Mason NEEDS this, Pistons, after all you've put him through
Do you feel old today? I feel old today, because Michigan picked up a commitment this morning from Philadelphia (PA) St. Joseph's OL Jon Runyan Jr., son of former Michigan All-American lineman Jon Runyan (1993-95), one of the first Wolverines I distinctly remember watching*. Runyan picked up an offer during last week's technique camp and from that moment was expected to be the first 2015 commit; kicker Andrew David narrowly beat him out in that regard, pledging to the Wolverines last night. For the second straight commitment post, we start with a quote about Michigan, Dream School ($):
“It’s my dream school and I really don’t want to play anywhere else,” said Runyan Jr., who is heading into his junior season at St. Joseph’s (Philadelphia, Pa.) Prep. “I just can’t play anywhere else. I couldn’t see myself playing anywhere else.”
“My dad (thought) I was going to commit the whole time. I have been telling him my whole life that I want to play football for Michigan. He wasn’t surprised I committed. He was just happy and relieved. He feels awesome that I am going to Michigan.”
I don't think there will be any concerns about a future decommitment.
*Yes, now I probably made you feel even older.
|Scout||Rivals||ESPN||247 Sports||247 Comp.|
|NR OT||NR OT||NR OT||3*, 85, #37 OT||
3*, #37 OT,
247 is the only service that's ranked 2015 prospects; they bestowed Runyan with an early three-star rating just a couple days ago, so that's likely based on very limited scouting for now. Rivals and 247 both list Runyan at 6'4", 250 pounds, while ESPN pegs him at 6'3", 240. (Scout does not list his height/weight.)
The elder Runyan was listed in the NFL at 6'7", 330, so it's entirely within reason that his son is still growing—which would be nice, since he needs another inch or two to project to tackle. As for adding weight, it appears he's already doing so, according to The Wolverine ($):
Although the younger Runyan isn't quite dad's 6-9, 300 pounds, the 6-3, 250-pounder has good bloodlines, a tenacious attitude, and the ability to put on weight quickly (he's about 30 pounds heavier than he was last we checked).
That was from last week's camp, so those height/weight figures (at least for Junior) should be accurate.
Scouting on Runyan at this stage is mostly limited to last week's camp appearance and his sophomore highlight tape. On the former, here's GBW's Josh Newkirk on Runyan's Michigan camp performance, which stood out among the linemen in attendance ($) [emphasis mine]:
Jon Runyan Jr., 2015 OL, St. Joseph’s Prep (Philadelphia, Pa.)—The son of former U-M offensive tackle, Jon Runyan Sr., Runyan Jr. was offered by the Wolverines’ today after a strong two day performance. Part of the reason behind his offer was his strong showing in the 1-on-1s each day. While he’s not as big as his father, Runyan Jr. comes in at 6-foot-3, 245-pounds, and still looks like he’s growing. He showed good feet today and was able to stay in front of his opponent in the trench battles. He’ll need to add strength, but has two years to add bulk before college.
According to The Wolverine, Runyan measured up well against the other linemen at the camp, including 2015 Top247 prospect Chuma Edoga, who's still waiting to hear about a Michigan offer of his own ($):
A few 2015 players showed out along the offensive line as well. Powder Springs (Ga.) McEachern offensive guard Chuma Edoga and Philadelphia St. Joseph's Prep tackle Jon Runyan Jr. both looked strong in the competitive portion of the day. Neither holds a Michigan offer, but it's possible that changes after camp.
Runyan earned an offer before Edoga, obviously; that's likely because Runyan projects to tackle, while Edoga is an interior prospect, an area where the Wolverines have more depth.
As for Runyan's film, 247's Clint Brewster broke down the tape and came away very impressed with his technique ($):
A pure technician, Runyan Jr. does everything right with flawless technique, the right feet, the right hand pop and the ability to handle himself well against all types of pass rushers. He is quick off the blocks with plus athleticism and won’t be out-hustled by the high motor types. Runyan Jr. does a great job of getting out of his stance and downfield when pulling or on screens.
Areas for improvement include size—which, in this case, may actually be improved aside from just adding muscle mass—and playing with more aggression and physicality, which should come with the added size. Runyan has a long way to go in that regard, though with more than two years before he suits up in a Michigan uniform he has plenty of time to develop.
Michigan was Runyan's first offer. He also visited Ohio State (camp) and Penn State (junior day) and fielded interest from Arizona, Maryland, Miami (YTM), Michigan State, and Virginia, per 247.
Though his family lives in New Jersey, the state Runyan's father represents in Congress, Jon Jr. goes across state lines to attend school at Philadelphia St. Joseph's Prep. While St. Joe's hasn't produced a four-star prospect in the Rivals era (2002-present), they did develop a fine Michigan player in linebacker Victor Hobson, a 2002 all-conference selection who spent six years in the NFL. This is Google's mini-profile for Victor Hobson:
He's aged gracefully, I guess.
Lineman, no stats.
FAKE 40 TIME
None of the sites list a 40 time, which is largely irrelevant for an offensive lineman anyway. Runyan's athleticism comes in for high praise, so he should be fine here.
Like Brewster, I'm impressed with Runyan's jump off the snap and quick feet. I would also like to see him bury a few more guys into the dirt.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
I see Runyan as a player who could take some time to find a home positionally. He's got the long, lean frame of a tackle—he looks like he could easily pack on 50-60 good pounds over the next few years—but as of right now lacks the ideal height for the position. As said above, there's a good chance he grows into that tackle height. If he doesn't—or if he comes to campus still too skinny to play on the line—the coaches have discussed another possibility ($):
Currently, Runyan Jr. comes in at 6-foot-4, 250-pounds, and says he is being recruited to play multiple positions once he gets to Ann Arbor.
“Coach Funk says he sees me as an offensive tackle,” Runyan Jr. said. “And coach Ferrigno says he wants me at tight end. So I really don’t know, but I probably will play offensive tackle.”
If I had to guess a career arc for Runyan, I'd go with a slightly shorter version of former Buckeye Reid Fragel. Fragel came to Columbus as a 6'8", 250-pound tight end, and played that position during his first three seasons on the field, essentially as an extra tackle (he caught 14 passes in three seasons). For his senior season, Fragel moved to right tackle, starting all 12 games there last season and earning all-conference honorable mention while weighing in at 310 pounds. With the offensive coaches looking to throw a bevy of different looks at opposing defenses, I wouldn't be surprised to see Runyan utilized as a blocking tight end until he fills out.
As for the outlook on the line, the projected tackles on campus when Runyan arrives will be current redshirt freshman Erik Magnuson, incoming freshmen Chris Fox and Logan Tuley-Tillman, and 2014 commit Juwann Bushell-Beatty, plus perhaps another tackle in both the 2014 and 2015 classes. Runyan seems very likely to redshirt; from there, he'll compete for a spot on the depth chart.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
As I said in the Andrew David post, it's far too early to give an accurate figure about scholarship availability in the 2015 class, though at the moment it's expected to be a small group. Runyan helps fill a pressing need at tackle, though I'd expect the Wolverines to go after at least one more in both the 2014 and 2015 classes.
It's become tradition for early Michigan commits to take charge and recruit their classmates, and Runyan told The M Block that he's looking to help out the coaches like Shane Morris and Michael Ferns before him:
Recruiter: "I think I'm up for the challenge to recruit other guys. I was talking to Michael Ferns last night. I think I can do it. We were just talking about Michigan stuff. I saw the t-shirt thing he did on his Twitter, but we didn't really talk about it though. I don't think I can top that." (Laughs)
Don't be surprised if the Runyans get a crate of shirts shipped from St. Clairsville, Ohio, before too long.
Michigan picked up their first* commitment of the 2015 class last night when Massillon (OH) Washington kicker Andrew David pledged mere hours after receiving his Wolverine offer. David worked out for the coaches recently and clearly impressed the staff with his ability. For their part, the coaches didn't have to do much to convince David, a lifelong Michigan fan, that Ann Arbor is the place for him ($):
“I grew up a Michigan fan,” David said. “My wardrobe and my carpet in my room are maize and blue. It was a lifelong dream to go there and now it’s coming true. It’s awesome.”
David is now joined in the class by PA OL Jon Runyan Jr., whose commitment post will be up later.
*Sort of: current grayshirt commit FL DT Brady Pallante will join the team in 2015, as well.
|Scout||Rivals||ESPN||247 Sports||247 Comp.|
|NR K||NR K||NR K||NR K||NR K|
Yes, the kicker from the future is unranked on the sites that pay attention to kickers only after they commit. For a better idea at what Michigan is getting, we look to Chris Sailer Kicking, which ranks David as the #6 kicking prospect in the 2015 class; he's the only committed player on the list, and interestingly the lone Midwest kicker to crack the top 50.
For the sake of comparison, Sailer ranked 2013 preferred walk-on J.J. McGrath 68th in the 2013 class. Make no mistake, David is a big-time prospect at his position.
Surprise! The evaluations start with... Chris Sailer, who's already updated David's profile since his commitment:
Andrew is a great young kicker. A fine athlete with a strong leg. Field goals are outstanding. He is smooth, technically sound, and consistent. Kickoffs are solid and will only continue to improve. Also shows punting ability. Makes great strides each time we see him. Is going to be a top kicker in this class for years to come. Has the right attitude and excellent work ethic. Great prospect. Nice early pick up for Michigan!
Don't get thrown off by the 4.5-star rating (by Sailer's system, between a D-I and D-II prospect), as that's the highest rating he's given out for the 2015 class thus far — those will obviously be updated after the next round of camps. A further explanation of why Sailer's rankings are relied upon so heavily comes from a local news article on David:
“If you’re in the top 10 with Sailer, then you should be a scholarship kicker at the BCS level,” [Scout's Bill] Greene said. “That’s how important that is.”
One of the reasons why kicking gurus like Sailer are important is college head coaches really don’t know what they’re getting in a kicker.
“A ranking like Sailer for kickers is actually bigger than the Elite 11,” Greene said. “Those college coaches get a kid on campus and they know what they want in a quarterback. Coaches have no clue about kickers. Urban Meyer knows about quarterbacks. ... Coaches know they don’t know more about kicking prospects than Sailer.
At the Sailer kicking competition last winter, David finished second in the highlight event, "Last Man Standing", connecting on a 55-yard field goal and just missing a 58-yarder in the final round.
David burst onto the scene as a freshman at Massillon, when early in the season he faced a 46-yard field goal into the wind and drilled it—despite thinking he had mis-hit the kick:
“Every kick’s got to be the same,” David said this week. “I knew there was some wind gust. I knew if I hit it right and hit it straight that I have the power to get it there. I followed through, kept my head down and hit it.”
Even with all of that, he admitted to not knowing whether he had put it through the uprights. In fact, to him, things just didn’t feel right when the ball left his right foot.
“At first, I really didn’t think it was going in,” David said. “I turned around and got my stuff. I was pretty mad, then I heard everybody start to cheer. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t really think I hit it that well. I got it off the front of my foot, but I got it.”
When working out for Michigan's coaches, David showed off his power and accuracy in earning an offer ($):
"They had me kick off the ground, not with the tee, and I hit 14 of 15 kicks from 50 yards," David continued. "It was a great workout and I felt I did my best. My kickoffs were strong also, and I thought they would offer, although I didn't know it would be this soon. For me, there was no reason to wait, because Michigan is the only school I've ever thought of attending. This is a definite dream come true for me and my family."
Even for an elite kicker, this is early for a player to be that proficient at kicking without a tee; this should allow David to be more college-ready than most incoming freshmen at his position.
Michigan was the first school to offer David a scholarship. Given his Wolverine allegiance, I'd expect they'll be the last, too.
Massillon Washington is one of Ohio's most storied football programs, claiming 24 state championships and nine national titles. Michigan's recent history with the program has been, well, a little rocky: their marquee commit from the Tigers was 2009 five-star bust Justin Turner, and in the 2013 class Gareon Conley made a well-publicized flip from Michigan to Ohio State.
David is 6-of-11 on field goals of 40-yards the last two years of varsity football. That includes a 46-yarder as a freshman that he drilled at InfoCision Stadium in a game against Hoban. He is 88-of-95 on PATs and 13-of-24 on field goals.
He was better as a sophomore having converted 56 of 61 PAT kicks and he hit three field goals in a win against McKinley last year. He scored 13 points in that game.
As important is his booming kickoffs. Of his 74 kickoffs, 31 went for touchbacks.
FAKE 40 TIME
He's a kicker.
This video from a Sailer camp shows all of two kicks, but it gives you an idea of David's leg strength:
If you're really curious, the "David Andrew" Hudl page features remarkably extensive highlights from both his freshman and sophomore seasons.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
When David gets to campus, both Brendan Gibbons and Matt Wile will be gone from the program, leaving him to compete with 2013 walk-on J.J. McGrath (and perhaps another walk-on or two, as well) for the starting job at both placekicker and kickoff specialist. Since we're talking about the fickle position of kicker here, I won't bother to make any attempt at a prediction about David's career; being a top-ten prospect nationally is a good start, though.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
The 2015 class, at this point, is projected to be very small (like, <15 players), but with a year-and-a-half until their signing day any number put forth right now is certain to grow. We do know this: Michigan has their kicker and are done recruiting at that position, both for the 2014 class (at least as far as scholarships go) and 2015.
Jefferson Hills (PA) Thomas Jefferson linebacker Chase Winovich got his first offer from Pitt, and his home-state school appeared to hold the early edge in his recruitment ($):
Thomas Jefferson has sent four players to Pitt since the recruiting class of 2007, and Winovich knows about that pipeline. In fact, it's not hard for him to imagine himself joining it.
"I see the talent they have produced; my neighbors are the Nix brothers, and I watched them and the DeCicco's play at Pitt," he said. "Personally, I love Pitt. I love the coaching staff, I love Pittsburgh, I'm a hometown guy. I want to keep my options open but I can't really find too many flaws in Pitt. I'm looking at them a lot."
Childhood favorite Ohio State offered in early April and immediately vaulted to the top of his list ($):
"This really changes things for me, and I have to say it's a dream come true since I'm an Ohio State fan," he admitted. "I'm not ready to commit right now to anyone, but Ohio State is in my top-three. I can't deny that I love it, and it's going to be tough to find a school that will top Ohio State."
"Pittsburgh was the first school to offer me and they're right in my backyard, so they're a favorite of mine," Winovich added. "I'm still looking for that third school and I'm not shutting anybody out right now."
A short time later, Michigan came through with an offer, and after two visits to Ann Arbor—the second for the Spring Game—the Wolverines made a serious move of their own ($):
“Michigan is definitely in my top three,” he said. “The only reason they really weren’t before was because they (hadn’t) offered. It would have been them above Ohio State, but obviously they hadn’t offered me at that point. It hurt that they didn’t offer before Ohio State got involved, but I’m just happy they’re in now and they’re definitely in my top three. I’m excited about them.”
At various points over the last month—heck, the last week—insiders from all three schools have been confident that Winovich was leaning towards their program, despite him never publicly naming a leader. Today the speculation ended as Winovich announced his commitment to Michigan, according to multiple outlets.
|3*, #28 OLB||3*, #29 OLB||3*, 78, #30 OLB||3*, 87, #49 OLB||
3*, #41 OLB,
The scouting services are almost eerily in lockstep when it comes to Winovich; 247 is a slightly low outlier, and otherwise Winovich is placed just inside the top 30 outside linebackers in the class. Going by position rankings, Winovich is four spots away from a fourth star on Scout and ESPN, nine spots away on Rivals, and 21 on 247.
The services have a general consensus on Winovich's measurables, pegging him at 6'4" and around 215 pounds; his own highlight tape lists an updated weight of 218 as of last month. The Wolverines recruited Winovich as a strongside linebacker, and that frame fits the mold for the position.
In-person scouting of Winovich is pretty scant at this point; if he hit the camp circuit before his junior season, nobody wrote about it, and in the lone camp he's been to this spring—the Rivals Camp Series event in Pittsburgh—he and fellow commit Michael Ferns were overshadowed by less-heralded prospects ($):
The biggest names at the linebacker position coming into the Pittsburgh Rivals Camp were four-star Michael Ferns and three-star Chase Winovich. While both prospects had solid performances, they were outdone by lesser-known linebackers during Sunday's competition.
Neither future Wolverine made the top ten defensive performers list, so no further details are provided on what constituted a "solid" showing.
ESPN sees Winovich as an outside linebacker all the way, praising his "long, sturdy frame," sideline-to-sideline range, and tackling ability. They also like his instincts...
Quick off the mark showing outstanding downhill ability vs. the inside run. Maintains good leverage on the ball and isn't fooled by misdirection. Although he needs to become a more physical take-on guy, his quick hands allow him to shed and get off blocks. Demonstrates the quickness, balance and agility needed to avoid blockers and make plays in tight spaces. Moves through traffic very well, showing excellent sideline-to-sideline range. Has the playing speed needed to chase down ball carriers when in long pursuit.
...and ability to drop into coverage or come on the blitz in third-down situations:
Shows the ability to open his hips, turn and run. Demonstrates good underneath route awareness with a closing break on underneath throws and screens. Will need to gain experience as a coverage defender. His ability to run and make tight turns indicates potential as a man coverage defender. Displays very good blitz timing with a burst to the quarterback. Developing a repertoire of moves is a must.
Areas for improvement are the usual: add muscle, refine technique. After an almost entirely positive rundown of Winovich's game, ESPN says he has "very good potential" ... as a special teams player, though they do note the possibility of early situational playing time.
247's Clint Brewster took a look at Winovich's junior film and came away very impressed, listing only bulk and pad level—natch—as areas for improvement; the rest sounds quite good ($):
[H]as an instinctive first step and blows plays up before they even happen. Winovich plays with outstanding aggression and is very explosive. He has excellent speed and can make plays from sideline to sideline. Winovich has enough speed to chase down running backs far down field. He does a nice job of using his hands to shed blockers and scraping to get to the ball carrier. Winovich is really long at 6-foot-4 and can really get in between passing lanes. He is excellent when dropping into coverage. Winovich can be a force coming off the edge as an outside linebacker and can really close on the quarterback. He is very good at finishing off his opponent when he tackles. Winovich has great form tackling.
Caveats about scouting based only on film go here—they're called "highlights" for a reason—but after looking at individual game cut-ups from Winovich's Hudl page, I see a lot of the same positives that Brewster does.
The coaches have made it clear to Winovich that they like him on the strong side, going so far as to show his film side-by-side with Michigan's current standout at the position ($):
“Coach Hoke wasn’t there (last time),” Winovich said noting the difference between visits. “The environment was a lot different. All the players were there this time, I got to sit in with the coaches and really discuss everything about me and my future there, and they seemed more excited about me this time around. Kurt Mattes the film guy there he put together a (video) at the request of Coach Mattison. It’s this film of me one play and then Jake Ryan the next play, and then it goes back and forth every other play. It showed how comparable we are. (Ryan) would do one play and then it’d be the exact same play or scenario (with me) on the other side. It was really cool seeing the comparison.”
Winovich has a very similar frame to Ryan—who was listed at 6'3", 220 lbs. as a recruit—and displays a lot of the same athletic traits, especially in his ability to explode off the snap. Whether he can maintain that athleticism while adding 25-or-so pounds (Ryan is now listed at 241), not to mention develop Ryan's maniacal playmaking ability, is a question that won't be answered until he's on campus for a couple years.
As for the "would you let him date your daughter?" test, here's an excerpt from a Chantel Jennings article($) on Chase's relationship with his older brother, Peter, who played for Bowling Green from 2004-2008:
But there were similarities for many years. Peter took up baseball, so Chase did, too. Peter took up basketball, so Chase did, too.
But Chase went on to become student body president. Peter never did that. And Chase decided to start taking piano lessons last year. Peter never did that, either.
“As much as I like him following in my footsteps, he has definitely always done his own thing,” Peter said. “With football I think there was a lot of pressure on Chase … and he has been able to do it and do even more in his own way, so that has been awesome.”
Winovich's offer sheet included Arkansas, Florida State, Michigan State, Mizzou, Northwestern, Ohio State, Pitt, Stanford, Syracuse, Tennessee, Virginia, Virginia Tech, and West Virginia. That's a pretty impressive list for a consensus three-star; it will be interesting to see if Winovich moves up the recruiting rankings during his senior season, as college coaches seem to be seeing something that the recruiting services aren't at this point.
Thomas Jefferson High School boasts five WPIAL (Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League) Class AAA titles, including three straight from 2006-08, as well as state championships in 2004, 2007, and 2008. The Jaguars have produced six recruits rated three-stars or higher in the Rivals era; four of those players went to Pitt, including four-star prospect and current Oakland Raiders guard Lucas Nix.
Via Scout ($):
This past season, Winovich helped his team to a 11-1 record, another conference title and an appearance in the WPIAL Class AAA semifinals. He earned first-team all-conference honors, finished with 69 tackles, three forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries.
FAKE 40 TIME
247 lists a 40 time of 4.65, which appears pretty reasonable when you watch Winovich's film—he's got great straight-line speed for a linebacker prospect. I'll give it two FAKEs out of five.
Winovich's first step, play diagnosis, movement in traffic, and tackling ability all stand out on tape; you can see that linear speed at the :29 mark when he chases down a perfectly set-up slip screen from behind to save a touchdown.
Again, you can see much more of Winovich on his Hudl page.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Winovich is destined for the strongside linebacker spot; when he gets to campus, the only returning players at the position will be a senior Jake Ryan and a redshirt freshman or sophomore Mike McCray. While Winovich appears likely to need a redshirt year to add weight and learn Greg Mattison's defense, he should be in the mix for playing time as early as his redshirt freshman season, and at the very least should contribute on special teams.
I've had Michael Ferns projected as a strongside 'backer in this space before, but my guess is he'll come to campus as an inside linebacker with Winovich in the fold; Ferns has the versatility to play inside or outside, while Winovich is more of a pure outside type.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan now has 11 commits in the class of 2014 and should be finished recruiting linebackers with Ferns and Winovich in the fold. The Wolverines currently have room to take ~15 players in the class, though that number should swell to around 20 when all is said and done. The main targets moving forward are SDE Da'Shawn Hand, 3-tech/SDE Malik McDowell, slot receiver Artavis Scott, and a trio of highly-ranked defensive backs: CA ATH Juju Smith, CA CB Adoree' Jackson, and IL CB Parrker Westphal, with the latter the most likely to end up in the class. They'll also likely take one more offensive lineman, though the top candidate for that spot is less clear—IL OL Jamarco Jones is the highest-rated target and has Michigan among his favorites, but Ohio State is presumed to hold the edge in his recruitment.
Site note: I mean, I was gonna do a Dear Diary today, but then the first item became this thing…
As you may have heard, Dr. Hamlet III has committed to the Michigan offensive line. Uninformative portion follows:
|Global Pork||247 Comp.|
|3*, 5.7, #29 C,
|5*, #1 pork belly,
|5*, #1 PB
|4*, 96, #6 PB,
|3*, #84 OL,
Those who ranked him as an offensive lineman are all "wait 'n see." Of those who classify him as a pig, only the National Pork Producers Council among the major sites lists Hamlet as anything but ELITE ELITE ELITE. He'll have a chance to change that in a couple weeks at their annual World Pork Expo.
It's worth mentioning that Global Pork lists every hog in its Top 25 as a 5-star, but will extend that to the Top 50 by the time it releases its final herd report.
Let's start with the negative stuff shall we? Simmons:
STRENGTHS Pad Level Hoofwork Toughness Drive Blocking Skills
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT Hip Flexibility Bipedalism Arm length OUTSIDE! DO THAT OUTSIDE!!!
Total hog! If there is any type of weakness in Hamlet's game at this time, it would be in his pass protection. He is solid there, but his biggest strength is run blocking right now. He drives opponents off the ball, he is excellent on the hoof, and he has that nasty streak you love in offensive linemen. Arm length and lateral quickness will limit his effectiveness. - Chad Simmons
This is echoed by Rivals' Mike Farrell($):
Powerful blocker who can get low and beat you off the hoof. Eats just about anything. Didn't use his hands much in drills, probably because he doesn't need to. Thrilled onlookers with a pitch perfect rendition of soliloquy.
Plays so low to the ground it's impossible for defensive linemen to get any leverage on him. Definite inside prospect since he doesn't possess the height to play tackle. High intelligence and build suggest a possible move to center. Not having hands will make snapping the ball a constant adventure, though.
As David Moosman showed Michigan can get by with a behooved ungulate at center, though it's hardly optimal. Anyway you see the theme across the services: Hamlet plays with excellent leverage, but is about 6 million years behind the rest of the OL in bipedalism experience and proper hand technique. Funk is going to have to start from scratch there.
Though an MSU graduate, according to his interview with 247's Steve Lorenz, Hamlet remains intensely loyal to Michigan ($):
HAMLET: "I'm still true blue through and through! You could even say I was weaned on maize and blue. Because I literally was weaned on a mix of feed corn and Blue Seal swine pellets." Hamlet told 247.
Lorenz also asked about his expectations and, well, he's probably not gonna be a playing time transfer:
247: How do you see your Michigan career playing out?
HAMLET: Oh, that's not up to me to decide. I'm going to go out there and compete, but my number one goal is to help the team any way I can. I'm here to get a Michigan degree, and to do whatever I can to help Michigan win football games, pure and simple. We've got an excellent, excellent group of linemen coming in and some of the best all time on hand right now, so I know it's gonna be tough to earn snaps. I embrace the challenge, and I think it will make us all better the more guys we have competing—if I bust my piggly tail for four years and that just makes another guy try harder to keep his job, then that's what I came for.
Humble, this guy. As you've come to expect from like every recruit in the Brady Hoke era ever, he's a wild animal on the field yet the kind of person you want in your home:
Everyone I talk to says he's just a fantastic guy. Really wants to learn, does neat tricks.
Hoke recruits, man.
DOCTOR OF WHAT?
Despite being less than 3 years old, Hamlet already has a Ph.D./MD from the Van Andel Educational Institute, through Michigan State. He explains how he came by that doctorate:
"Coming out of high school Michigan was obviously my first choice, but State was really the only college accepting applications from farm animals. I was planning on getting my bachelor's degree in Agricultural Resource Economics but a professor there turned me on to Gastroenterology and it was love at first endoscopy.
"After one digestive performance they said I was a natural and put me in the doctoral program and I graduated in a few months. It was pretty easy, to be honest. "
Because he technically graduated from high school just a year ago, Hamlet still has all four years of eligibility remaining.
Dr. Hamlet III is a Vietnamese, better known as a "pot-bellied pig." As such he has the distinctive tall forehead, high ears and straight tail. He also appears to have the breed's distinctive swayed back (and corresponding pot belly that gives the species its name). His bloodlines suggest he can put on a LOT of weight, and his food intake will need to be closely monitored.
The sites agree that he's between 3'2" and 3'3", and between 90-100 lbs. That's about normal for his breed at this stage in life. He should be able to hang a good 20-30 more pounds on that frame.
MSU, Nebraska, Iowa State, and Thorn Apple Valley. Reported interest from Wisconsin but committed before an offer materialized. Pork bellies have been steady at record highs since 2011.
Pigs and offensive linemen don't have stats.
FAKE 40 TIME
247 lists a non-food-aided 40 time of 32.25 seconds, but he was reportedly clocked at 28.22 seconds when a can of creamed corn was placed at the finish line. Since I just completely made that up just now it receives five FAKES out of five.
A Vine of Hamlet eating out of Kyle Kalis's belly button has been taken down, but this screenshot still remains:
Also: Junior highlights.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Obvious redshirt as he gains weight, adjusts to real college life from the farm/East Lansing, and gains instruction on bipedal locomotion. From there, who knows. May never develop more than an okay pass protection game, or opposable thumbs. High character, non-academic risk, seems 100% committed to Michigan, so not going to hurt the APR even if he doesn't work out. Best guess is four-year Academic All-American who'll provide much-needed depth at center, with an outside shot at starting his senior year. Otherwise he'll be an important member of the position group and an expert on blocking assignments. Every team needs a third-generation doctoral pig center.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
(Mathlete goes into greater detail). Dr. Hamlet III turned down purely academic scholarships in order to walk on the Michigan team, so he won't count against the 85 limit (his life expectancy is several years shorter than the length of his FAFSA loan). Adding a hyperintelligent pig makes the entire position group more awesome. Michigan players have been warned not to leave any impermissible benefits out where he can get into them.
ETC. Children of Yost wonder if he can skate too.
The worst-kept secret in college football recruiting went public this afternoon when the nation's top cornerback, Paramus (NJ) Catholic's Jabrill Peppers, committed to Michigan in a televised ceremony on ESPNU (well, eventually... but Peppers' own school just let the cat out of the bag). Peppers is the tenth commit in the Wolverines' 2014 class; as a consensus five-star, he's obviously the highest-ranked of the bunch.
Normally a commit's highlight video goes in a section near the bottom of these posts. In the case of Peppers, that would be a disservice. Lest the scouting portion read as unabashed hyperbole, please watch 12 jaw-dropping minutes highlighting Peppers' junior season:
This whole post will still read as unabashed hyperbole, sure, but now you see that's simply a result of play near-impossible to discuss in reasoned tones.
|Scout||Rivals||ESPN||247 Sports||247 Comp.|
5*, 6.1, #4 CB,
5*, #1 CB,
5*, 95, #1 CB,
5*, 99, #1 ATH,
5*, #1 ATH,
Among the four recruiting services, only Scout doesn't consider Peppers the top player at his position, and he would be the #1 corner on 247Composite if they ranked him there (instead, he's listed as an athlete/safety). Should his rankings hold, Peppers would be the highest-ranked Michigan commit on Rivals or ESPN in the history of those respective outlets—unless, say, the Wolverines signed a higher-rated prospect in this very class, but let's take it one step at a time here. Each site save Scout (6'0", 190) lists Peppers at 6'1" and 205-210 pounds, giving him an NFL frame for both cornerback and safety.
Let's start with the most negative scouting report, which comes from Peppers' Scout profile page:
STRENGTHS Backpedal Quickness Change of Direction Closing Speed
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT Blitzing Ability Hip Flexibility Tackling Ability
There's a reason Peppers is five-star recruit. He doesn't [sic] so many things well, and he is also a very good leader. He can stay tight on a receiver in press coverage and also breaks on a ball well when playing off a receiver. He has size, speed, loose hips, is a tough competitor and can be a standout at receiver, running back, safety and cornerback. He is the total package. --Brian Dohn
Yes, that's the negative one, because there are multiple weaknesses listed: namely, Peppers' ability to blitz and tackle, as well as his hip flexibility. Scout's own Stanford outlet disagrees vehemently with the blitzing and tackling bit ($):
Finally, Peppers shows on video to be a very tough player and a violent tackler. If he does, as most expect, end up on the defensive side of the ball, his reaction skills could place him in the role of a top-end cornerback. However, his willingness and ability to strike and his blitzing competence could make Peppers an excellent safety, given that he is already around six feet tall and 200 pounds, or a corner who could master the nickelback role when necessary. He closes well on run plays and does so with a purpose, making him an all-around football player well worthy of his gaudy offer list.
That nickelback part is important—given how Michigan is using similarly-elite young athlete Dymonte Thomas this year, there's a very good chance Peppers plays there as a freshman. For a third opinion on Peppers' run-support skills, here's his ESPN evaluation ($):
Takes a lot of snaps at safety and shows great range coming downhill to make run stops near the line of scrimmage. Can play physical when needed and is an aggressive football player on run support. Quick to read and react and come up for support. Takes sharp angles, closes strong with great burst and will wrap and pop as a tackler. Box run support is still an area that he could improve on, particularly if he ends up playing safety at the next level.
Michigan is recruiting Peppers as a cornerback—first and foremost, at least—so his work inside the tackle box isn't as great of a concern, especially since we're not entirely sure it's a huge concern in the first place. Here's ESPN again, this time on his coverage skills:
Has the cover corner movements and length to lock down in man-to-man. Transitions sharply with little wasted motion. A naturally fluid athlete who is smooth changing directions and shows ability to quickly flip hips to turn and run with receivers. Shines in tight coverage as well with loose, sudden movements to mirror and the hand strength and length to take away leverage and reroute. Hard to create separation on. Also flashes an extra gear to make up ground when caught in trail position. Turns and runs well to accelerate under the ball in deep coverage. Deep reactions and positioning are excellent but he also excels at closing the cushion in underneath zone schemes and limiting run after catch.
Um, NOT BAD, especially when his size is taken into account. If you're getting the sense that Peppers is the type of athlete who could pretty much play wherever he wanted... well, Scout's staff agrees with you ($):
Peppers would be a four-star running back, and a four-star receiver, but he is best in the secondary, where he would be a five-star safety if his best position was not cornerback. He is physical on the jam, has the acceleration to play off a receiver and then close quickly to break up a pass. He has loose hips and the ability to close, and he enjoys shedding blocks and making tackles.
Case in point—in February, Rivals did an overview of the top running backs of the 2014 class, and Mike Farrell's kicker quote puts Peppers in the same category as three five-star running backs ($):
"High school football is about keeping the ball in your best player's hands," he said. "We saw a time when that was guys like Percy Harvin and Derrick Williams and sometimes it is a dual-threat quarterback like Vince Young or Terrelle Pryor, but right now it is these guys.
"Players like (No. 2-ranked) Jabrill Peppers, [Jalen] Hurd, [Bo] Scarbrough, and [Leonard] Fournette are so talented that you want the ball in their hands 40 times a game if they can handle it. Their size makes them physically able to take it, and the physical gifts make them stand out for rankings purposes."
When doing a similar overview of this year's strong crop of cornerbacks—headline "The Year of the Cornerback ... again?"—Farrell again put Peppers in elite company; namely, saying he'd compete as a junior for the top spot in 2013's senior class, a highly lauded group themselves ($):
"Peppers' instincts, athleticism, speed and playmaking ability are very similar to former Florida All-American cornerback Joe Haden," Rivals.com Mid-Atlantic recruiting analyst Adam Friedman said. "He is the type of cornerback who can lock down one side of the field and is not afraid to come up hard to stop the run. Peppers is almost at that same level as Kendall Fuller and Vernon Hargreaves and would push for the top spot in the 2013 cornerback class. The three of them have a lot of the same qualities."
"Jabrill Peppers reminds me a little bit of Vernon Hargeaves III in build and ball skills, but Peppers is more explosive as an offensive player," Farrell said. "On defense, however, both are exceptional."
Rivals named Peppers as one of their initial 2014 five-stars (obviously, that opinion hasn't changed), and Adam Friedman cited a reason beyond his considerable physical talents ($):
Analyst's take: "Physical tools aside, Peppers' leadership qualities and toughness set him apart from other players with comparable measurables and should prove invaluable at the next level. Peppers has a variety of skills that make him an excellent all-around athlete. His toughness and aggressive mentality make him a shoe-in for the defensive side of the ball, most likely at cornerback. Peppers' technique and footwork make it extremely difficult for a receiver to get any separation, especially because Peppers has great closing speed. He is very physical when going in for a tackle and is always a threat when it comes to causing a turnover, whether he is picking off a pass or causing a fumble. He is even a disruptive force when rushing the passer because he disguises the blitz and has the speed and strength to beat the blocker." -- Adam Friedman, Mid-Atlantic Analyst, Rivals.com
This sentiment is very much shared by Peppers' high school coach:
His coach says: "Put aside the fact that he's 205 pounds and physical and extremely fast, his mentality and the mental aspects of his game, I think, make him what he is. He is so smart on and off the field and he really gets it. He understands the game. He feels it out and understands the schemes and what we are trying to do. His leadership is also great. He really is the total package. His work ethic is excellent. He is a competitor in everything he does. You can't ask for anything more and he's a leader and pushes his teammates. I can't predict the future but the sky is the limit for Jabrill. If he stays on this path, we're going to see some great things out of him. When he does move on, he's going to choose the right place and do some big things with his life." -- Paramus Catholic coach Chris Partridge
Partridge has good reason to be so laudatory—Peppers won him a state championship last season with a virtuoso performance in the title game:
CB/RB Jabrill Peppers
Paramus (N.J.) Paramus Catholic, 6-0, 185, Class of 2014
CONSIDERING: A top five of Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Stanford and USC.
PERFORMANCE: Primarily playing as a Wildcat quarterback, Peppers rushed for more than 200 yards and had touchdown runs of 81 and 53 yards, the latter coming on Paramus' first offensive play, in a 37-34 win over Oradell (N.J.) Bergen Catholic in the Non-Public, Group 4 championship.
WHAT IMPRESSED: The physical gifts are obvious but most impressive is how Peppers handled himself this season in the face of criticism. Peppers left national power Ramsey (N.J.) Don Bosco for Paramus Catholic this season, and it ended with him winning a championship. -- Jared Shanker
Shanker mentions Peppers transferring from traditional powerhouse Don Bosco before his junior season. This was a big deal, as even in his freshman season Peppers had analysts trying to put his talent in a historical context—here's Farrell again ($):
Jabrill Peppers, Don Bosco, 5-9/150, CB, 2014 prospect
Peppers is a true freshman who is already the talk of the Bosco coaching staff. Are we looking at the next great Bosco player and how will he handle the pressure of starting for last year's No. 1 team? Is he the best cornerback at Bosco since Michael Ray Garvin or will he be even better?
1.) CB Jabrill Peppers, Paramus Catholic (N.J.) -- Peppers is, without question, the top prospect in New Jersey and may be the best from the Garden State in a few years. Already an impact player on three state-championship teams (at the highest level of competition), Peppers could be on his way to being one of the best players in the history of the state.
Peppers might very well turn out to be the best prospect ever to come out of the state of New Jersey. He could star as a defensive back for any program in the country and could also be just as effective as a running back. Peppers is currently the No.2 ranked prospect in the nation and there really doesn't seem to be much he can't do. He fled Don Bosco and it was no coincidence that after six straight Bosco state titles, Peppers and Paarmus Catholic took that state crown in 2012.
...well, you read the bolded text, presumably. Recent five-star New Jersey prospects include Florida S Will Hill, Florida State S Myron Rolle, and Virginia OT Eugene Monroe, who went eighth overall in the 2009 NFL Draft. New Jersey may not have the talent of Texas or Florida, but it still produces plenty of top prospects, and Peppers ranks up there with any player to come out of the state—with his senior season still to play.
MARLIN JACKSON SCOUTING
I exchanged a few emails with former Michigan All-American defensive back and Super Bowl champion Marlin Jackson, who was kind enough to give his take on Peppers' film. Get ready for the comparison to beat all other comparisons, non-Fred Jackson division:
This young man is the total package at defensive back, he even has the skills to be a legitimate threat on offense, or in return game.
Top notch athleticism, speed, agility, and strength. Very, very instinctive player, anticipates snap count well when blitzing. He is more than a corner. This kid can be a lock-down corner and also slide inside and dominate at nickel back, covering and blitzing.
Closes on the ball extremely well, great ball skills, plays the ball well down field on receivers, goes up and makes plays. Exceptional tackler, closes ground fast and explodes on contact. My favorite thing about him is the passion and attitude he plays with, not cocky, but very, very confident, plays with swag and enthusiasm.
He will be a college football All-American, as long as he continues to work hard he should be a first-round draft pick, his talent is at that level. He's already built like a college corner, immediate starter from day one of stepping on a college campus.
Athleticism and skill of Patrick Peterson with overall football instincts of Charles Woodson.
Anyone and everyone, basically—here are the highlights: Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Miami (YTM), Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Penn State, Stanford, South Carolina, Tennessee, UCLA, USC, and West Virginia. Any major programs not on the list are missing for one of two reasons: they didn't have a chance and therefore didn't bother, or it reached the point where Peppers—like many top prospects making an early decision—stopped reporting each and every one of his offers.
From Juwann Bushell-Beatty's commitment post:
Led by Jabrill Peppers, Paramus Catholic won last year's state title in the New Jersey Non-Public Group 4 division, which includes football powerhouses like Don Bosco Prep. Despite their recent success, Paramus Catholic hasn't produced a ton in the way of BCS recruits—before this 2014 group, only 2011 four-star DT Marquise Wright (Rutgers) and 2010 three-star OL Dan Foose (Florida State) committed to BCS schools since 2002, per the Rivals recruiting database.
With all the talk of Peppers possibly being the best high school player in the history of New Jersey, it's safe to say he's the best prospect to ever come out of Paramus Catholic.
According to ESPN, Peppers rushed for 1,552 yards and 18 touchdowns on 172 carries (9.0 ypa), caught 20 passes for 337 yards (16.9 ypc) and five touchdowns, and recorded 77 tackles, two TFLs, a sack, and three interceptions as a junior. The tape also shows that Peppers was a terror in the return game and even completed a couple passes, so the above somehow fails to capture the entire impact of his performance.
FAKE 40 TIME
247 lists a 40 time of 4.50 seconds, which is entirely believable and gets zero FAKEs because...
REAL 100/200 TIMES
"He could've just chilled..."
...Peppers has posted very real, very fast times on the track this year:
The Paramus Catholic junior speedster set a meet record as he blazed to a 10.83 clocking to win the 100-meter sprint at Thursday’s sixth annual Don Bosco Ironman Invitational at Ramapo College.
Peppers, who slightly strained his right groin at last week’s Penn Relays, beat the mark of 10.95 by Hackensack’s Conroy Walker in 2010.
"I didn’t want to aggravate it but I ran overall pretty well. I came out of the blocks quick and just kept in a natural rhythm," Peppers said. "I’ve done as well as 10.8 this year and my personal best is 10.77 last year, but I think I can get it down to 10.4 by the time the states come around. That’s my goal and I think I can achieve it."
Oh, and the 100 may not be his best event—Peppers believed he broke the state record in the 200-meter dash earlier this month, and while a review revealed a timekeeping error...
Fraulo said Peppers' time is 21.37.
"That stands as official,'' said Fraulo.
...yeah, still fast.
If 12 minutes of highlights is too much, here's a condensed version of his junior highlights with some different camera angles and lots of slow-mo:
MaxPreps picks out the top ten plays from his junior film, which couldn't have been easy:
247 has a short sophomore reel:
Some people get all the talent, so of course Jabrill Peppers has considerable skill with a mic in his hand, not to mention a great ear for beats:
The song has a stamp of approval from Vin Rock of 90's hip hop legends Naughty By Nature—Vin (real name: Vinnie Brown) grew up in the same East Orange, NJ, neighborhood as Jabrill's father, Terry Peppers, and reached out to Jabrill (stage name: J-Reall) after seeing the music video on Twitter, according to this article from TomVH:
Brown happened to be looking through his Twitter feed when an article came across his tweets that mentioned the younger Peppers, whose rap name is JReall, and his new song, “Don’t Take it Personal.” Brown read the article and watched the music video and couldn’t believe what he had seen.
“I would always hear about [Jabrill], and it was kind of like we let him do his thing and now he’s surfacing on his own. That was the first time I had heard him rap, I didn’t even know he had a crew like that,” he said. “I watched the video and listened to the song and it is really good. Jabrill’s song is like a throwback to ’90’s hip hop and I was like, ‘Wow, I’m really impressed.’ ”
Peppers began making music at ten years old, using it as way to relax—and also deal with the absence of his father, who's been imprisoned since Jabrill was seven years old and will see him for the first time since when he's paroled in June (the two have kept in touch only by phone in the last ten years). If you need any further indication that Peppers is mature beyond his years, I strongly recommend reading that article.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
In case it isn't clear by this point, Peppers is going to get a chance to make an impact in all three phases of the game: while he projects best to cornerback, he could also line up at running back, wide receiver, wildcat quarterback, safety, and kickoff and punt returner. Yes, insert the Charles Woodson quote here:
"[Greg Mattison] compared me to (Woodson) a lot actually, but my goal is that I want to be better than Charles Woodson," Peppers said confidently. "I love the way Coach Greg Mattison uses his corners and his scheme. It absolutely fits into my style of play — aggressive (and) fearless. He wants his corners to be fearless. If he wants you to go lockup on an island, you had better lockup on that island. If he wants you to come off the edge, you better come off the edge ready to bring some pain."
(Woodson approves, by the way.) So, yeah, there's that.
In my opinion, Michigan is going to initially use Peppers much like they'll use Dymonte Thomas this fall—Thomas, who projects to safety down the road, has already locked down the starting nickelback job after enrolling early. Thomas should move to safety in 2014 when Thomas Gordon's spot will be available, leaving the nickel position available for Peppers to step in and make an early impact. I asked Marlin Jackson why it seems the Wolverines are putting their most physically talented freshmen defensive backs at the nickel spot before moving them to their natural position, and he provided this explanation—based in large part on his own experience at Michigan:
Nickel is just about raw athleticism, not as much about technique, more so about about natural football instincts and skills. This is why most schools put top incoming freshmen in this slot.
Nickel was my starting position and I was starting by Big Ten play. Allows you to get comfortable. When you have players like Jabrill, myself, and Dymonte, who are athletic, have good size and instincts along with a physical style of play, you have good candidate for nickelback.
After a freshman year at nickel, Peppers could either wrest the starting boundary corner spot away from Raymon Taylor or stay in the slot for a second year until Taylor graduates. By 2015, I'd expect to see him locking down that boundary spot, where his size and skill in run support make him an ideal fit. He could also end up as a jack-of-all-trades defensive back, lining up all over the field to keep offenses on their toes, and he'll almost certainly make an impact in the return game and see some snaps on offense.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Peppers accounts for one of what should be two cornerback spots in the 2014 class; at this point, it looks likely that Peppers will be joined by IL CB Parrker Westphal whenever the latter makes his decision, though the Wolverines will also pursue five-star CA CB Adoree' Jackson and four-star DC CB Jalen Tabor, among others. Other remaining needs include strongside linebacker, a third offensive lineman, and a couple of three-tech/SDE types.
The biggest upshot from Peppers' commitment, though, may be the impact it has on the decision of other top recruits—namely #1 overall prospect Da'Shawn Hand, whom Peppers has told his fellow Michigan commits is his top recruiting priority as a member of Team 135. There's no question that Michigan landing a prospect of Peppers' caliber will send waves through the recruiting community and catch the attention of top national prospects, and with the way Brady Hoke is recruiting that could be enough to vault the Wolverines into serious contention for the top recruiting class in 2014—the only mitigating factor may be the small projected size of the class (currently slated to be 15 players but likely to approach 20 when all is said and done).
Take it away, drum major: