2015 Lincolnton (NC) DL Darian Roseboro committed to Michigan in a ceremony broadcast on ESPN.com this afternoon, choosing the Wolverines out of a final six that also included Alabama, Clemson, NC State, North Carolina, and Tennessee. Roseboro is slated to play strongside defensive end, though there's a good possibility he ends up at defensive tackle; either way, he's the first of Michigan's 11 commits in the class who will play on the defensive line.
4*, #14 DT,
4*, #6 DT,
4*, 82, #20 DT,
4*, 93, #6 SDE,
4*, #7 SDE,
Roseboro is comfortably within the top 200 overall prospects on every site, and Rivals—notably, the most recent to update their rankings—provides a very positive outlier, ranking him 42nd among all 2015 prospects. All but 247, which lists him as a strongside DE, consider him a defensive tackle prospect.
That's probably because Rosoboro is a very big guy. He's listed at either 6'3" or 6'4" and 283-293 pounds on the recruiting services; the general consensus has him at 6'4", 285 or so.
[After THE JUMP: scouting and such]
Presumably after crossing the goal line [via 247]
If you missed the news last night, four-star Cass Tech running back Mike Weber committed to Michigan, and the way it went down instantly found its rightful place in Hilarious Recruiting Victories Over Michigan State lore. Weber was slated to visit East Lansing on Wednesday afternoon; instead, this happened:
“The environment and the way I felt about it when I was down there, and the way they see me in the backfield, and having a degree from Michigan would set me up, and having my whole family be able to come watch me, I just made the move,” Weber reeled off.
Weber instead visited Michigan after "oversleeping," and missing his trip to East Lansing.
The quotation marks make that last statement 1000 times better.
The commitment capped a huge effort on Michigan's part to get back into Weber's good graces—spearheaded by Doug Nussmeier, Chris Singletary, and Alex Malzone—over the last several months. The Spartans led the way for much of that span, but in the end the U-M coaches made Weber feel like he was their top priority at running back, which Weber justifiably felt he wasn't when Damien Harris was the main focus at the position.
In the last couple weeks, Michigan's secured the top two 2015 in-state recruits—receiver Brian Cole being the other—both of whom were considered Spartan leans for quite some time. Let's check in with the RCMB...
Don't be so hard on yourself, JARGON. I'm sure you'll get that fifth star before long.
4*, #13 RB,
4*, #10 RB,
4*, 82, #14 RB,
4*, 94, #13 RB,
4*, #14 RB,
There's a pretty solid consensus on Weber's talent, as all four sites have him in the 10-14 range on their running back position rankings and well within the top 200 overall prospects.
They're also in relative agreement about his size, listing him at either 5'9" or 5'10" and 205-210 pounds. He measured in at 5'10", 205 at a recent Rivals camp; he's very much got the compact, sturdy frame of a running back.
Weber came to Cass Tech with high expectations after an outstanding youth football career, but had to wait to make an impact after losing his freshman season to injury. That impact would come as a sophomore in 2012, when he passed older, more experienced backs Deon Drake and Gary Hosey to earn the bulk of the carries for the Technicians. Despite being limited by a hamstring injury early in the season, he'd rush for 1700 yards and 21 TDs, then led the way in Cass Tech's second straight state title game victory over Catholic Central:
Running back [Mike] Weber came into his own for Cass Tech, amassing 186 yards on 20 carries and helping the Technicians to keep the ball and clock moving throughout the second half. Weber averaged 9.3 yards per rush and Catholic Central never seemed to find a solution for him.
The highlights from that game, which feature several current or future Wolverines, show off Weber's ability to turn the corner:
Weber's scouting reports are remarkably in line with each other, calling him a well-rounded back who can play on every down, and while he lacks track star speed or Hyde-ian power he possesses a lot of the same skills as Mike Hart. Here's ESPN's underclassman eval ($):
STRENGTHS: A solid runner with a low center of gravity. Displays the ability to push the pile and gain the tough yards. A powerful back with great playing strength. Runs with good lean and a high knee action allowing him to break arm tackles. Flashes a nice burst and adequate top-end speed. ... AREAS OF IMPROVEMENT: Will benefit from improving elusiveness in the open field and enhancing his playmaking ability. Not a burner that will consistently win footraces against elite opponents. Can be a short stepper with slight hip tension. ... BOTTOM LINE: Weber is an decisive runner with every down potential . A true load carrier type of back who projects well in physical running attack. His short stature and lower body strength are assets.
Scout's profile lists cutback ability, hands, and vision as strengths, with power his lone area to improve, and echoes the "complete back" sentiment:
Weber is a compact back who runs with good patience. He is a slasher with a good burst and good acceleration. He catches the ball well out of the backfield and also does a nice job in pass protection. He has run largely out of the shotgun in high school and would have to adjust if he goes to more of a traditional I-form team in college. He's shown the ability to run between the tackles but is not a true power back. - Allen Trieu
Trieu elaborated on Weber's running ability in Scout's free commitment capsule:
As far as long speed, he may not be a 4.3 type track star, but is capable of running away from defenders and getting the corner. However, he's at his best between the tackles. ... While he may not be known as a power back, he runs hard, runs with attitude and finishes his runs. In the open field, he's more of a straight ahead guy than a make you miss type elusive runner.
247's Clint Brewster also says that Weber doesn't quite possess that extra gear in the open field, saying instead that he has "more deceptive speed," and he agrees with Trieu that Weber's power is overlooked ($):
Weber has a sense of urgency, as he presses the line of scrimmage but also has the vision to find the cut back lane. He has very good short-area-quickness and can burst through a small crease if space is available. He has great overall strength and can really push the pile. Weber has a good stiff-arm and breaks a lot of tackles. He is always falling forward after a run. Weber has a low center of gravity and does a good job of lowering his pad level to take on blockers and keeps his legs moving to gain extra yards.
Weber's all-around ability surfaced wherever he went, whether playing for Cass Tech or performing against top national competition on the camp circuit. Rivals' Josh Helmholdt named Weber the top offensive performer at last year's Prep Kickoff Classic after he scored twice against a Southfield squad featuring Lawrence Marshall and Malik McDowell ($):
The 5-foot-10, 205-pound Weber picked up where he left off as a sophomore when he was an offensive catalyst for Cass Tech's Division I state title. Weber scored touchdowns on a 30-yard screen pass in the first half and a 16-yard run in the second half. If possible, he looked even more explosive than he did a year ago. Weber has always shown great start-and-stop ability, and he gets to top speed instantly. His size and speed make him a threat between the tackles and on the edge.
After an excellent junior campaign, Weber has really impressed this spring and summer. He was the clear choice for top performer at the RCS Detroit, according to Adam Friedman ($):
Weber was virtually unguardable during the one-on-one period. The Rivals250 member is extremely agile and can change directions on a dime. Weber ran extremely crisp routes and had very good hands. He wasn't afraid to take on the bigger linebackers that tried to knock him off his routes. Weber's ability to turn a short catch into a long reception is outstanding.
That performance eventually earned him the #5 spot on Rivals' list of top running backs at all of their Rivals Camp Series events ($).
Sam Webb was in attendance for The Opening, where Weber once again showed off his versatility ($):
On day one his ability to make moves in the open field was showcased. On day two he showed himself to be a dangerous receiving threat out of the backfield. Early in 7-on-7 action his QBs looked to him only as an outlet. He rewarded them with some chain-moving grabs on swing passes and crossing routes. They ignored him on the wheel-route though, and that was a mistake. Weber ran by safeties all day long on the route but the QB just wouldn’t look his way. He grew increasingly frustrated but never loafed on route. Then finally on one of the late games he broke open down the sideline and Josh Rosen looked in his direction. Rosen laid the ball up perfectly for Mikey to run under and it was hauled in for six.
Scout national analyst Jamie Newberg was duly impressed ($):
“Weber I thought was tremendous,” said Scout national recruiting analyst Jamie Newburg. “I loved him on film. After I got our here, he is more of a compact running back with great explosiveness. Put together a little better than Damien Harris, our number one running back in the country. He catches the ball exceptionally well. He is terrific in space. He is not committed yet, but someone up in the Midwest in Big Ten country is going to get themselves a one heck of a running back. He is ultra quick, very good speed and very versatile, cause obviously he can run and he showed out here he can catch the football.”
I'll give the last word to The Wolverine's Tim Sullivan, who's probably seen Weber in game action more than the rest of these scouts combined (save perhaps Trieu). He believes Weber is an ideal fit for Michigan's offense under Doug Nussmeier ($):
Weber is an outstanding fit for the zone running scheme, a one-cut back who has the acceleration to plant his foot in the turf when he sees a hole and run to daylight. He is a very nice physical specimen - a testament to his natural talent and also his work ethic - who has power and speed. He is still developing a killer's mentality when it comes to running over defenders, but he has enough quickness in the hole and pure speed to make that a less important factor.
To sum it up, Weber is an every-down back who can run outside or between the tackles, possesses the acceleration to get the corner and enough speed to make his share of big plays, isn' t the easiest back to bring down, catches the ball well out of the backfield, and he's a willing blocker to boot. His vision and style should play very well in Michigan's zone running scheme, as well.
Weber held offers from Illinois, Kentucky, Miami (YTM), Michigan State, NC State, Nebraska, Ohio State, Purdue, Syracuse, Tennessee, USC, and Wisconsin when he pledged to Michigan. Alabama and Notre Dame, among others, reportedly showed interest.
Please don't make me list all the Cass Tech people.
According to 247, Weber rushed for 1700 yards and 21 touchdowns as a sophomore, then followed that up with 1659 yards and 24 scores in 2013.
FAKE 40 TIME
Rivals hand-timed (I believe) Weber at 4.47 seconds in the 40 at one of their camps, which gets three FAKEs out of five; since it's a hand time, add a tenth of a second or two and you're probably in the right range.
Sophomore reel that leans too heavily on slow-mo but I'm a sucker for a highlight tape soundtracked by M83:
Single-game cut-ups of Weber's performance last season against Southfield, courtesy of Maize & Blue News:
His between-the-tackles burst is really impressive.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Weber should be afforded a redshirt year with Justice Hayes, Derrick Green, De'Veon Smith, Ty Isaac, Drake Johnson, and Ross Douglas all possessing at least a year of eligibility left when he gets on campus; that is, if he doesn't earn a spot in the running back rotation right away, which wouldn't be unusual for a freshman with his talent level.
By his second year on campus, he should be competing for carries, and by 2017—when Green and Smith will have exhausted their eligibility, as well as Hayes the year prior—he'll be in the mix for a starting role; he'll be the presumed starter if Ty Isaac gets a waiver to play this fall, though that seems unlikely. Even if Isaac sits out this year, Weber is a different type of back and should garner plenty of playing time before taking over the starting roll full-time as an upperclassman.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Weber is Michigan's 10th commit in the 2015 class and the lone running back in the group. We're projecting three open spots right now, with defensive end, outside linebacker, and perhaps another offensive linemen presenting the biggest areas of need. CA WDE Keisean Lucier-South, NC SDE Darian Roseboro, and IN OLB Asmar Bilal are probably the top prospects on Michigan's board at the moment.
Photo credit: Bryan Mitchell/Detroit News
This escalated quickly. 2015 Cass Tech running back Mike Weber, who was initially slated to visit Michigan State this afternoon, committed to Michigan after deciding to visit Ann Arbor instead.
— Uncle Mike (@mikeweber25) August 7, 2014
While the tide had seemingly turned in Michigan's favor after Weber had previously favored the Spartans, I don't think anybody expected a commitment to happen this quickly. Weber is the #14 running back and #115 player overall on the 247 Composite. He held offers from Michigan State, Ohio State, Miami, Nebraska, Tennessee, USC, and Wisconsin, among several others, at the time of his commitment.
The full, informative commitment post will go up tomorrow morning.
D-III Williams College sharpshooter Duncan Robinson announced on Twitter moments ago that, as expected, he's transferring to Michigan:
I am proud to announce that I'll be transferring to the University of Michigan. Proud to be a Wolverine! #GoBlue
— Duncan Robinson (@D_Bo20) August 6, 2014
Robinson will sit out this year, then have three years of eligibility remaining when he suits up for the 2015-16 season.
As you might expect of a D-III player, Robinson didn't even have recruiting profiles on any of the major sites, let alone actual rankings. That's not to say he wasn't a D-I caliber prospect, however, as the New England Recruiting Report ranked him as the #12 recruit in New Hampshire and #47 in the New England region—ahead of several D-I commits—when he came out of high school in the 2013 class.
So how did Robinson not land at a D-I school? By choice:
A year ago he was a relative unknown coming out of Governor’s Academy. One year, two inches, and 20 pounds of muscle later now he’s a NEPSAC finals MVP and a huge steal for Williams College. While the masses are wondering how a sharp-shooting six-foot-seven forward could have slipped through the scholarship cracks, the reality is that he jumped through, spurning scholarship offers for the top ranked liberal arts school and one of the most storied Division III basketball programs in the country.
Academics should not be a concern.
So, yeah, you just read "sharp-shooting six-foot-seven forward" and now know why John Beilein coveted a D-III transfer. Here's more from the NERR from when Robinson committed to Williams:
One of the best pure shooters in all of New England, Robinson has a feathery stroke with range well beyond the three point line, a high basketball I.Q., and a long six-foot-seven frame that is just starting to add muscle mass.
Excellent use of "feathery" there.
Other scouting reports from his recruitment, as you might expect, are scant. What the heck, here's one from something called BallasTV, which included this blurb when they published the above video:
Duncan Robinson is probably the most under recruited kid in the NATION that we have seen this year! At 6'6 Duncan meets all the criteria for a low - mid major d1 G/F, he is tall, long, athletic, has guard skills and a GREAT student. Some times kids develop later then others and we think that is the case for Robinson, even from this summer to spring he looks to have added 10+ pounds of muscle to his lean frame.
They seemed pretty excited about him, also noting that "there isn't ONE" AAU coach who faced Robinson who wouldn't say he was a D-I level prospect. Seeing his shooting stroke, as well as some solid drives to the rim, the excitement is quite understandable.
Talking to the Freep's Mark Snyder, Robinson's AAU coach added a couple details beyond "shooter":
A dead eye shooter, hitting 45% from three-pint range while averaging 17 points per game, Robinson is nearly 6-foot-8 and weighs 195 pounds. With the redshirt year he would have to take if he transferred, “who’s to say he’s not 215 and Big Ten-ready?”
“He’s not just a standstill shooter, he can put it on the floor, he’s a smart cutter,” Crotty said. “He knows how to have patience and use angles as well.”
His ability as a cutter could play very well in Beilein's system, especially if his shot is dangerous enough that defenders are predisposed to closing out hard on the perimeter.
UMHoops got an exclusive scouting report from Nothing But NESCAC, which noted that he was comfortable and effective as both a spot-up and pull-up shooter, then pointed out some areas in need of improvement if Robinson is going to succeed against a much higher level of competition:
The defensive and rebounding parts of his game are really where Robinson will need to work on if he wants to be a contributor at Michigan. He currently lacks both the lateral quickness and strength in order to consistently stay in front of quicker shorter defenders who could use their leverage against him. Rebounding he used his size to average 6.5 rebounds per game, but he wasn’t very active on the offensive glass or ever really dominated in the paint.
If you're thinking "this guy sounds like a D-III Nik Stauskas," you're not alone, as NBN made that exact comparison. Robinson may actually be a bit taller: he told UMHoops that he's 6'8" and up to around 200 pounds. Unless he adds a good deal of bulk and strength, he's probably ticketed for the three at Michigan; regardless of what position he plays, he should at the very least stretch the floor offensively.
They are impressive. Via MLive:
As a freshman at Williams in 2013-14, he averaged 17.1 points and 6.5 rebounds per game in a school-record 1,110 minutes played (34.7 mpg), all while making 81-of-179 3-pointers (45.3 percent)
Shooting 45% from distance on a high volume of shots while being the team's star player is quite the feat for a freshman at any level. Robinson won D-III Freshman of the Year honors and was a fourth-team All-American on D3Hoops.com; not only was Robinson the only freshman among the four AA teams and five players who earned honorable mention, no sophomores were selected and only three juniors made the cut.
I can't find a high school offer sheet for Robinson, but he had plenty of interest when he announced his plans to transfer, per UMHoops:
“A whole bunch of schools that reached out,” Robinson said. “No other Big Ten schools, but a couple of ACC schools, Big 12, and then a lot of lower-conference and mid-majors. I’ve kind of narrowed it down to two. I’m going to take a visit to Davidson (this weekend) and I’m going to take a visit to Michigan (Monday).”
While Davidson isn't a high major school, they're in or around the KenPom top 100 on a very consistent basis from year to year, and they did produce that Steph Curry guy. Dylan also noted that Creighton, the most DEATH FROM ABOVE team in college basketball last season, also showed interest in landing Robinson.
UMHoops helpfully compiled a video of Robinson's Williams highlights:
Yup, dude can shoot.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Projected a D-III player to the Big Ten is a rather difficult endeavor, as a jump like that happens very rarely:
Matt Hart led Hamilton in scoring before transferring to George Washington as a walk on and Varun Ram left Trinity to walk on at Maryland and earned a scholarship, the 5-9 point guard played in 16 games last season.
Those were the two recent D-III to D-I examples UMHoops found; Hart is in the same boat as Robinson—sitting out 2014-15 after his transfer—so we don't know how the transition will go for him.
My best guess is Robinson works his way into being an off-the-bench gunner eventually; he does appear to be an ideal fit in Beilein's offense, and woe be upon the blogger who questions Beilein's talent evaluation. Beilein thought it was worth not just bringing in a D-III transfer, but using a scholarship spot on one, and just based on that I get the feeling Robinson will make an impact in his Michigan career, even if the constant influx of blue chip recruits* prevent him from grabbing a starting job.
*Man, was that sentence fun to write out.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Adding to the intrigue of Robinson's transfer is the fact that it likely quite possibly closes the book on guard/wing recruiting for the 2015 class. Though this is likely to change, Michigan has only one open scholarship for 2015-16 at the moment, and the priority is going to be landing a big man: Sam Webb posited on The Victors Board that five-star IN C Caleb Swanigan is going to be the main priority moving forward ($).
Proud to say im a Michigan Wolverine! 〽️ pic.twitter.com/TLMcQMPR7Q
— B.Cole... (@Young__Kid__) July 26, 2014
Michigan has picked up their first commit from the Barbecue at the Big House weekend, even though the actual event doesn't start until tomorrow. Top-100 athlete Brian Cole, a receiver/cornerback from Saginaw (MI) Heritage whom Michigan recruited as a wideout, is the ninth commitment in the 2015 class, and a huge head-to-head win for the Wolverines over Michigan State.
As Lawrence Marshall once said, the best players from Michigan gotta go to Michigan, and the Wolverines just landed the #1 in-state prospect for 2015.
4*, #5 WR,
4*, #7 ATH,
4*, 82, #8 ATH,
4*, 97, #2 ATH,
4*, #5 ATH,
Cole is generally regarded as one of the best athletes in the 2015 class, and while his best college position is the matter of some debate, there's no question he's a heck of a talent, as the rankings indicate.
All four sites list Cole at 6'2" with weights ranging from 190 pounds (247, Rivals) to 210 (Scout); more recent articles on Cole have him listed near the top end of that range. He's got the build to play receiver, running back, cornerback, or safety, with a solid enough frame that some even suggest he could bulk up and play outside linebacker. Michigan, however, is bringing him in as a wide receiver.
It's apparent from both his film and scouting reports that Cole is the level of athlete you get the field wherever you can, and work out the details later. He's played running back, receiver, and deep safety for Heritage, and he's a BCS-level prospect at cornerback, too.
There are two common threads in his scouting reports. One is that he's a remarkable athlete. The other is that his highest ceiling is most likely at receiver. Here's Scout's Allen Trieu after taking in a Heritage game against Midland Dow last fall ($):
He did show good feet and elusiveness for a kid of his size. He can make people miss and cut back and change directions like a smaller player. Defensively, where he had 10 tackles, he showed excellent closing speed and a lot of effort in pursuit. That extra gear and acceleration was surprising and impressive.
The question becomes, what is he at the next level? He could play on offensive as a wide receiver or even a slot/running back hybrid. On defense, he could be a safety or even an outside linebacker. In our opinion, given his size and skill set, wide receiver or linebacker are where his upside may be greatest.
ESPN's evaluation calls him an "explosive 0 to 60 player" and a "hold your breath type guy" in the open field, praises his natural catching and jump-ball skills, and projects he'll be more ready to contribute right away on offense ($):
It is really easy to like Cole athletically. He can flat out run and already possesses impressive measurables that are only going to get better. Defensively he needs to become a little more football savvy, disciplined and show more consistent production. He is much more college ready on the offensive side of the football but his skill set will tempt coaches to play him on defense. Time will tell just how much he develops in terms of a little nuances of the game. If he can become the football player that his talent level indicates over time the sky's the limit for his development.
After seeing him at May's Midwest Elite 7-on-7 tourney, Rivals' Josh Helmholdt also thought Cole was a more natural receiver than defender while ranking him as the top overall performer at the event ($):
Cole, a Rivals250 prospect, has been out of the off-season camp and combine scene dealing with an injury, but he looked 100 percent on Saturday. College coaches are recruiting the 6-foot-2, 190-pound Cole at both defensive back and wide receiver, and we saw him play both. He looks more natural at wide receiver right now, and burned defensive backs deep for touchdowns all day long. But Cole is such a gifted athlete that he was around the football consistently on defense as well.
The Wolverine's Tim Sullivan concurred after seeing Cole score two touchdowns in a rivalry game victory over Saginaw Arthur Hill last October ($):
Cole stars for Heritage on both sides of the ball, but his college future looks brightest on offense. He's simply too exciting with the ball in his hands to limit those opportunities. In a game where his offensive line didn't open many holes, he made the most of everything they gave him - and contributed much more with field-reversing runs.
His size means he's not likely to play running back at the next level, but what little we saw of him playing receiver showed that he has the skills to make the move full-time in college. That is his preference at this time, as well. He catches the ball well, and although he's not running complex routes, he is agile enough and smart enough to add that to his repertoire. When the ball is in his hands - particularly in the open field - he can make plays.
Scout's free evaluation focuses entirely on his ability as a receiver, noting strengths of size, speed, and elusiveness while pointing only to route-running as an area for improvement:
Good sized kid who carries his 200+ pounds very well. Shows very good ability in space and change of direction for a bigger kid. He is a good open field runner with legitimate speed. He has played a lot of tailback and safety, but shows good natural hands and ball skills. Having not played as much receiver, refining his route running is key but he has the tools to project to multiple positions in college. - Allen Trieu
Trieu ranked Cole as the #1 in-state prospect in March, as well as the #4 prospect in the entire Midwest region, behind only Damien Harris, Jashon Cornell, and Justin Hilliard. The Wolverine placed Cole just ahead of Mike Weber for top propsect honors in the state, as well.
Cole held offers from Illinois, Michigan State, Nebraska, Ohio State, Tennessee, and Wisconsin, among a few others, as well as interest from Alabama, Notre Dame, and UCLA. He's the type of prospect who may have pulled in more out-of-region offers if he hadn't shown such high interest in the local schools from the start.
Saginaw Heritage didn't exist as a school until 1988, and their history of producing college football players is short—Cole is the only Heritage product to commit to a D-I school in the Rivals database (2002-present), and a quick U-M roster search shows only two Wolverines from the school (Jake Malacos and Matt Sygo), both of whom only were on the team for one season in the 1990s.
Michigan does have a nice history with Saginaw players, however, as the town produced S Shonte Peoples, LB Sam Sword, TE Shawn Thompson, LB Roy Manning, RB Jerome Jackson, DE LaMarr Woodley, and FB John McColgan over the last few decades.
The only stats I can find on Cole are that he made 47 tackles and five interceptions last year en route to earning all-state honors.
FAKE 40 TIME
Rivals lists a 40 time of 4.5, which gets three FAKEs out of five for being generally in the area one would expect but lacking specificity.
Offense-only highlights from Cole's first four games of his junior season:
Defense-only highlights from the first seven games of 2013:
Single game cut-ups from his junior and sophomore seasons are available on his Hudl page.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
This gets complicated since Cole could very conceivably play any of three spots at Michigan—receiver, cornerback, or safety—even if the current plan is to start him out on offense. At both receiver and corner, there's a good deal of depth in the classes in front of Cole, which would allow him a redshirt before competing for playing time. That would be ideal given Cole hasn't narrowed his focus to one side of the ball in high school and will need to refine his technique wherever he ends up playing.
If he ends up at safety, there could be opportunity for more early playing time, though if Jabrill Peppers stays in that group I'd be surprised if Cole was needed back there—he appears to have more upside on offense, anyway.
Wherever he ends up, Cole should play; he's not as raw as the "athlete" label often indicates, and his versatility should give him ample opportunity to earn snaps and eventually a starting role.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Cole's versatility also gives Michigan some flexibility in filling out the dwindling number of spots remaining in the 2015 class (we project four remaining open scholarships, with the usual caveat that the number should rise with normal attrition). There are two sure-fire needs at defensive end and outside linebacker. If Cole and the coaches stick with the current plan, Michigan should bring in another defensive back. If they decide he's better suited on defense, U-M can continue to pursue a big wideout like Auden Tate.
2015 TE Chris Clark just called me to tell me had committed to #Michigan.
— Brandon Brown (@CoachBrown3) June 19, 2014
Despite initially planning to announce his decision at The Opening, four-star Avon (CT) Old Farms TE Chris Clark committed to Michigan today, choosing the Wolverines over Michigan State, North Carolina—where he briefly committed earlier in his recruitment—and Ohio State. Clark becomes the eighth member of Michigan's 2015 class and the first at tight end.
Clark committed while visiting campus today, one day after checking out Michigan State and two days removed from a trip to Columbus. Instead of choosing between those three schools at The Opening as planned, Clark will be recruiting for Michigan while he's there, per Steve Wiltfong:
"Just the fact I want to have the opportunity to recruit at The Opening," Clark said, "I want to let people know I'm at Michigan and I'd like to tell people they're building big things at Michigan and tell them to be part of it.
"I just feel so good at Michigan. I thought it would be a great day to do it with my mom and dad here."
Well played, young man.
5*, #1 TE,
4*, #4 TE,
4*, 83, #3 TE,
4*, 93, #6 TE,
4*, #2 TE,
There's a pretty sizable disparity in Clark's rankings, but that isn't so much a concern when the disparity is between "very good" and "awesome"—ESPN's #191 overall ranking represents the former, Scout bestowing him a fifth star the latter. Average it all out and he comes in just one spot outside the composite top 100 overall, and second among tight ends.
Every site save Rivals lists Clark at 6'6", 247 pounds; Rivals gives him an extra six pounds. Unlike some other recent Michigan tight end recruits, Clark should have little problem playing with his hand in the dirt from day one with that size.
Well, sure, I'll happily start this section with Bucknuts' Duane Long raving over Clark's game while listing him as Ohio State's third-most important 2015 target (behind only Justin Hilliard and Jashon Cornell) in an article published... yesterday ($):
3. Chris Clark, Tight End, Avon (Conn.) Old Farms: If I was building a tight end he would look like Clark. Great looking, big body. Hands are exceptional. Runs great. There is an argument that tight end is the biggest need in the class. Jeff Heuerman is a senior. Nick Vannett is a junior. Marcus Baugh is … Marcus Baugh. Three players at the position - one being a senior and another is one misstep from Coffeyville - says tight end is a real need in this class.
With that delicious morsel of schadenfreude out of the way, let's go to Scout's free evaluation, which contains considerable praise about an aspect of Clark's game that should excite Michigan fans:
Clark is a complete tight end who can block, get out and catch the ball and also be a factor in the red zone. He has very good hands and is a red-zone threat. He does a nice job running routes and he is a big, physical player. He also embraces the blocking portion of the game, and does a good job getting off the line of scrimmage cleanly. All around, Clark is a complete tight end who should havea big impact quickly in college. -- Brian Dohn
That "catch the ball" stuff is nice and all; as we've learned, having a tight end who's willing and able to hold up as a blocker is just as important. With Jake Butt and now Clark, Michigan has a couple very nice traditional tight end types set to man the position for a while.
ESPN's evaluation also praises Clark's blocking, albeit while noting he can improve technically in that regard, and goes in depth on his ability as a pass-catcher:
Flashes a good burst and not a true vertical threat, but enough speed to challenge downfield. Height and leaping ability make can make him a tough match-up and a red-zone target. Has experience lining up in various alignments. Needs to continue to develop as a route runner, but flashes good ability to work through traffic. Isn't overly elusive, but good size and runs hard and flashes some ability to make the first defender miss.
Good hands and confident pass catcher that displays ability to consistently snatch the ball away from him frame. Displays good body control and can adjust well to throws outside his frame.
That comes from an updated scouting report that's a good deal more positive than his junior year evaluation, which said he had good upside but was "not a top prospect" at the time. Now ESPN concludes that while Clark still has aspects of his game to develop (who doesn't?), he "can grow into a very good and well-rounded college TE."
Clark earned his invite to The Opening after a standout performance at the New Jersey NFTC; according to 247's Steve Wiltfong, linebackers simply couldn't stay with him:
The Avon (Conn.) Old Farms Top247 tight end certainly backed up the fact he’s one of the nation’s top players at his position, with a consistent performance during 1-on-1s. Linebackers didn’t stand a chance with his athleticism, and the sure-handed receiver knows how to get open.
Just a week after that performance, Scout bumped Clark into five-star territory, and their head of scouting gave an "eeeeeeeeee"-worthy report on his game:
“One of the best words I can use to describe a football player is 'tenacious', and Clark is absolutely tenacious,” Scout.com director of scouting Scott Kennedy said. “It doesn't matter if he's lining up at defensive end, outside linebacker, blocking tight end, or slot receiver, he does everything with the mindset of dominating his opponent.
“Looking at the combination of his size and athleticism, his non-stop ability to attack, and his skill of playing different positions from blocking, catching, disengaging from blockers, or occupying double teams, we're looking at a five-star college prospect, and the best tight end I've seen this year.”
Yes, I couldn't figure out what not to put in bold in the second paragraph, so ALL BOLD EVERYTHING.
Clark could be headed into similarly lofty territory on Rivals after excelling at their invite-only (and Rivals-reporters-only) Five-Star Challenge a couple weeks ago. He earned top tight end honors despite getting dinged up on the first day of camp, and after it was over Mike Farrell listed him as one of the ten prospects who most helped their stock ($):
Clark is a huge tight end who can move and catches the ball well. He has a rumbling running style and you can tell he's a load to bring down when he reaches top speed. He showed soft hands, he was a big target and he was tough coming back from an injury day one to be the most productive tight end on the event's second day.
In Farrell's post-camp awards column, Clark earned honorable mention for most physically impressive and best work ethic, and Farrell suggested he's in line to move up when Rivals updates their rankings.
Michigan's tight end recruiting has been focused in recent classes on three types of players: lanky receiver types (Devin Funchess, Ian Bunting), smaller fullback/H-Back types (Khalid Hill, Wyatt Shallman), and all-around guys who can hold up on the line while still providing plenty in the passing game (Jake Butt). Clark definitely falls into the last category.
In addition to his finalists, Clark held offers from Alabama, Arizona, Arizona State, Arkansas, Auburn, Boston College, Cincinnati, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisville, LSU, Maryland, Miami (YTM), Mississippi State, Mizzou, NC State, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ole Miss, Penn State, Pitt, Purdue, South Carolina, Syracuse, Tennessee, Texas Tech, UCF, Virginia, and Virginia Tech, among a few others.
Rather prestigious list, that.
Avon Old Farms is a private school with a history of producing players who end up mostly at academically-inclined East Coast schools. You're familiar with one of the exceptions: former Michigan running back Mike Cox, who eventually transferred to UMass to finish out his career.
Clark caught 39 passes for 417 yards and six touchdowns in his junior season, breaking out as a receiver despite adding 40 pounds after his sophomore season.
FAKE 40 TIME
Rivals lists a pretty darn reasonable time of 4.72 seconds, which I'll give two FAKEs out of five.
Single game cut-ups from his junior and sophomore seasons are available on his Hudl page.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Clark looks like one of the likeliest candidates in the 2015 class to make an immediate impact when he gets to campus, as he already boasts the size to play tight end as a junior in high school. Jake Butt will be a junior when Clark is a freshman, so he should be able to slowly work his way onto the field as a freshman as he gets a grasp on Doug Nussmeier's offense and the college game as a whole. When Butt graduates after the 2016 season, Clark is the clear-cut candidate to take over as the every-down tight end.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan now has eight spots filled for the 2015 class; our best guess is this class will be around 16 players in total. Top priorities include running back, wide receiver, defensive end, outside linebacker, and a cornerback to replace Shaun Crawford in the class.