"Rodrick Williams Jr.'s 10-month old, 2-foot-long savannah monitor named "Kill" gets the RB some strange looks when they go for walks together."
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.
Previously: CB Reon Dawson, CB Channing Stribling, S Delano Hill, S Dymonte Thomas, CB Ross Douglas, CB Jourdan Lewis, LB Ben Gedeon, LB Mike McCray, DE Taco Charlton, DT Maurice Hurst Jr., DT Henry Poggi, OL Patrick Kugler, OL David Dawson, OL Logan Tuley-Tillman, OL Kyle Bosch, OL Chris Fox, OL Dan Samuelson, TE Jake Butt, TE Khalid Hill, HB Wyatt Shallman, WR Da'Mario Jones
|Detroit, MI – 6'3", 190|
3*, NR overall
3*, NR overall
3*, NR overall
3*, NR overall
(minus the blocking)
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace; also, Ace scouts CPA against Old Redford. The message board notes that he can dunk.|
Ace took in a CPA game:
Csont'e York is a guy who is really thankful for the emergence of camps everywhere all the time. He hit a bunch of them, impressed, and went from guy with Toledo and Bowling Green offers to Michigan commit. He did this for the usual reason: catching radius.
Bob Lichtenfels caught him at his NFTC appearance, and described Al Borges catnip:
York made everything look so easy that we started to take it for granted. By the end of the camp his circus catches were looking routine. He is very smooth in and out of his breaks. Possesses very good ball skills and gets separation from the defender. He uses his body well to shield defenders from the ball. Smooth, gliding type of runner. Not sure how good his top end speed is, but he is very tough to cover on the short to intermediate routes.
This is the book on the kid. Allen Trieu took in the same camp, said he was "the guy who really emerged" because of the same thing:
He's a tall, lean kid with fantastic ball skills. He's effortless when it comes to adjusting to the ball in the air and making tough grabs that are high or not right on target. He's not a burner, but can create separation and gave a lot of the top DBs trouble.
In another article on the same camp, Trieu added that he's "aggressive attacking the football in the air and has exceptional leaping ability." Top DBs at that camp included OSU commit Cam Burrows, BTW, so York was making a name for himself against serious men.
“What makes Csont’e special is his ball skills,” Chandler Park coach John Jergovich said. “His natural ability to catch the ball at its highest point and not catch it with his body. He’s always catching the ball with his hands. His body control is ridiculous.”
Ace scouted him:
York capitalized on the few opportunities he had to make an impact, and all three of his catches—including one two-point conversion—featured his excellent ball skills and body positioning. York knows just where to put himself to shield the defender from the ball, and once he does that it's over—he catches the ball away from his body and reels in anything close. Only once did York have a remote shot at the ball and not bring it in, and on that play he almost made a spectacular one-handed grab on a fade. One play later, CPA ran the same play and he came down with a touchdown.
ESPN's version of same:
York is a long and lanky redzone threat with a wide catch radius and a penchant for making the acrobatic grab look easy. He is tall and lean, but with great flexibility and body control for a tall player that is still growing into his frame. … He is very natural in terms of his change-of-direction skills and body control. Has fluid hips for a taller receiver and is a smooth route runner who doesn't have to gear down a lot when going into and coming out of his breaks. He has long arms and good leaping ability. … His hands are soft and reliable. … Over the shoulder concentration is excellent.
All of this is pretty awesome you guys, and I hacked out about a bunch more stuff in that vein. 247 also notes that he has "extremely long arms," which make him play even taller than his ample height.
THE CATCH? Yeah, the catch. Guy is a consensus three-star despite the above. Why:
The problem with York is he is not an overly explosive player and lacks great speed and a second gear. Builds to top speed, does not bolt to it. Is limited after the catch to just extending plays for positive yards, but not a homerun threat.
Okay. That's why ESPN seems to be all about York but then ranks him in the triple digits. Trieu agrees in his Scout assessment, noting "elusiveness after the catch" and "speed" as negatives and noting that he's "not one who will give you a ton after the catch. On the other hand, "he's not a 4.4 guy, but has a solid burst and can create separation both underneath and downfield."
Also in agreement? Michigan State:
"It was Michigan, and what else should I say?" York said of his decision. "I actually grew up a Michigan State fan, but they said they questioned my speed and needed to see more."
Michigan did not after his camp performances, offered, and nailed him down. A few mid-level BCS schools (Cincinnati, Illinois, Syracuse) had thrown their hats in before that
In the ancillaries section of our post, York's coach says he's an enthusiastic blocker. Like, guy could have come from Pahokee:
" I think one of his biggest attributes is that he loves to block. Loves to block. I think he's just as excited putting a DB on his back or cracking down on a linebacker as he is to catch a touchdown."
HOWEVA, Ace caught him and was like WTF?
On most plays York simply jogged downfield if the ball wasn't coming his way…. On two occasions he ran directly into another receiver on downfield routes—part of that may be poor play design or a mistake by the other player, but York's routes weren't exactly precise.
When York did make an effort to block, it was pretty obvious that he was holding, and I'm frankly surprised he didn't draw a flag. When he wasn't able to latch on to a defender's shoulder pads, he was thrown aside with relative ease.
That was not a 49-0 blowout he could take it easy, man, in. York's team lost in double OT. So… blocking is a work in progress, as it is with a lot of high schoolers. Also maybe his routes, though apparently when he's in a camp setting those are excellent.
It is possible his high school team was not the most organized, but Ace mentioned that at times he didn't even bother to run routes in another section of his scouting report. Contrast that with this from the NFTC…
The 6-2 prospect took countless reps, winning most of them and showing great ball skills, route-running and mismatch size. York has impressed us in several different settings and he deserves a lot more college interest than he is receiving.
Besides having great size, York is a very technical receiver. He runs clean routes and makes sharp cuts, creating space for his quarterback to find him down the field.
…and there's almost a contract-year vibe from his camp performances. You prefer your guys to be robot killers, because then there's less of a chance they fade away when their motivation leaves them. Maybe there was something sapping his enthusiasm that won't follow him to Ann Arbor. Who knows?
Etc.: Has… unexpected musical tastes.
Bon Jovi is the man I love his radio station on Pandora Poison, Journey & Survivor can't beat them!
This may be why Brady Hoke offered him. Not saying it is, but you can't rule out an impassioned Hall & Oates conversation leading to an offer. Interesting answer to a "who do you respect most on the current team" question:
Which current player on the team he looks up to most: Defensive lineman Frank Clark. I've seen his work ethic. It's good. He goes hard at all times. That motivates me. He told me when I get up there it's about work, and you have to get it done. I also look up to Raymon Taylor, because he has the same work ethic, too.
Would like to be Braylon:
“I want to be the caliber receiver that Braylon Edwards was,” said York. “He was always so good at going up and catching the ball at its highest point and that’s one of my strengths too."
I would like this as well.
It's pronounced "Sawn-tay," FWIW. Has a great, sad story.
Why BJ Cunningham (minus the blocking)? Cunningham was a big-bodied, box-'em out, sit-in-a-zone-hole receiver for Michigan State. This one was hard for me so I asked Ace and he confirmed that York is "certainly a similar body type" to Cunningham. Cunningham used his frame and leaping ability to get balls downfield, since he was rarely able to just blow by guys.
The major difference right now is blocking, which Cunningham was unbelievably good at—like, almost a third tight-end good—and York is… not. York is also about 20 pounds short of Cunningham but should fill out to around the 210, 215 area that he did.
Guru Reliability: Moderate. Some camps, kind of consensus, but not a lot of in-person scouting save Ace's, and it sounds like his compete level was not the same in high school as it was at camps.
Variance: Low-plus. Guy already has all the skills you want but isn't going to become George Campbell (who is committed to Michigan). The plus is for some uncertainty about that compete level.
Ceiling: Moderate. A guy who can be a nice #2 receiver if he works out.
General Excitement Level: Moderate. Scouting reports here are a lot kinder than the rankings, at least for camp season.
Projection: From the camp reports you'd think he would be the receiver most likely to play, but that blocking thing from his high school game makes me (and Ace) think he'll get beat out by either Dukes or Jones to be the freshman WR who plays.
Then, like Jones, he'll have an opportunity next year as Michigan loses four guys who figure to see snaps (Gallon, Dileo, Jackson, and Joe Reynolds). York sounds like the kind of guy who can find a role for himself on third and medium as a chain-moving slant merchant and could play himself into a dozen or so catches. That's where he'll probably stay for the next year since no one leaves, and then he'll have a chance to be the #2 when Darboh leaves.
Kids, Ace is busy piling all the good news from the BBQ into a post so I take the baton to profile Michigan's second five-star 2015 commitment in three days. HIGH FIVE
Sam Webb was dropping hints that someone would drop in the aftermath of the George Campbell commitment, and lo: it has transpired. 2015 KY RB Damien Harris has pulled the trigger.
Informative update coming, but for now know that ESPN has Harris the #20 player in the country for his year and 247 has him 91st; he had offers from OSU, Notre Dame, and Florida. High five.
|NR WR||NR WR||5*, #3 RB
|4*, #10 RB
|5*, #4 RB,
As you recently learned when #1 2015 WR George Campbell committed to Michigan, only ESPN and 247 have preliminary 2015 rankings out yet. Harris features in both. He's solidly a five-star at ESPN and just inside the 247 top 100, and given the scouting from Scout and Rivals I'd bet they're both closer to ESPN's rating than 247's. Rivals's article on the commit states he "is being considered for five-star status and might be the top overall running back in the country."
Also, George Campbell. And Damien Harris.
Damien Harris is such a combination of size and speed even at a young age that he was the best running back at the Army Combine in January… the Army Combine that is for juniors. There multiple attendees timed him in the low 4.4 range, which may be hand-timed nonsense but is hand-timed nonsense then compared to the same thing from guys like 2014 five-star Joe Mixon.
His coach has told everyone who asks that Damien Harris might be a mutant.
"He really has this great combination of size and speed," Clark said. "He's really powerful, but he's also the fastest young man I've ever seen. He's got Olympic type speed with his power, which makes him unique. He's got really good vision on the football field, which is one of the things that comes natural to him. And he's a 'yes sir, no sir' type of kid with a 3.0 (grade point average)."
Oh. Is there any other way in which Damien Harris might be a mutant?
"I was at Auburn in '06 and at Syracuse in '07, so I've been around major college football players. Size wise, I've never seen a kid built like this at his age. He's every bit of 5'11, 195 right now and he looks like he would be an SEC freshman-sophomore running back already. He's absolutely jacked. Mom and dad are both tall. Mom's over 6'0. I think he'll probably end up being over 6'0 and he can carry 225-230-lbs on his frame easily."
Surely we are out of ways—
"He is a freak in the weight room," Clark says. "…He's power cleaning around 250-lbs already, benching around 250 already and squatting 375-400-lbs and he's barely lifted and we full squat."
--that Damien Harris might be—
"At the end of the day, it's just his speed, with his size, is very unique - and that's not just for his age. If he were to be a junior or a senior this year, his speed with his size is still unique. With him being as young as he is, it just kind of enhances that. 'What might be possible here?' He's definitely not going to get smaller and slower, it's no question."
People other than his coach are in agreement. Allen Trieu caught him at Michigan's camp and called him a "phenom":
He's very well built, looking like a college ready kid now. He's explosive and caught the ball very well.
Josh Helmholdt mentions he has the size of a college back already, a "potent combination of power and speed" and like wow:
He does as good a job of sticking his foot in the ground and making sharp cuts as any back we have seen in the upper classes, and he can go from a dead stop to top speed in an instant. Maybe Harris' best asset, though, is his balance. He destroys arm tackles and it regularly takes 2-3 defenders to bring him down.
ESPN's evaluation… disagrees entirely with everyone including itself!
STRENGTHS: Strong, balanced runner with quick feet and well-rounded skill-set. Flashes good top-end speed and upper and lower body strength. Displays good vision finding the hole and the ability to get through tight creases for big gainers. Possesses the lateral stretch ability and edge speed to get outside and move the chains. ... AREAS OF IMPROVEMENT: Not overly powerful at this stage. Lacks the ability to consistently break tackles and produce strong yards after contact. Elusiveness and suddenness are not elite. We question his current level of competition but he does dominate it. ... BOTTOM LINE: Harris is an explosive player with natural feet and vision. Has good size and will only get stronger as a downhill runner with time. Big-play skill set that should make him a coveted prospect.
I don't understand you sometimes, ESPN.
Harris grew up idolizing one Mike Hart, so thanks for that in addition to all your other Mike Hart things, Mike Hart:
“I think the best part about that was the fact that growing up I idolized Mike Hart,” Harris said. “He means the world to me. For me to be there at that camp and getting 1-on-1 instruction from him was the best part of the whole experience.”
Also, the pattern.
"I've been doing this a long time - I coached in college for ten years," said Clark. "Damien's got all the intangibles that help a young man get to that point. He's a good person, he makes good decisions, he's a good kid, he's got good work ethic, and he's a good student, as well. So all of those things kind of point that he's in the right direction, no question."
He has a 3.8 GPA, and is already a film rat:
“Student of the game,” Clark said. “Watches hours of film a week. Most sophomore running backs I’ve been around don’t really know blocking assignments and plays. He’s a student of the game like you want your quarterback to be, and he knows why you run certain plays against certain fronts. His football IQ is drastically improving.”
At this early stage Harris had offers from Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State, and Florida amongst others. Kentucky, Tennessee, Syracuse, and other schools had offered him after his freshman year.
Berea is a tiny town in the middle of nowhere that does not come across this kind of talent often.
Had 742 yards and 11 touchdowns on 62 carries as a freshman in six games. A concussion shortened his season. Last year he put up 1,778 yards on 144 carries and scored 35 touchdowns.
FAKE 40 TIME
This one is a bit fake:
According to his coach Jon Clark, Harris clocked a 4.36 40-yard dash at 5-foot-11, 205-pounds. Harris was named the top underclassmen performer by 247Sports at the U.S. Army National Combine in San Antonio, Texas back in January.
Who do you think you are, George Campbell who is committed to Michigan? On the other hand:
Within the group the most impressive time of the morning may be from the youngest. From Richmond (KY) Madison Southern High, running back Damien Harris is a 2015 player who is already on several teams’ watch list. The 5-foot-10, 197-pound Harris ran a 4.43, which was the fastest time clocked by FOX Sports NEXT.
No Change at The Top
Madison Southern (Ky.) sophomore running back Damien Harris was one of the top overall performers at the combine. He had one of the fastest forty times by our watches (4.41/4.38) and caught the ball well in 1-1s. He also had a 4.2 shuttle and a 32-inch vertical jump after measuring at just under 5’10, and 197-lbs.
One fake? For a 4.36 40 from a sophomore running back? George Campbell?
He also has a hudl page.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
By the time Harris arrives on campus, Derrick Green will be entering his junior year; DeVeon Smith will likely be a redshirt sophomore. Green may be on track to be three-and-out, though, so Michigan will likely blood one of their two 2015 running backs in preparation for a battle with Smith the year after.
Also… uh… I think I can legitimately say this. Mike Hart, but fast.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
How about an upshot for the class before his? Michigan just dropped NJ RB Jonathan Hilliman…
Two schools in Hilliman's previous top six schools have been removed from the picture: Michigan and Alabama. The Wolverines have informed Hilliman that they are no longer recruiting the running back position while the Crimson Tide, although interested, didn't seem, to him, quite interested enough.
…and apparently told him that Michigan would skip a back in this class. Harris probably had something to do with that, and unless Leonard Fournette decides Ann Arbor is the bees' knees, Michigan will go without this year. Which is fine.
The upshot for the rest of Harris's class is that there's probably one more tailback spot available and Cass Tech RB Mikey Weber is the heavy favorite to occupy it. Oh, and also WOOOOOOOOOO
“I’ve never seen anyone dominate a game like that,” Madison Southern Coach Jon Clark said. He’s been coaching for a decade. “He played out of his mind. The game’s first five offensive plays he had three touchdowns. Two ended up getting called back because of penalties.”
If the gloves fit, you must commit.
This afternoon, Wilton Speight sent out a TomVH-like cryptic tweet about some potentially big news coming from this weekend's BBQ. Despite holding Michigan recruitniks hostage for most of a summer Saturday, ALL IS FORGIVEN:
— George Campbell (@GeorgeCampbell0) July 27, 2013
George Campbell, for those unfamiliar, is the #1 wide receiver in the 2015 class, and high school teammates with 2014 OL commit Mason Cole. The "Brady Hoke can't close on elite skill position prospects" meme? Deader than dead. And don't even think about pulling a fast one, other programs:
George Campbell said if any other schools try to recruit him, "I'm committed to Michigan and that's final."
— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) July 27, 2013
WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA okay calming down here's some actual info wait wait WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO alright serious face LOCK IT DOWN ANBENDER
|NR WR||NR WR||
4*, #1 ATH,
5*, #1 WR,
5*, #1 WR,
Only ESPN and 247 have put out rankings for the class of 2015, and they're in agreement: George Campbell is the best receiver in his class and one of the top overall prospects. His height is listed between 6'3" (247) and 6'5" (Rivals & Scout), with ESPN splitting the difference; his listed weight is anywhere between 181 and 198 pounds. His official listed measurements from The Opening are 6'3.5", 185 pounds.
Campbell first made waves at Florida's "Friday Night Lights" camp last year as a rising sophomore, earning 247's top overall performer honors over a host of 2014 prospects, including former Michigan target Alex Anzalone:
1- George Campbell, WR, Tarpon Springs (Fla.) East Lake (Class of 2015)
The 6-3, 180-pound pass catcher could be one of the top prospects in the Sunshine State for the 2015 cycle and certainly looked the part, showing off advance route running skills, an ability to get off the press and play physical. He reported a 37-inch vertical and the game seemed to move very slow for him on a night where prospects where tight and trying to impress.
Campbell made such an impression that, just two days ago, Florida's 247 outlet published a list of the five most memorable FNL performances; he made the list along with four five-stars of yore: Stefon Diggs, Ronald Powell, Cam Newton, and Tim Tebow. Not bad company, to say the least.
Since then, Campbell has torn up the (often older) competition at a wide variety of camps and 7-on-7 tournaments, forming a nearly unstoppable duo with '14 Clemson commit (and, yes, former Michigan target) Artavis Scott. Despite losing out on positional MVP honors to his teammate, Campbell actually finished one spot higher than Scott on Rivals's list of top performers at this year's Orlando NFTC:
While he was edged out by his teammate for MVP honors, Campbell looked like one of the best wide receivers at the event. He's a true deep threat and during the deep ball portion of the day he showed great speed combined with solid pass-catching ability. He still has some work to do on shorter routes when the ball comes quickly, but right now he's quite the home run hitter in the passing game.
At the same event, 247's Gerry Hamilton found just one area in need of real improvement, though it's a big one:
As has been the case for nearly a year now, the 6-foot-3, 180-pound Campbell was dominant in the testing portion of the combine running a 4.48 laser timed forty-yard dash, a 4.2 shuttle and a 37-inch vertical. When it came time to run routes, Campbell was also dominant bursting off the line, quickly getting into routes for his size and creating instant separation out of cuts. One area the class of 2015 prospect struggled at times today was finishing plays. He fought the ball at times, and didn’t have the look of a natural pass catcher.
ESPN's scouting report seems to echo this amidst the usual fawning over Campbell's athleticism and jump ball skills:
STRENGTHS: Excellent athlete with eye-popping size and speed measurables. A legit vertical threat who can stretch the field on offense. Displays a long wingspan on a very tall frame for a receiver. Runs extremely well and is a major mismatch on corners when positioned one-on-one. Shows great range and length with a quick initial burst covering ground on defense. Demonstrates good instincts in pursuit and will finish plays. Possesses good ball skills and is very solid in zone coverage closing on the pass from depth. ... AREAS OF IMPROVEMENT: Can continue to refine his route running and become more consistent with his hands. Would benefit from adding bulk and strength to his frame. Not presently an overpowering downhill run defender on defense.
Why does ESPN's profile focus so much on his defense? Well, Campbell lined up at defensive end for East Lake last fall, and in June's IMG 7-on-7 championships he cracked Rivals's list of top performers... on defense:
Campbell is already one of the top wide receiver prospects for the class of 2015, but on Saturday he did his damage on the defensive side of the ball. He had at least two interceptions and also had a key pass breakup that helped his team secure a victory. He'll likely play offense at the next level, but it's clear he's a very versatile athlete.
Despite the above, Campbell should end up at receiver at the next level, though if he doesn't develop on offense he could easily find a home as a ball-hawking safety.
While Campbell's skills are still developing — remember, he's a rising junior — his athleticism is already at a very elite level. As one of just five 2015 prospects invited to this year's edition of The Opening, Campbell showed up and blew everyone away on the track:
While Noil was busy winning the overall SPARQ Championship, Tarpon Springs (Fla.) East Lake wide out, and top Florida 2015 target, George Campbell won the fastest man competition.
The junior-to-be ran a 4.37 to take home the award.
Those are electronic times. Campbell also recorded a 37-inch vertical leap. He's almost 6'4". Al Borges is probably trying to find a way to get him on the team this fall, let alone two years from now.
Campbell held offers from Arkansas, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Tennessee, Texas A&M, and West Virginia, among many others. It's safe to assume that he would receive offers from just about every program in the country if he didn't make an early commitment; as it stands, that offer list is impressive even for a decorated senior, and Campbell has yet to play his junior season.
Tarpon Springs (FL) East Lake, as you well know by now, also features 2014 prospects Mason Cole (Michigan) and Artavis Scott (Clemson); they have one other '14 BCS commit in three-star DB Devin Abraham. Aside from 2013 three-star and UCF signee QB Pete Dinovo, no East Lake player earned more than two stars on Rivals prior to this class.
According to 247, Campbell recorded 30 receptions for 766 yards (25.5 ypc) and five touchdowns as a sophomore last fall, while also contributing 57 tackles on defense.
FAKE 40 TIME
Campbell's 4.36 40 time is gloriously NOT FAKE AT ALL.
More highlights with single-game cut-ups are available at Campbell's Hudl page.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Campbell will give Michigan a pair of hyper-athletic deep threats at receiver when he joins 2014 commit Drake Harris. It's tough to project Campbell's ability to make an early impact considering he's got plenty of work to do refinining his technique in the two years before he hits campus; the good news, of course, is that there are still two years before he hits campus.
What we do know is that, in 2015, Shane Morris or Wilton Speight is slated to have Harris, Campbell, Amara Darboh, Jehu Chesson, Moe Ways, Freddy Canteen, Jaron Dukes, Da'Mario Jones, Csont'e York, Devin Funchess, Jake Butt, and Ian Bunting as potential targets, in addition to Derrick Green and DeVeon Smith at running back. Oh, and that offensive line. Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Campbell is the third commit in the 2015 class, joining OT Jon Runyan Jr. and K Andrew David; 2014 grayshirt commit DT Brady Pallante will also join the team in 2015.
Campbell's presence is a boon to the 2015 class in that (1) he's George Campbell, five-star receiver, and (2) his early commitment should help attract other top talent to Michigan. At this point, it's way too early to go over numbers, so for now just celebrate the fact that HOLY CRAP GEORGE CAMPBELL JUST COMMITTED.
Won't be needing that lanyard anymore.
Michigan picked up their third commitment in three days when Kenton (OH) linebacker Noah Furbush made the call for the Wolverines this morning, according to multiple outlets. Furbush becomes the 14th commit in the 2014 class and the third at linebacker, joining Michael Ferns and Chase Winovich.
|Scout||Rivals||ESPN||247 Sports||247 Comp.|
|3*, #59 OLB||NR OLB||4*, 80, #21 ILB||3*, 87, #53 OLB||
3*, #43 OLB,
Michigan has gone from zero MGoBlog Sleeper of the Year candidates to three in a matter of days, as Furbush is the last four-star inside linebacker on ESPN and gets middle-of-the-road three-star ratings from Scout and 247, with Rivals yet to evaluate him.
There is some disparity over his future college position: while ESPN pegs him as an inside linebacker, the other sites list him on the outside, with 247 even listing a secondary position of weakside defensive end. That probably has to do with his size — Furbush is listed by all four services at 6'4" and 230-240 pounds. Michigan is reportedly recruiting Furbush as an inside guy, which just happens to be the spot where he's ranked the highest.
Furbush was an unknown quantity even to Ohio insiders as recently as last fall, until his junior tape started drawing attention. When Bucknuts compiled their initial 2014 top 50 list for the state of Ohio, Furbush landed at #22 thanks in large part to some impressive hits on his highlight reel ($):
"With Furbush, you like his explosion and the way he just destroys the ball carriers with his first four or five plays (on video). He really strikes people and strikes them pure. That’s harder to do than you think. He has that innate ability to destroy people when he hits them. He’s put on 40 pounds in the last year. I think he can be a pretty good defensive end.
“He has just come out of nowhere. I didn’t really see him during the season or even in the month or two after the season. We first saw (his video) in the last month or two.”
Furbush's physical play doesn't just come through on tape; Allen Trieu praised his strength when he went to Purdue's camp last month ($):
Noah Furbush, a linebacker for Kenton with several offers is a big kid who looks like he will only get bigger. He is strong and physical, throwing a few would be receivers to the ground off the line. We think with his size and growth potential, he may end up putting his hand down at the next level or potentially being a hybrid type guy.
That's two evaluations mentioning Furbush as a potential defensive end. With Michigan recruiting him as an inside linebacker, that could raise concerns about his coverage, but he performed well in that regard at a Toledo 7-on-7 camp last month, per Scout's Bill Greene ($):
A 2014 linebacker prospect out of Kenton, Ohio. Furbush was all over the field, showing speed and also leaping ability. His man-to-man coverage was excellent and he also got great depth in his drops. One to watch this year at one of Ohio's fine programs.
With the wide-open style of 7-on-7 football, being able to cover man-up as an oversized (for high school) linebacker is impressive. 247's Clint Brewster took a look at Furbush's tape and also came away impressed with his coverage, among other things ($):
He has excellent instincts and plays with a very high football I.Q. He doesn’t over pursue and does his job on each play. Furbush has outstanding pass rush technique and excels coming off the edge, getting after the quarterback. He shows excellent first-step-quickness. At 6-foot-4, and 230-pounds, Furbush runs well for his size and uses his long frame to his advantage, particularly well in the passing game, getting in between passing lanes and breaking up passes. He also uses his length to get off blocks very well. He does not stay blocked.
Aggressiveness and consistent, hard-hitting tackling are also mentioned as positives, which is in line with other evaluations. Brewster's notes the all-important pad level as an area for improvement, no surprise both because of Furbush's height and the fact that this has been said about every high school front seven prospect in the history of high school front seven prospects.
Furbush's high school coach thinks his athleticism helps set him apart from other prospects, per ESPN's Chantel Jennings ($):
“He runs like a defensive back,” [Kenton coach Mike] Mauk said. “He moves and changes direction very well. He’s physical and very aggressive. He has a great nose for the football and a great burst, and he makes plays. I think his best years of football are still ahead of him.”
Oh, and you can check off the box:
“He’s a tremendous leader and a great person,” Mauk said. “It’s just a great fit.”
If that wasn't enough, Mauk also spoke about Furbush with Scout's Dave Berk back in May, praising his work ethic first and foremost ($):
“Number one Noah is a tremendously hard worker and give his best to improve his strength, flexibility, speed and his conditioning,” said Mauk. “He’s always working to try and get better and I think that is what sets him apart.
“Sometimes, when you’re gifted with the abilities that he has, you look for days when he just goes through the motions. He never does and is always doing the very best that he can. I watch him go through training and I’m amazed at how strong he is and how hard he works to get better.”
Mauk notes in that article that Furbush was a wide receiver(!) for his freshman and sophomore years before moving to outside linebacker last year; at that point, Furbush weighed "195 to 200" pounds. Putting on 40 pounds of muscle and learning a new position in the course of a year definitely backs up what Mauk says about Furbush above — his effort in the weight room won't be an issue.
What jumps out about Furbush is his potential to line up at multiple positions. His coverage ability and hard-hitting nature make him a fit at inside linebacker, where Michigan plans to use him. His large frame, aggressiveness, and pass-rushing skill could lead to a move to strongside linebacker or even defensive end, depending on how much he bulks up over the course of the next few years.
Furbush isn't the highest-ranked guy in the class (obviously) and I'd guess we'd hear more negatives about his game if he were more highly-scouted and played better high school competition — Kenton played in Ohio's fourth-largest division last year, though they're moving up to Division III this fall despite a male enrollment of just 285 students — but his versatility gives him a good chance of finding a home somewhere on the depth chart.
Furbush chose Michigan over offers from Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan State, Mizzou, Northwestern, Pitt, Purdue, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and a handful of MAC offers. He also camped at Ohio State but did not pick up a Buckeye offer.
As said above, Kenton has played in Ohio's Division IV, so Furbush hasn't faced top competition in his high school career. Kenton hasn't produced a four-star prospect in the Rivals era, but they have produced two Division I quarterbacks: brothers Ben (Wake Forest) and Maty (Mizzou) Mauk, sons of the head coach.
Furbush finished his junior year with 115 tackles and a forced fumble, per 247.
FAKE 40 TIME
None of the recruiting services list a real or fake 40 time.
Junior highlights from ScoutingOhio — it takes, well, not long to see why people mention hitting first when talking about Furbush:
Furbush also has a slightly longer reel that features almost the exact same set of plays and lacks the handy pre-snap arrow. He's not on Hudl, unfortunately, so there aren't extensive cut-ups that I can find; those would be nice, as we don't get to see much at all of Furbush in coverage above.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
He'll end up somewhere! That's my bold prediction.
Okay, that's probably insufficient. I like how Michigan's coaches are thinking of using Furbush; if he's good enough in coverage, having an inside linebacker who can come downhill and lay the wood is always a plus, and Furbush looks like he could wreak havoc blitzing up the middle when Greg Mattison dials it up. If that's the position group of choice, Furbush will compete for one of the MLB/WLB spots — with his size, probably MLB — along with Michael Ferns and Ben Gedeon once James Ross and Joe Bolden matriculate through the program. That affords Furbush a redshirt year and a season as a backup and special teams player before he competes for a starting spot.
Furbush could also end up at strongside linebacker or even weakside defensive end, depending both on his growth and how the roster looks in a couple of years.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
While Furbush is the third linebacker in the class — and could potentially help out with depth on the strong side — his commitment doesn't spell the end of Michigan recruiting that position group for 2014, according to Sam Webb. The Wolverines are still pursuing four-star CA OLB Dwight Williams, who's scheduled to take an official visit for the Notre Dame game, and borderline 3/4-star MO OLB Jimmie Swain, who recently named Michigan to his top four. Look for the coaches to make a hard push to land one of those two, and we could see some late offers go out for a strongside LB should neither commit.
EDIT: Almost forgot to include the news that led to this commit watch — Furbush's commitment means camp standout Drue Tranquill is unlikely to get an offer ($):
“I spoke with Michigan (Thursday) and they previously offered a kid at my position, and he might commit soon,” he stated. “If he does commit then they’re not going to offer me. If he doesn’t then they (will consider Tranquill). So if he does commit, Michigan will drop out there.”
Happy trails, likely to Cincinnati or Purdue unless Notre Dame comes through with an offer.
As for the rest of the class, Michigan is still looking for a third offensive lineman (preferably a tackle), a safety, and a couple more defensive linemen. Top priority prospects include VA WDE DaShawn Hand, MI DT/SDE Malik McDowell, PA S Montae Nicholson, IL CB/S Parrker Westphal, and CA CB Adoree' Jackson. The Wolverines could also look to take a running back, though landing one isn't vital after last year's haul and with Michigan looking good at that position the 2015 class.