown's defense. He's listed at either 6'3" or 6'4" and right around 225 pounds by all four sites.
[Hit THE JUMP for scouting, video, and more.]
Fresh off an official visit for the Illinois game, four-star Beaver Falls (PA) DT/SDE Donovan Jeter announced his commitment to Michigan this afternoon.
— Donovan Jeter (@__5god__) October 23, 2016
Jeter decommitted from Notre Dame a week ago in part because of a conversation with Greg Mattison. He gave your new favorite recruiting quote to Pittsburgh Sports Now in the aftermath:
“I don’t want to play for a mediocre school,” he said. “I don’t want to play for a team that goes like 7-6. I want to go to a school that plays in the big bowl games or plays in the College Football Playoff. I don’t want to go to an average school because I don’t think I’m an average player. I want to make big time plays on a big time stage.”
It's been a good weekend.
4*, #30 DE,
|4*, #14 DT||4*, 80, #28 DT||
4*, 91, #8 SDE,
4*, #11 SDE,
Jeter played strongside end for Beaver Falls at around 300 pounds last year, but has dropped ~50 pounds and plays on 3-4 DE this year. He's listed at 6'5" on three of the four sites (Scout says 6'6") and between 250 (247) and 270 (ESPN) pounds. He could be a three-tech or a strongside end in Michigan's defense.
Jeter comes from an athletic family. Both of his older brothers have played college basketball at a high level: Lance Jeter (6'3", 225) was an all-conference guard at Nebraska, and Sheldon Jeter (6'8", 230) was a productive sixth man for Pitt as a junior last year. Donovan, of course, wound up with a slightly different body type.
There's surprisingly little on Jeter in the scouting department from before his Notre Dame commitment in September. All I could find was an undated ESPN underclassman eval that they've since updated, but the old one is worth posting to provide a starting point—it's probably from before his junior year since it mentions a need to add weight:
STRENGTHS: Tall with massive frame and great strength. Powerful at the point of attack and is difficult to move off the ball. Possesses good lateral agility and balance in space. Uses length to keep blockers at bay. Reads quickly and can counter Aggressive player with a great motor. ... AREAS OF IMPROVEMENT: Will need to fill out his ample frame. Not overly sudden and a bit of a long strider. Needs to refine his stacking and shedding. ... BOTTOM LINE: Jeter is a strong, aggressive kid with prototypical size and more than enough speed. We believe he has the potential to develop into a well-rounded defensive end at the next level. He has plenty of upside.
[Hit THE JUMP for more scouting, video, and the rest.]
Ekiyor at yesterday's game. [Isaiah Hole/247Sports]
As first reported by Sam Webb, 2018 four-star Indianapolis (IN) Cathedral OG Emil Ekiyor committed to Michigan this afternoon. Michigan was the first program to offer Ekiyor, who has since compiled an impressive offer sheet, and they also got to evaluate him in person at both the Indianapolis satellite camp and Sound Mind Sound Body this summer.
Ekiyor is Michigan's second commit in the 2018 class, joining four-star GA OLB Otis Reese.
4*, #3 OG,
4*, #4 OG,
4*, 81, #4 OG,
4*, 92, #5 OG,
4*, #4 OG,
Ekiyor's rankings are in a remarkably tight grouping; the "spread" of a whopping seven places in the overall rankings is the smallest I can remember. As a result of his rankings being so consistently high, his composite ranking outstrips any of his rankings from the four recruiting services.
All four sites consider Ekiyor a guard, and he's very much built like one. He's listed between 6'2" and 6'4" and in the range of 315 to 349(!) pounds, with camp reports listing him on the shorter and stouter end. He looks like an interior mauler all the way.
Scout's short, free evaluation screams interior lineman:
EvaluationBig, powerful lineman who is light on his feet and finishes his blocks. Can still improve overall pass pro technique.Strengths
- Drive Blocking Skills
- Power And Strength
- SizeAreas to Improve
- Pass Protection
Despite only being partway through his junior season, Ekiyor has been on the recruiting radar for quite a while. He's started since his freshman year at Cathedral, a powerhouse program in Indiana's biggest divison, and Michigan's offer came way back in March of 2015. That summer, Tim Sullivan evaluated Ekiyor's performance at OSU's Friday Night Lights camp:
Ekiyor picked up his first offer from Michigan back in March, and he's added a few more since then. He has the mass to be a bullying offensive guard, and his feet move very quickly as well. He has a bit of a "chopped off" look, so unless he hits a growth spurt (always possible with young men who haven't yet started their sophomore year of high school), it seems he's bound for the interior line. He moved very fluidly through the day, and showed off some good power, as well.
Rivals's Josh Helmholdt listed him among the top performers at the Cincinnati Crosstown Showdown a month later:
The 6-foot-4, 315-pound Ekiyor does not look like a high school offensive line prospect, let alone one who is just starting his sophomore year. The Indianapolis native is built like a brick house and physically overwhelms opponents, but he is also light on his feet and can locate in space. Cathedral plays Ekiyor at right tackle, but his future will be on the interior of the offensive line where his wide frame and outstanding power will provide for a dominant drive blocker in college.
After helping Cathedral to a state championship appearance in his sophomore season, Ekiyor impressed Scout's Allen Trieu at this May's Chicago Opening regional:
Strong, powerful kid. Very wide base and when he got his hands solidly on guys, he won. Looks like a power guard at the next level.
Irish247's Tom Loy was also in attendance and came away with a different take:
It wasn't a strong performance for the Indianapolis (Ind.) Cathedral four-star offensive guard from the class of 2018. Notre Dame hasn't offered yet and I see why there is some hesitation. Despite his massive 6-3, 350-pound size, Ekiyor got moved around by smaller defensive linemen. He wasn't physically dominant even though it's expected when looking at his size. He needs to continue working hard in the weight room and drop some bad weight. He has time to do that when working with a proper trainer and nutritionist. Ekiyor still possesses a ton of upside and potential. If he puts in a lot of hard work, he'll have the chance to be very good down the road.
Few high school prospects carry 350 good pounds; Ekiyor almost certainly has some bad weight to shed before he can make an impact at the college level.
247's Steve Wiltfong named Ekiyor one of the top performers at M's Indianapolis satellite camp even though he wasn't fully healthy:
Indianapolis (Ind.) Cathedral Top247 2018 offensive lineman Emil Ekiyor is still trying to get right coming off an injury, but the wide interior body with good feet and strength showed flashes of his great potential. Ekiyor said he’s transitioning to center this fall.
Ekiyor is a wider guy than most centers, but if he's closer to the 6'2" end of his height range than that could be a possibility. Wiltfong also mentioned Ekiyor among the standout offensive linemen at SMSB.
ESPN's evaluation doesn't put forth much criticism beyond Ekiyor's lack of height and need to shed some weight:
STRENGTHS: Possesses excellent bulk and moves very well for his size. Gains an immediate advantage with a good first step. Has quick feet and great strength. Fluid and flexible athlete who is comfortable playing in space. Mirrors effectively in pass pro and can anchor against the bull rush. ... AREAS OF IMPROVEMENT: On the shorter side and lacks length. Would benefit from shedding a few lbs and redistributing his weight better. Leans forward too much at times. ... BOTTOM LINE: Ekiyor is a big man with deceptive athleticism. He has the strength to dominate in the run game as well as the quick feet to play in space in pass pro. Overall, he's a very good offensive line prospect.
So long as Ekiyor keeps his weight under control, he sounds like an excellent guard prospect for a power running team.
Ekiyor had Tennessee tied atop his list with Michigan until this weekend. He also holds offers from Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Louisville, LSU, Michigan State, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Penn State, Texas A&M, UCLA, USC, Cal, Cincinnati, Duke, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Mizzou, NC State, Syracuse, Toledo, USF, Vanderbilt, and Virginia. Notably, Notre Dame and Ohio State have not come through with offers.
Cathedral made the state championship game last year after moving up to Indiana's biggest division. Michigan has an offer and strong interest in Ekiyor's friend and teammate Markese Stepp, a four-star 2018 running back committed to Notre Dame. Stepp accompanied Ekiyor on his visit yesterday, per 247's Steve Lorenz. Given how ND's season has gone thus far, his recruitment is one to keep a close eye on.
OL, no stats.
FAKE 40 TIME
ESPN lists a combine 40 time of 5.44 seconds, which gets zero FAKEs.
Mid-season junior highlights:
Full sophomore highlights:
Freshman highlights and single-game reels can be found on his Hudl page.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Ekiyor will definitely wind up on the interior of the offensive line. With his wide frame and quick feet, the guess here is he plays guard. Even Michigan is far from done recruiting the 2017 offensive line class, Ekiyor could have the chance to see the field relatively early; among players on the current roster, only Michael Onwenu, Stephen Spanellis, Jon Runyan Jr., and perhaps Ben Bredeson (if he's not needed at tackle) project to play guard. In all likelihood, though, Ekiyor will marinate for a couple years while doing plenty of strength and conditioning work—with a major emphasis on the conditioning bit.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
It'll probably have Emil Ekiyor in it.