photo via 247
Groton (MA) Lawrence Academy running back AJ Dillon is the grandson of former Notre Dame All-American Tom Gatewood. He made multiple visits to South Bend throughout the recruiting process, including one for their Junior Day within a couple weeks of his planned decision. According to Steve Lorenz, even the Irish had an uphill battle heading into Dillon's most recent round of visits, and Michigan had work to do as well:
Going into his visit last week, I posted that it was going to be a good barometer visit for both Michigan and Dillon, as we had the Wolverines possibly running fourth on his list. Wisconsin was the favorite, he was a Notre Dame legacy prospect, and Florida State was his childhood favorite.
However, this visit turned into somewhat of a home-run for both parties, as Michigan was really impressed with Dillon and what he brought to the table from an on and off the field standpoint. The same could be said on the other side, as we were told that the strong visit to Ann Arbor caught Dillon and his camp off-guard. A good indicator of this is the quick commitment not only post-visit, but also when seeing Wisconsin and Notre Dame after he saw Michigan last week.
A few days after Dillon's ND visit, he made his way to Ann Arbor, and that was enough to convince him to blaze his own trail and attend Michigan:
"I got that feel of the atmosphere, the people, and everything was clicking," Dillon said. "It's just a place I could see myself in the next three to four years. I know I'll develop as a young man, as a student and a great football player at the University of Michigan."
Dillon is the seventh commit in the 2017 class—AL S J'Marick Woods has since become the eighth—and the second at running back, joining Georgia three-star Kurt Taylor.
|3*, #41 RB||4*, #16 RB||3*, NR RB||
4*, 91, #18 RB,
4*, #19 RB,
Dillon's rankings are split between solid four-star (Rivals, 247) and generic three-star (Scout, ESPN), which isn't unusual at this stage for a prospect from a state not known for producing a ton of football talent. Michigan fans have seen this before with Massachusetts prospects; Mo Hurst's rankings belied his ability that was apparent on tape, the same could be said for incoming freshman Sean McKeon, and after watching his film I'd say that's the case with Dillon.
There's far less discrepancy in the listings of his size. Dillon is listed at 6'0", 228 on the low end (Rivals) and 6'1", 235 on the high end (Scout); he's got the build of an every-down back and could even be a linebacker if Michigan so chooses—though they've told Dillon they want him as a RB.
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Orchard Lake St. Mary's linebacker Josh Ross followed in his brother James' footsteps when he announced his commitment to Michigan yesterday morning. The younger Ross showed strong interest in the Wolverines since he emerged as a freshman starter at OLSM; such strong interest, in fact, that according to Steve Lorenz other coaches saw his commitment as a foregone conclusion:
Well over two seasons ago, a coach on another staff offered Ross. When I asked them about their belief in their chances, the answer was pretty simple.
"He's going to Michigan," they said. "We just really like him and his family, so we offered so I could keep in contact with them."
With Ross, it was never really a matter of who he was going to choose, it was when.
In spite of this, Ross put together one of the more impressive offer sheets in the Midwest. He's Michigan's sixth commit in the 2017 class, the first at linebacker, and the third from in-state, joining Oak Park OT JaRaymond Hall and Brother Rice TE Carter Dunaway.
4*, #10 ILB,
4*, #9 OLB,
4*, 81, #11 OLB,
4*, 92, #6 ILB,
4*, #7 ILB,
While the four sites are split as to whether Ross is an inside or outside linebacker, they're generally in concordance on his ability—all have him in the 150-250 range overall. Ross is a good prospect who's not quite in the elite tier.
There's most disparity regarding his size. Rivals lists him at 6'0", 219 pounds; ESPN at 6'1", 220; Scout and 247 at 6'2, 225.
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This post has been informatively updated.
— Antwuan Johnson (@Antwuan21) March 22, 2016
Michigan may not have added any prospects from Ohio in their 2016 class, but that's clearly not a trend we should expect to continue. Springfield (OH) ILB Antwuan Johnson, the #82 overall prospect on 247's early class of 2018 rankings, announced his commitment to Michigan yesterday after visiting campus last weekend with a couple fellow Ohio players, including potential five-star DE and Springfield teammate Leonard Taylor.
Johnson is the program's first 2018 commit. While a highly rated Ohio prospect committing early before receiving an Ohio State offer is often reason for trepidation, Johnson assured The Wolverine's Brandon Brown that Michigan's offer was the only one he needed to make this decision:
It's no secret that big-time prospects from Ohio usually go to Ohio State. Johnson is well aware of that but says that no matter what happens, he's 100% content with his decision.
"There’s really not a lot to say about that to be honest," he said. "It’s not a touchy situation with me. There isn’t any offer that would’ve changed my mind. When I went up to Michigan I had my mind set on it. No Ohio State offer or anything could’ve changed my mind.
Johnson added that he wants to lead the charge in recruiting several other Buckeye State prospects to Ann Arbor. It's early yet, but his commitment sounds quite firm.
|NR MLB||NR ILB||NR ILB||
4*, 91, #3 ILB,
247 is the only scouting service that's released 2018 rankings so far. They regard Johnson as the #3 inside linebacker in the country and the #4 prospect in the state of Ohio.
Scout, Rivals, and 247 all list Johnson at 6'1", 210 pounds; ESPN has him at 6'0", 213. That's impressively stout for a rising junior and recent reports suggest he's a good deal bigger than his listings—possibly in the 6'2", 230-pound range. Johnson has more than enough size to play inside linebacker in Don Brown's system.
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[photo: Bill Rapai/MGoBlog]
Via Sam Webb (freebie), Orchard Lake St. Mary's linebacker Joshua Ross has committed to Michigan. Ross has been a regular visitor at his brother's practices for years, however the Ross family maintained that Josh would be dutiful to the recruiting process.
But when that familiarity combined with Don Brown arriving with a defense that looks for smaller, quicker linebackers who get upfield in a hurry, the likely college destination turned to obvious.
A 4-star recruit with plenty of scouting already, Joshua Ross appears to have more physical upside than James, but perhaps not the crazy instincts that made his brother an instant starter. At 6'2/225 his skillset projects well to the blitzy/edgy/tight-end cover-y Sam role in Brown's defense.
A more informative update will come later today or tomorrow, and by the time he arrives on campus in a year I'm sure we'll have this one thoroughly scouted.
Michigan got their top target at quarterback last night when Highlands Ranch (CO) Valor Christian QB Dylan McCaffrey announced his commitment to the Wolverines. McCaffrey is the son of former Denver Broncos WR Ed McCaffrey and brother of Heisman finalist Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey; prepare for the word "bloodlines" to show up in several of these scouting reports.
McCaffrey is Michigan's fifth commit in the 2017 class and the first at quarterback.
4*, #3 QB,
4*, #6 QB,
4*, 85, #1 P-QB,
4*, 95, #2 P-QB,
4*, #2 P-QB,
With the exception of Rivals, which still considers McCaffrey as a high-level prospect, McCaffrey's rankings are tightly grouped in what will be fringe five-star territory by the end of the 2017 cycle.
He has an ideal frame for a quarterback, listed between 6'4", 185 pounds (Rivals) and 6'5", 200 (247).
Scout's free evaluation shows that McCaffrey isn't just an excellent prospect, he's an especially good fit for Jim Harbaugh's offense:
EvaluationMcCaffrey has great bloodlines and is a tremendous talent. He's a pure pocket passer with good athleticism and a great feel for the game. He's the rare QB who can go under canter and take a drop, shows very good footwork and poise. He's a natural leader with the arm strength needed to make all the throws and is able to escape pressure and make a play with his legs. He projects as an elite high major prospect- Biggins
- Mental Toughness
- Pocket Awareness
Areas to Improve
With so many high school teams running shotgun spreads these days, it's hard to find QB prospects with experience dropping back from under center; McCaffrey won't have as tough a transition as most.
It should come as little surprise that McCaffrey has been on the radar for quite a while; I found mention of him as early as May of 2014, when the then-rising-sophomore performed well at the Oakland Elite 11 regional. Irish247's breakdown of his sophomore film indicates McCaffrey was well ahead of the curve at that stage in his development:
McCaffrey boasts big-time size, and will only continue to add strength and poundage to his frame. With added strength, expect for added velocity in the pass game and physicality as a runner.
McCaffrey displays proper posture in the pocket. He has the ability to make smooth, finesse throws as well as pass with power. Good athleticism with the ability to extend plays outside the pocket or as a runner. Not a burner as a runner, but his long levers allow him to cover larger distances with an extended stride.
Flashes a mixture of move the pocket, in the pocket, and play action passes. McCaffrey has experience running a gun spread offense with read/zone concepts. Solid ball carriage in the pocket with limited wasted movement. Impeccable pedigree. Great knowledge of the game. Football player. Subtle movement in the pocket allows him to create space for throws. Down hill thrower once on the run. Reminiscence of former Irish quarterback Dayne Crist, especially on his level one and level five throws.
Their primary complaint was one based in mechanics: sometimes McCaffrey relied too much on his arm strength instead of getting his whole body into a throw.
PrepColorado QB scout Tim Jenkins evaluated McCaffrey during Valor Christian's only loss last fall (one they'd avenge in the state title game). Despite the defeat, McCaffrey still looked like a top-flight prospect:
Dylan is a big strong quarterback who has electric reset ability with his feet, meaning when he goes from one target to the next he wastes no time. He resets to number 2 better than most college quarterbacks. Dylan has a great smooth delivery. There were only a couple things left to be wanted when evaluating that game. First would be chaos management, when he moves around sometimes the ball gets away from his body. Lastly would be post snap recognition, there were a couple missed reads on zone read where there was an extra outside linebacker blitzing off the edge that he didn’t see, or a couple wide open hitch routes he had backside that he went elsewhere. After cleaning that up you see why he has garnered as many offers as he has. He is an excellent quarterback, recruit, and by all accounts I have heard a great kid!
That ability to go through progressions with solid mechanics is one of the main things that separated Brandon Peters from Shane Morris at the high school level; it's very encouraging to hear McCaffrey is on that level.
ESPN's underclassman evaluation has little actual criticism unless you were hoping McCaffrey is as much of a burner as his older brother:
STRENGTHS: Ideal height and massive frame. Heady player who makes sound decisions in the passing game. Well balanced and has a compact, over-the-top release. Possesses the arm strength to make all throws and is very accurate. Poised and patient in the pocket and athletic enough to elude defenders and step up. ... AREAS OF IMPROVEMENT: Will need to fill out his ample frame. Does not have enough speed to be a dual threat. ... BOTTOM LINE: McCaffrey is a tall, polished quarterback with very good arm talent. As he matures and adds bulk, we feel he has the potential to develop into a prototypical pocket passer at the next level.
247's Clint Brewster evaluated McCaffrey's junior film after his commitment and came away suggesting he's better than Peters:
He’s got great size at 6-foot-5 and really sees the entire field. McCaffrey makes decisions that put his team in position to win. He is a smart player and really dissects coverage well, with precision- accuracy and decisiveness. He makes a ton of advanced level throws and reads on film and can really pick you apart with his arm. His mobility is just the icing on the cake.
Each year, programs strive to sign a better player at each position than they did the previous cycle. This was a tough task for Michigan considering they signed the No. 61 overall player in the country last year in Brandon Peters. But they certainly did with the commitment of McCaffrey. The Wolverines got their top overall target at the position that could potentially end up as the top quarterback in the class. McCaffrey's mechanics in the pocket are very polished, especially for a player with his type of upside and mobility. His pocket presence and footwork really set him apart from others in the class.
The Wolverine's Tim Sullivan noted one area where McCaffrey—through no fault of his own—will have to make a significant adjustment:
The lone questions around McCaffrey's talent relate to how he performs when things are stacked against him. Valor Christian is consistently one of the most talented teams in the Denver area, and there are only a couple games each year where the whole range of his skills is needed. The playing field will be more level on a consistent basis in college, and thinking under more intense pressure than he sees will be important.
McCaffrey led Valor Christian to their sixth state title in seven years last season. As with any quarterback, transitioning to tougher competition in college will be a challenge, and in his case it could require a longer adjustment period.
McCaffrey sounds like an ideal fit for Michigan. He's a passer first, and a very good one, but he can also make plays with his legs; he can operate from the gun or under center; his mechanics and understanding of the game are advanced for a prospect his age. Harbaugh has a lot to work with here.
McCaffrey holds offers from Arizona State, Colorado, Colorado State, Duke, LSU, Mizzou, Nebraska, Northwestern, Penn State, Rutgers, UCLA, Virginia, Washington, and Washington State. He had interest but not offer yet from Stanford, which prioritized the #5 P-QB in the class, Georgia prospect Davis Mills.
Valor Christian is a dominant program in Colorado; as mentioned, they've won six of the last seven Class 5A state titles. The program has, of course, produced the McCaffrey brothers; the two other four-stars they've produced in the Rivals era are 2015 Nebraska CB signee Eric Lee and Mr. Vision Quest himself, Auburn guard Alex Kozan.
During his junior year, McCaffrey led a powerful Valor Christian team to a 12-2 state championship mark, completing 207 of 320 passes (64.7 percent) for exactly 2800 yards (8.8 per attempt) with 27 touchdowns and just four interceptions.
For his efforts, he was named to The Denver Post All-Colorado High School Football Team.
An interception rate well below 2% is good, in my opinion.
FAKE 40 TIME
McCaffrey's Hudl page lists a Nike-verified 40 time of 5.18, which gets zero FAKEs out of five. He's not his brother; he still has enough athleticism to break the pocket and pick up first downs.
Sophomore highlights and single-game reels can be found on his Hudl page.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
McCaffrey is a near-lock for a redshirt, both because John O'Korn should be in his second and final year as the starter when he gets to campus in 2017 and doing so would separate him and Peters as much as possible. In what will presumably be his redshirt freshman season in 2018, McCaffrey should battle with Peters, Zach Gentry, Alex Malzone, and Wilton Speight (or whichever of those QBs is still on the roster) for the starting gig.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
McCaffrey is the type of quarterback prospect that makes a second pro-style prospect in the class more of a luxury than anything else; if Michigan goes after a second QB, it'll likely be a guy like Gentry or (sigh) Vic Viramontes who could also project to another position.
Here's the class as it currently stands:
— Dylan McCaffrey (@dcaf20) February 16, 2016
Michigan has landed a commit from the top 2017 QB on their board, Dylan McCaffrey (Yes That McCaffrey). McCaffrey is the son of Ed and brother of Christian; he's 45th on the 247 composite, and the #2 pro-style QB in the country behind Clemson commit Hunter Johnston.
In McCaffrey, Michigan gets a 6'5" pocket passer with huge upside and excellent bloodlines; his early commit will hopefully allow him to recruit other gentlemen into the class. Michigan may still pursue a second quarterback in the class. If they do so he's likely to be a player like Gentry or Viramontes who could play another position if QB doesn't work out. More likely is that Michigan stands pat with McCaffrey and Peters in back to back classes.