this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
After going without a commit since November, Michigan reeled in a big one today when four-star Richmond (VA) St. Christopher's CB Garrett Taylor announced his pledge to the Wolverines on Twitter. It appeared Taylor favored Stanford as recently as a month ago, but a subsequent Michigan offer and campus visit—which he called the best of any he'd taken—sealed it for the Maize and Blue.
— Garrett Taylor (@gtaychillin) March 24, 2014
Taylor is the fifth overall commit in the 2015 class and the third defensive back, joining CB Shaun Crawford and S Tyree Kinnel.
[So as not to step all over the basketball post, hit THE JUMP for the informative portion.]
Per Core 6 Athletes, 2016 Downers Grove (IL) South OT Erik Swenson committed to Michigan last night—yes, this is the pledge Brandon and others have been hinting at for the past couple days. Swenson is considered one of the top prospects in his class at this very early juncture; he visited Michigan for last summer's technique camp and the Notre Dame game, giving such glowing reviews of the school that he's long been thought of as a Wolverine lock.
Swenson is Michigan's first commit in the class of 2016. I guess I have to start deploying the "2016 recruiting" tag now.
|4*, NR OT||NR OT||NR OT||NR OT||NR OT|
As you can see, none of the four recruiting services have released rankings for the 2016 class; Scout named Swenson one of their initial four-star recruits—it's worth noting they only awarded six prospects five-star status—while Rivals named him as one of ten recruits to watch in the class and 247 placed him on a similar list of just six recruits; at this early stage, he's one of the most highly-regarded prospects in his class. Five-star status isn't out of the question by any means once his class gets evaluated more completely.
Swenson's listed measurables range from 6'5", 289 pounds (Rivals), to 6'7", 285 pounds (Scout and 247), with ESPN falling in between. Recent reports have listed him as large as 6'7", 290, and he's still just a sophomore in high school; dude is big.
Swenson has caught the eyes of scouts since he was in 8th grade and has started on the Downers Grove South varsity squad since his freshman year, so despite his youth there's actually a decent amount of scouting on him. Back in May, Illinois recruiting guru EdgyTim named Swenson first when discussing underclassmen to watch at the Rivals Chicago camp ($):
OT Erik Swenson (6-foot-7, 290 pounds) Downers Grove South 2016- just look at the sheer measureables and for a freshman in high school the overall size and potential of Swenson is off the charts. Now, this is NOT just your typical overhyped/overgrown kid who can't block the sun on a bright mid August day. Swenson showed last fall starting for the Mustangs that he's quickly becoming a technically savy blocker and is just getting better and better.
At that camp, Swenson was named the #2 performer($) among underclassmen despite being at least a year younger than most of his competition; Josh Helmholdt said Swenson was "raw in some of the technical aspects of the position, but he [played] light on his feet."
Participating against prospects as much as two years older than him at the Core 6 Big Man Camp, Swenson again impressed scouts, including 247's Steve Wiltfong:
Freshman offensive tackle Erik Swenson has all the tools to be highly recruited. At 6-foot-7, 285-pounds, he has a great frame, moves well, delivers a strong punch and held his own against the likes of [2014 Ohio State SDE commit Dylan] Thompson.
Swenson picked up his much-coveted Michigan offer later that month; the Wolverines were the second school to offer, following Illinois. That was before he even returned to Ann Arbor for June's technique camp, in which Allen Trieu said Swenson "continue[d] to show that he is ahead of his years."
By the time Swenson was named as one of Rivals's ten prospects to watch in the 2016 class in September, he'd picked up a couple more offers from top programs ($):
College coaches started getting excited about Swenson immediately after his freshman season, and he has already picked up offers from Illinois, Michigan, Notre Dame and Ohio State. Measuring 6-foot-5 and 289 pounds at the Chicago Rivals Camp Series presented by Under Armour last May, Swenson has all the tools of a dominant future left tackle. He plays light on his feet, can locate in space and is already showing the patience to not overextend. That is not to say Swenson is a finished product, but physically he has nothing limiting him from being an elite left tackle prospect.
Tim Sullivan made his way down to Illinois to watch Swenson in actual game action; he noted that Swenson has plenty of room to add weight, especially in his lower body, despite the fact that he's already 290 pounds with little bad weight on him, and came away very impressed with both his run- and pass-blocking ($):
Impressively, Swenson is equally adept at run blocking and pass blocking. He drives very well when the ball is run behind him (the game-winning touchdown run features him caving half the Morton defense, allowing some of his fellow blockers to clean up the remaining Morton players), and has a solid pass set without overextending himself.
Playing with a lower pad level was noted as an area for improvement, as it quite often is for young linemen.
Michigan appears to be getting a prototype left tackle with Swenson's huge frame and quick feet; if he improves from a technical standpoint—and remember, he's just finishing up his sophomore season—he could develop into a truly dominant lineman. That's certainly the goal, based on this quote from his father, the spectacularly-named Swen Swenson, to GBW's Josh Newkirk after Erik picked up his Michigan offer ($):
“Erik is a left tackle and it’s matter of dreaming of playing in the Big House, and falling in the footsteps of Jake Long and soon to be Taylor Lewan, who will probably go No. 1 in the draft next year if he stays healthy. Those are kind of hard footsteps not to want to follow, are they?” sail [sic] the elder Swenson.
Indeed, Swen. Indeed.
Swenson held offers from Notre Dame, Ohio State, Virginia Tech, Illinois, Northwestern, and Akron in addition to his Michigan offer, according to Rivals. Scout also lists an Oregon offer; 247 shows interest but no offer from the likes of Florida State, Iowa, Michigan State, Nebraska, UCLA, and Vanderbilt.
Downers Grove South has produced three players ranked three-stars or better in the Rivals era (2002-present), all of whom went to Illinois. That includes 2003 five-star OL Martin O'Donnell, a four-year starter at guard for the Illini and a first-team AP All-American as a senior; he decided to give up football after his college career due to injuries.
OL, no stats.
FAKE 40 TIME
None listed that I can find.
YouTube has highlights of a freshman Swenson, looking like anything but a freshman, in his first year as a varsity starter:
Single game cut-ups from this season are available on his Hudl page.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Swenson is pretty clearly a left tackle prospect with a ton of potential; at this point in his development, that's about as much as I'm willing to project. His size, coupled with the fact that he's fared so well against older competition at various camps—not to mention as a starter from day one at the varsity level—bodes well for his ability to contribute at a relatively early stage when he reaches college. Michigan hasn't even finished recruiting offensive linemen for the 2015 class, so any conjecture about the depth chart is pretty worthless right now.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Ditto for this. Swenson will be one of the highest-rated recruits—and quite possibly the flat-out highest-rated—in Michigan's 2016 class; beyond that, there's still far too much left to unfold in the 2014 and 2015 classes to say much here.
Wilson pictures are thin on the ground. Via Rivals.
CA SF/PF DJ Wilson has committed to Michigan. Informative update…
IS ALREADY HERE, YEAHHHH
|3*, #135 overall||3*, NR||3*, NR overall
|3*, #219 overall
Wilson's ratings are pretty meh. He's a skinny 6'9" kid who was injured for much of the all-important evaluation periods the last couple years and put up about ten points a game when healthy. So those rankings are legit, for generic club X.
For Michigan, he's a fit for what they want to do and may outperform the middling-at-best expectations above. John Beilein likes three things: length, shooting, and intelligence. Wilson brings all three in spades. His AAU coach:
"D.J. can shoot it, handle it and pass it at 6'9 and is just scratching the surface in his basketball career. He is going to surprise a lot of people. He's a great kid and an extremely hard worker who wants to be really good at his craft. Schools just wanted to see if the back was an issue and clearly it's not."
At 6'9", he's a jumbo wing in the extreme or good-sized stretch four. He's got a sweet jumper with range out to three, and he's a 4.0 student who took an official visit to Columbia. The one in New York.
That back issue held him out for the entirety of last year's AAU circuit, which held his rankings down. He missed a big chunk of this year's, as well. This is from late July:
The last player into the 2014 Rivals150 at No. 150, D.J. Wilson has been sidelined by injuries for most of the past six months. Finally healthy, the 6-foot-8 combo forward from Sacramento (Calif.) Capital Christian is starting to show some things. …
What jumps out immediately about Wilson is his ability to stroke deep jump shots and the ease with which things seem to come to him on the offensive end. Because of his size and skill, he plays as a both a plus-sized wing or a face-up four who can stretch defenses and knock down shots.
Another evaluation from that tourney:
DJ Wilson had the college coaches buzzing with his play. Standing at 6’8” with a skinny frame, Wilson showed off a text book jump shot and went 3-3 from behind the line in a strong first half performance. His shot was smooth and effortless with range several feet behind the arc. When pressured Wilson used a pump fake to drive to the basket and finished with a soft floater.
Has a knack for doing a lot of things on the court and being very efficient. Wilson rebounds the ball well, handles, looks to get contact in the paint, and shows a nice touch with his left. Uses his length to his advantage on defense as well.
Here a lack of ridiculous athleticism is made up for by sheer length and craft.
A lack of assertiveness and questions about his energy level are the other consistent complaints, which get referenced even when he's playing well. Scout:
…back on the court Saturday and looked really good. Wilson hasn’t stopped growing and has now hit the 6-foot-8, 6-foot-9 range, only adding to his value as a prospect. Wilson played harder than he has in the past, scored on the offensive glass and hit three triples off the catch. He’s a project but no doubt has upside.
ESPN's evaluation loves his upside ("quintessential frame with long arms and overall great length"; "great ball skills"; "impressive" three point shot") but lingers on a lack of energy exerted on both ends of the floor, especially when it comes to rebounding and defending. Hopefully that's an evaluation impacted by the lingering back issues.
Those back issues are a concern, as they had the specter of something chronic with their duration and consistent flare-ups. The CU Rivals site has the best description of what went down there:
The spring was a successful one, until injuring his back and having to sit out the July live period. An inconsistent recovery looked to be completed when Wilson averged 15.4 points per game over the first seven of the season.
But problems with his back creeped back up, eventually keeping him out of this past spring evaluation period because of inflammation.
"I could have played but I'd rather wait until summer," he said of sitting out the spring. "I didn't want to risk anything."
FWIW, his doctor told Wilson that the injuries were "things that only happen once."
Likes ice cream.
Wilson had offers from Gonzaga, Cal, Colorado, USC, Harvard, Columbia, and a few others. There were reports that everyone who lost out on Chatman (Oregon, USC, and Arizona) tried to get Wilson to dump his M visit and visit them this weekend, FWIW.
FAKE 40 TIME
Square root of negative one fakes. You can't write i these days without getting it autocorrected at the start of a sentence.
Junior year video:
UMHoops scouting video:
Wilson features extensively in a recent Capital Christian workout video that is for hardcore folks only:
One-on-ones start at about seven minutes and are the most interesting bit. Also the difference in Wilson's body from video one to this recent one jumps out; guy has done a lot of work despite the back injury.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
If you're still betting against Beilein's ability to unearth talent, you're hanging out at the penny slots swearing a lot. Don't sweat the rankings too much. Wilson's a high-upside project who fits well with Beilein's system and is a good bet to maximize his potential. He's an academic fit who should be able to generate shots with his brain in Beilein's system, and his injury makes it likely he's underrated.
ESPN compared Kam Chatman to Tayshaun Prince, but it's Wilson who's eerily reminiscent of the lanky 6'10" shooter and long-armed devil, down to that baby hook in the lane that is one of Prince's go-to moves. Wilson brings the stretch four shooting and good-enough driving ability that Prince does; he's skinny and lacks crazy athleticism but is also good enough in those areas.
The downside here is Evan Smotrycz: a quality-shooting stretch four with the ability to get to the basket who's allergic to rebounds and defense and eventually drives Beilein so crazy he bites his head off like a bat. Then he transfers to Maryland. Wilson, not Beilein. Or the bat. Bat's dead, bro.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Wilson fills one of Michigan's combo forward slots; since they were willing to take both Wilson and Donte Grantham it seems they will woo a few guys going forward, most prominently Australian transplant combo forward Jonah Bolden.
Bolden's recruitment will end in the spring; Michigan's pursuit of a shooting guard is going to conclude much more quickly, with both IN SG James Blackmon Jr and MS SG Devin Booker likely off the board by the end of the month. If Michigan gets one of those plan A SGs it's status quo—unless there's attrition, Bolden or bust for scholarship #5 and only if Bolden plays like a must-take—but if they miss on both they might hold onto scholarship #4 if they feel confident in Bolden and confident they can get away with a class consisting almost entirely of skinny combo forwards, especially if OH SG Javon Bess is off the board to Michigan State by then.
Can they? I think so unless they're getting early entry vibes from Stauskas. He'll have two more years when this class arrives, as will Caris LeVert. You could even slide Zak Irvin down if you wanted; Michigan does just fine with SGs who are more shooter than penetrator, and gol dang if that's not a huge lineup.
Huber Heights (OH) Wayne defensive back Tyree Kinnel waited a while for Michigan offer; though the Wolverines began looking at him during his freshman season, Kinnel went without one through several campus visits and even Michigan's technique camp this summer. After an outstanding performance at Ohio State's Friday Night Lights camp last month, Kinnel finally received the offer he coveted, and today he became Michigan's sixth commit in the 2015 class and their second in two days following Shaun Crawford's pledge yesterday.
4*, #24 CB,
|NR CB||3*, NR S||4*, 90, #18 S||
4*, #20 S,
Rivals still hasn't released 2015 rankings; the other three sites are split on both Kinnel's talent and his future position. Scout likes him as a cornerback and puts him well within their top 300; 247 pegs him as a safety and has him just outside their Top 247 (the #16 safety is #241 overall); ESPN also has him as a safety and gives him a three-star rating.
Scout lists Kinnel at 5'11", 170 lbs., ESPN at 5'11", 183, and both Rivals and 247 have him pegged at 6'0", 190; he's got the size to play either safety or corner. According to multiple reports, Michigan recruited Kinnel as a safety; Ohio State was looking at him as a bigger corner, and with the Wolverines looking for similar attributes from their cornerbacks it's possible he could end up there as well.
Although Kinnel has started at Wayne since his freshman year, there's surprisingly little scouting material on him from anything aside from last month's Friday Night Lights camp. Since that's the most recent look at him, we might as well start there; here's Scout's Dave Berk on Kinnel's FNL performance ($):
Damon Webb would be hard to knock as the top defensive back at Friday Night Lights, but Kinnel was extremely impressive in coverage. Much like he stated, I agree that he can play either safety or cornerback at the next level, and that will all sort itself out over the next two years of high school football. Kinnel is a bigger corner, and college programs love this size out on an island. He is one of Ohio's top 2015 prospects, and he certainly raised his stock with his performance at Friday Night Lights.
Rivals's Josh Helmholdt delves into more detail about Kinnel's coverage skills ($):
The 6-foot, 190-pound Kinnel appears headed for the safety position in college, but he has excelled this summer in camp settings where he is asked to cover like a cornerback. His best attribute at this stage is his break on the football, but the rising junior also shows fluid hips and the speed to cover downfield. He is thickly built and has the frame of a future college safety, but his coverage skills may allow him to play anywhere in the defensive backfield at the next level.
Like Berk, Helmholdt had Kinnel behind only Damon Webb among defensive backs at FNL.
One more bit from FNL from Rivals Ohio analyst Marc Givler ($):
Huber Heights (Ohio) Wayne defensive back Tyree Kinnel continues to turn in special performances on the camp circuit and was outstanding once again showing the size and strength of a free safety but the cover skills of a corner. It won't be long until Kinnel is a 20 offer kid.
Kinnel's excellent performance in one-on-one WR/DB drills at FNL—a true test of a defensive back's man coverage ability in a drill that favors the receiver—negates the only negative from ESPN's evaluation that isn't the usual call to add bulk that applies to just about every high school prospect:
STRENGTHS: A savvy player with good instincts and vision. Shows good playing speed and strength. A playmaker in defending both the run and pass. Excellent in zone coverage reading the QB's eyes and making a break on the football. ... AREAS OF IMPROVEMENT: Will benefit from adding bulk to his frame. Lacks experience in laying [sic] man to man coverage. ... BOTTOM LINE: Kinnel is a solid all-around safety that does many things well. Shows the potential to be productive in man coverage with good physical tools.
ESPN gave Kinnel a three-star rating and has yet to give a specific grade or include him in their position ratings, so I don't think they're done evaluating him; then again, this is fire-and-forget ESPN we're talking about, so who knows.
Here's Berk again from a Sam Webb feature in the Detroit News pointing out an important area for improvement:
“I project him as a safety with solid ball skills,” said Berk. “At the same time he is aggressive, has good strength, and is able to support the run extremely well. He needs to work on better tackling technique, but overall he has got all the skills that you’d see in a top level safety at the next level.”
Considering Kinnel has shown a willingness to come up in run support and be effective in doing so, and he's got two more season of high school ball before he gets to Michigan—where he'll be coached up even more on technique—this isn't something I find particularly concerning.
Steve Lorenz caught up with Kinnel's high school position coach after his commitment to get a few more details about his game, specifically his advanced knowledge of football for a rising junior ($):
"He's a person who is still learning the game, but you don't get a player like Tyree very often," Powell said. "He has the size and speed, but he has something that you can't teach a lot of players: he has the instincts to see things before or as they are happening. This gives him the ability to make reads quicker and make plays. He knows how to disguise coverages and he knows how to read opposing offenses. As his position coach, I've given Tyree the permission to call audibles on our coverage. This off-season he really improved in that aspect and can pick up the tendencies of a quarterback with relative ease. He's ahead of his age in terms of understanding the game. The other intangible he has that I really admire about him is his passion and love for the game itself. He's a young man who goes out every day and works his tail off."
Powell also said he expects Kinnel to be named captain, a high honor for a junior, and relayed a story from a recent intrasquad scrimmage in which Kinnel, disappointed with the play of the defense, actually ordered the first team off the field and brought the second team on with the full approval of the coaching staff. Again, The Pattern™ emerges.
Kinnel had offers from Arkansas and Kentucky when he made his commitment, as well as interest from Michigan State, Ohio State, Tennessee, and West Virginia.
Huber Heights Wayne is a solid program in Ohio's Division I, making it to the state championship game (and losing, unfortunately) in 1999 and 2010. Their most notable football prospect is current Ohio State QB Braxton Miller; the school also produced former Wolverines Terrence and Terry Talbott, both of whom had injuries cut their college careers short.
Cincinnati.com has a game-by-game breakdown of Kinnel's sophomore season, in which he recorded 30 solo tackles, a fumble recovery, and two interceptions.
FAKE 40 TIME
247 lists a 40 time of 4.40; this has the look of a self-reported time and I can't find any electronically-timed combine figures, so this gets a solid four FAKEs out of five. While I don't doubt Kinnel's speed, 4.4-flat is an elite time for a college player, let alone a high school junior.
As usual, more highlights and individual game cut-ups are available at Kinnel's Hudl page.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
If Kinnel, as expected, ends up at safety he'll have the opportunity to compete for playing time at a relatively early juncture. When he arrives in 2015, Michigan will have a senior Jarrod Wilson and juniors Dymonte Thomas, Delano Hill, and Jeremy Clark on the roster, plus a 2014 recruit (Montae Nicholson is currently the top candidate to fill the open safety spot in the class; Erick Smith and JuJu Smith are other, less likely options). That should afford Kinnel a redshirt year and then a one-year apprenticeship as a backup before he competes for a starting job; unless Michigan decides to move one of their young corners to safety, he's got a relatively clear path to playing time.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Slightly edited from yesterday's Hello post:
With a very small projected class and plenty of depth in place, the Wolverines would likely take just one more defensive back—NJ CB Minkah Fitzpatrick is a top national target who's shown some interest in Michigan, and five-star CA CB Iman Marshall has an offer in hand, though he's a longshot. [EDIT: I should also mention four-star MI ATH Brian Cole, who projects to corner and is strongly considering both Michigan and Michigan State—the Spartans may actually be the team to beat for him; he's still a more realistic option than Fitzpatrick or Marshall at this juncture.]
Kinnel is Michigan's sixth commit in the '15 class (seventh if you count grayshirt DT Brady Pallante); that group may only expand to 15-17 signees, so Michigan will be very selective about whom they offer. Top priorities include quarterback, at least one more offensive lineman, defensive end, and outside linebacker.
As expected, Lakewood (OH) St. Edward cornerback Shaun Crawford announced his commitment to Michigan via a live stream on ESPN's Recruiting Nation, choosing the Wolverines over fellow finalists Florida State, Miami (FL), and Tennessee. Crawford is the first defensive back and fifth prospect overall to commit to Brady Hoke's 2015 class.
4*, #10 CB,
4*, 83, #5 ATH,
4*, 91, #17 CB,
4*, #9 CB,
Of the three services that have released 2015 rankings, ESPN is the most bullish on Crawford, and all are in agreement that he's a solid four-star who easily makes their top-n lists. Rivals is the lone site that hasn't unveiled 2015 rankings; their Ohio state recruiting analyst, Marc Givler, gives us an idea of where Crawford might be end up there:
@FergodsakesUofM He is my No. 3 junior in the state of Ohio.
— Marc Givler (@MarcGivlerBG) August 21, 2013
ESPN also has Crawford as the third-ranked junior in Ohio; if Givler's opinion holds, Crawford should end up ranked in the #50-overall range on Rivals.
Crawford's size has been and will be a topic of much discussion, especially given Michigan's recent proclivity for recruiting big cornerbacks; all four sites list him at a diminutive 5'9" and 165-175 pounds. Most corners that size have issues playing man-up on larger receivers and holding up in run support. With Crawford, the latter part, at least, is not an issue...
...because his highlight tape is essentially eight minutes of this:
Crawford can bring the wood and he's got the play recognition ability to make a big impact in the run game and defending the flats. But don't take it from me. Take it from everyone else. Here's Givler again after taking in a St. Edward scrimmage last week:
Shaun Crawford is as good in run support as any corner I've seen come out of Ohio the last few years.
— Marc Givler (@MarcGivlerBG) August 17, 2013
Rivals analyst Josh Helmholdt after watching St. Edward in a game last fall ($):
Shaun Crawford, ATH, Lakewood (Ohio) St. Edward (2015): The 5-foot-9, 165-pound Crawford plays both wide receiver and nickel cornerback, but I listed him with the defense because that is where he was most effective. Crawford had a few drops on offense, but he is an outstanding open-field tackler on defense.
Crawford on Crawford ($):
Playing as a sophomore at St. Ed's is not exactly a common thing and making an impact on both sides of the ball as a sophomore is even more uncommon. So where does Crawford like playing the most?
"I like playing corner the best," he said. "I just like hitting people."
You get the point.
Of course, tackling is but one small part of playing cornerback — the whole covering receivers part is a pretty big deal. Bucknuts's Duane Long ranked Crawford as his #8 rising junior in Ohio, and the writeup makes it sound like he probably should've been higher on the list ($):
8. Shaun Crawford, Athlete, Lakewood St. Edward: As much as it pains me to rank a Michigan lean in my top 10, Crawford is too good to ignore. He has all the tools. He is the best cover corner in Ohio regardless of class but I have a hard time placing a player with this much game-breaking ability on defense. Crawford is just as impressive on offense. Crawford has the hips and feet to be an elite cover corner but he is such a fine tackler he could be a safety. His speed is something special.
Someone is going to get a great player whether he plays offense or defense. Right now it looks like Michigan. An offer might help the situation. He was supposed to be a huge Michigan lean and has an offer. What is he waiting on? Maybe we have it wrong. Maybe we are looking at an Ohio kid being brought up to speed on life after football for someone who intends to return to Ohio. We will see. Love to see this one in Scarlet and Gray.
Yes, that second paragraph is particularly delicious.
Crawford's cover skills are bolstered by his top-notch speed; he was regarded as a big-time track prospect before he even got to high school and has since posted electronic times of 10.80 seconds in the 100-meter dash and 21.80 in the 200. Between his speed and willingness to throw his body around, Crawford's dispelled many of the concerns about his height, as evidenced by this quote from Scout's Bill Greene:
Said Greene, “That’s the only drawback (to his game) -- his height. But it doesn’t bother me because I’ve seen him play live and he is a great football player.
“His speed is amazing, but he’s got hips so he can turn and run. If he does false-step or get beat, he’s got lighting speed to catch up. And he will come up and hit people. There is no worry about if he can tackle coming up from the corner spot because he comes up and hits people. So he is a great athlete and a great kid. He comes from a great family, he is unbelievable in the classroom (and) he is a leader. There is nothing not to like about Shaun Crawford.”
Run support: check. Cover skills: check. Track-star speed: check. Fits The Pattern™: check.
Greene added in the same article that "[i]f he was 6-1 he would probably the top cornerback in America," and noted that Crawford plays against some of the best high school competition in the country at St. Edward. Crawford's height may hold him back a little against taller college receivers, though it seems that it'll be more of an issue for NFL scouts; he's an elite talent with a skill-set that covers for his lone apparent shortcoming.
Crawford held offers from Arkansas, Cincinnati, Florida State, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Miami (YTM), Michigan State, Northwestern, Penn State, Tennessee, and West Virginia. Ohio State and Notre Dame both showed interest but didn't offer prior to his commitment, much to the dismay of Duane Long in the former case.
Lakewood St. Edward is one of the top programs in Ohio's Division I, producing a number of top recruits in recent years and winning the state title in 2010. Notable former prospects include five-star Michigan guard Kyle Kalis (2012), five-star Ohio State tackle Alex Boone (2005), four-star Ohio State safety Nate Oliver (2007), four-star Northwestern defensive tackle Nate Kuhar (2012), four-star Iowa safety Diauntae Morrow (2007), and a long list of three-stars that contains former Michigan target and 2012 Oklahoma signee TE Sam Grant.
According to 247, Crawford recorded 66 tackles (three for loss), a sack, two interceptions, two forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery in his sophomore season. He also netted 438 yards and five touchdowns on 24 catches as a receiver.
FAKE 40 TIME
Crawford ran a laser-timed 4.51 40 at February's Nike Combine in Massillon, a very impressive figure that gets zero FAKEs out of five. He posted a 37.4-inch vertial leap at the same combine; that leaping ability should help him in defending taller pass-catchers.
Sophomore highlights courtesy of ScoutingOhio:
Here's video of last weekend's scrimmage courtesy of OhioPreps — Crawford appears with big hits on the two plays beginning at the :55 mark, a short touchdown catch at the 2:30 mark, consecutive TFLs at the 3:13 mark, and another huge hit at the 4:00 mark. Not bad for a day's work:
More clips, including individual game highlights, are available at Crawford's Hudl page.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Despite his size, Crawford is an ideal candidate to play boundary corner. He's got the speed and cover skills to match up with outside receivers and more than enough tackling ability to hold up on the edge. Much like Michigan is doing with Dymonte Thomas this year — and may do again next year with Jabrill Peppers — the coaches could also give Crawford a first-year internship at nickel if he's ready to see the field that early before moving him to the outside.
When Crawford arrives on campus, Michigan will have a senior Blake Countess, a junior Terry Richardson, this year's freshman crop of Reon Dawson, Ross Douglas, Jourdan Lewis, and Channing Stribling, and of course 2014 commits Jabrill Peppers and Brandon Watson. That's a lot of older players to pass on the depth chart, though if Crawford continues to develop it could be tough to keep him off the field regardless. I really like his game and expect him to be a multi-year starter.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan has one defensive back in the fold for 2015 and could very well add another tomorrow in Tyree Kinnel, a 3.5-star safety prospect who could also project as a bigger cornerback. With a very small projected class and plenty of depth in place, the Wolverines would likely take just one more defensive back — NJ CB Minkah Fitzpatrick is a top national target who's shown some interest in Michigan, and five-star CA CB Iman Marshall has an offer in hand, though he's a longshot.
Crawford is Michigan's fifth commit in the '15 class (sixth if you count grayshirt DT Brady Pallante); that group may only expand to 15-17 signees, so Michigan will be very selective about whom they offer. Top priorities include quarterback, at least one more offensive lineman, defensive end, and outside linebacker.
Commitment Vine (that's a first) via Scout's Josh Newkirk
After talking matters over with his (Maize-and-Blue-blooded) family, Warren (MI) De La Salle linebacker Jared Wangler announced on Twitter that he's chosen to switch his commitment from Penn State to Michigan today after unexpectedly receiving a Wolverine offer last week. Wangler, the son of former Michigan quarterback John and brother of 2013 preferred walk-on receiver Jack, becomes the fourth linebacker in the 2014 class and the 15th commitment overall.
|3*, #53 OLB||2*, NR OLB||3*, 77, #63 OLB||3*, 88, #38 S||
3*, #69 S,
Wangler has a pretty bizarre recruiting profile in that, despite the middling rankings above, he earned offers from Penn State (Linebacker U, remember), LSU, and Michigan, not to mention an invite to the Under Armour All-American Game. This may have to do with his status as a tweener — he's transitioning from safety to outside linebacker, and at 6'1", ~215 lbs. (the general consensus of his size from the four services) might be a little undersized as a linebacker.
As for what linebacker position Wangler will play, that's yet to be determined; he told Steve Lorenz that Michigan is looking at him at two different spots after his visit yesterday ($):
"Coach Hoke, Coach Manning, Coach Mattison and Coach Mallory all were talking with us," he said. Wangler's dad made the trip as well. "They like me at both SAM and WILL linebacker and showed me the depth chart at linebacker for the future. It was something I had questions on going into the visit and I didn't realize that the opportunity for playing time at Michigan may be there for me earlier than I thought. We went over my film (a lot of it from his 7v7 work this off-season) and they talked about how they would like to use me and that they like my versatility. It answered a lot of the questions I had."
Given his skill set, I think Wangler makes more sense at WILL, but where he ends up may be determined by how Michigan's linebackers develop in the classes ahead of him.
As a safety-turned-linebacker, Wangler is pretty athletic for his position and well ahead of the game when it comes to his coverage skills; he's also a very willing and impactful hitter, which is good to see considering the concerns about his size. Scout's Allen Trieu lists those three areas as Wangler's positives on his free profile, with block shedding as the only negative, and provides this take on his game:
Former safety who has transitioned his athletic tools into the linebacker position. Is able to play over the slot and does a nice job in coverage, both in man to man and dropping into zones. Has good closing speed to the football and is a good striker who explodes into his tackles. Having just transitioned into playing in the box, he simply has to continue to get stronger and work on getting off blocks. Likely a WILL in college. - Allen Trieu
ESPN is a little more bullish on Wangler's ability to shed blocks, though with the (relatively safe) assumption that he'll continue to add strength:
Reacts quickly to the run and pass demonstrating the agility and balance needed to move through traffic and play downhill to the football. Fashes [sic] the ability to shiver, shed and keep his feet free when working in traffic. Added bulk with improved playing strength will accelerate his take-on and shed skill. Displays the foot quickness needed to avoid blockers and make plays in tight spaces.
The WWL is also very high on Wangler's pass coverage and tackling ability, citing his "relentless desire to chase down the football" as a means to get on the field as a special teams demon. With a redshirt year to add bulk, ESPN thinks he's got the frame and athleticism to be a productive outside linebacker. It's a very positive scouting report overall, and it should come as little surprise that ESPN televises the Under Armour game — though it is surprising, given all of the above, that Wangler isn't rated higher on ESPN. Fire and forget, I guess.
Penn State's 247 outlet had SpartanTailgate's Sean Scherer provide his scouting report on Wangler after his initial commitment, and once again his coverage skills come in for high praise ($):
"Wangler is a very versatile linebacker that will be effective in both the passing game and running game. I expect him to play outside backer, which will allow him to cover tight end, running back, fullback or even a slot receiver but also be effective in stopping the run. Wangler already does an excellent job of keeping his opponent in front of him and uses outside shoulder to help contain his target. By always chopping his feet, he's in constant motion, which allows him to create great angles and make a play."
Wangler participated in various camps and 7-on-7 tournaments over the last couple summers, and while he usually gets just a passing mention, the same couple positives keep popping up. Here's Trieu again after this year's Columbus NFTC ($):
Penn State commit Jared Wangler is another who may not be quite as big as some of the aforementioned guys, but is a smart kid, who, as a former safety, can run well.
247's JC Shurburtt, at the same event:
Penn State commit Jared Wangler (Warren, Mich./De La Salle) continues to add bulk and plays well in space. He also displays a high football IQ.
247's Steve Wiltfong from the Adidas Showcase at Grand Valley State:
Warren (Mich.) De La Salle linebacker Jared Wangler was one of the more fluid and athletic linebackers on site.
Wiltfong again from this year's Sound Mind Sound Body camp:
Penn State linebacker commit Jared Wangler showed good speed and strong cover ability against the running backs in 1-on-1s.
I think it's safe to say Wangler is athletic for a linebacker and solid in coverage. When asked to do a self-evaluation in the wake of his Penn State commitment, Wangler's report echoed those of the experts, along with a promising tidbit about his work ethic ($):
"The position I'm going to play is a lot like Mike Hull, number 43. They like my versatility, that's big for them. Right now, I weigh about 218 and have ran a 4.6 forty, so they think I have quick feet and play well in space. They also like my hands, They see me as someone that will most likely cover tight ends, maybe slot receivers. They also think I can grow into the type of player that can be physical enough to play in the box and make a tackle. Versatility is big, they feel like they can mold me into whatever they need, I just have to do my part and learn from the coaching, which I will. I know I won't have any problems with weight lifting. I love that and Coach Fitzgerald is the man. He'll have us all in shape."
Later in that article, Wangler mentions block shedding as the area he most wants to improve; he also says he currently maxes out at 325 pounds on the bench, with the hopes of getting that up to 350 before this season, so he's not joking when he says he loves the weight room.
Wangler's marquee offers came from LSU, Michigan, and Penn State; he also held offers from Bowling Green, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Eastern Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio, Toledo, Western Michigan, and Yale. That last offer is a pretty solid indication that Wangler won't have any academic issues.
Warren De La Salle, as you probably well know, is the school that produced current freshman quarterback Shane Morris, as well as walk-on receiver Jack Wangler. They play in the Catholic League, so Wangler faces some of the strongest competition that one can find in Michigan.
Per 247, Wangler recorded 76 tackles, 15 TFLs, 2.5 sacks, and an interception (which he returned for a touchdown) as a junior.
FAKE 40 TIME
None of the recruiting sites list a 40 time, so all we have to go on is Wangler's self-reported 4.6 from the interview with PSU's Rivals outlet. That's really impressive for a linebacker, so despite Wangler's excellent athleticism, without any confirmation I'm giving that a solid three FAKEs out of five.
Junior highlights ahoy:
Wangler also posted some 7-on-7 highlights from this summer that feature a some very impressive catches on both sides of the ball:
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Given Wangler's coverage ability, athleticism, and size (a little short for the strong side), I expect he'll end up at WILL when he gets to Michigan; that means Michigan has all their linebacker spots covered in this class with Michael Ferns at MIKE, Chase Winovich at SLB, and Noah Furbush potentially able to plug in at any of the three.
When Wangler gets to campus, James Ross and Royce Jenkins-Stone will both be juniors; the only other player on the roster currently projected to WILL is Ben Gedeon, who'll be either a redshirt freshman or true sophomore (likely the former) in 2014. Assuming Wangler takes a redshirt year, he'll compete for Ross's open spot as a redshirt freshman and go from there. If he ends up at SLB, he'll be working for a spot on the two-deep along with Mike McCray and Winovich; that seems like the tougher path for him to get on the field.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan is very much done at linebacker now, which means CA four-star Dwight Williams is now out of the picture. The focus for the rest of the class will turn to reeling in the big fish: VA DE Da'Shawn Hand, MI DT Malik McDowell, and PA S Montae Nicholson are the most likely guys to end up in Ann Arbor.
Yes, I've left IL CB/S Parrker Westphal out of that for now, and you may have noticed that my Crystal Ball prediction for him has changed to Northwestern; that's not going on anything concrete (I was torn between predicting Northwestern and Vanderbilt), but it's looking more and more like Michigan may not have room in the class for Westphal, since they're done at corner and seem to like Nicholson more as a safety prospect.
Michigan will also continue to recruit CA ATH JuJu Smith and Glenville teammates ATH Marshon Lattimore and S Erick Smith; at the moment, those guys appear to be longshots, though it'll be interesting to see what happens with Erick Smith if Ohio State is indeed full at safety for the 2014 class.