this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
OH MY GOD WOULD YOU PLEASE LET US FINISH THE GOOGLE STALK ON ONE PROSPECT BEFORE COMMITTING THIS IS JUST LIKE THE LAST THREE MINUTES OF THE FRIDAY HOCKEY GAME. OK. PLZ THX.
Sleeper linebacker Jake Ryan of Cleveland St. Ignatius has committed to Michigan. Informative update coming eventually. Davion Rogers first. Video for now (RAWK):
Also standard argumentative thread about how awesome he is.
According to a text he sent to Tom VanHaaren, FL DT Richard Ash has committed to Michigan. Ash is a Pahokee kid, the fourth to sign on with Michigan in three years, and either a three-tech DT (ie: Ryan Van Bergen) or a strongside defensive end.
Early in the recruiting year he had a ton of tres impressive offers—Florida, Miami, USC—but his options dwindled as those schools filled up. He committed to West Virginia just a couple weeks ago, but that was always shaky and Doc Holliday's departure to become Marshall's head coach was the final nail in their coffin.
More informative update on its way.
Defensive tackle lovers, rejoice! Michigan has extended the Pahokee pipeline into the Class of 2010 (Martavious Odoms was the '08 representative, and Vincent Smith and Brandin Hawthorne hailed from the Muck in the 2009 class) by convincing FL DT Richard Ash to switch his commitment from West Virginia to the Wolverines.
|3*, #48 DT||4*, #24 DT||3*, 77, #52 DT|
The three sites don't quite agree on what they think of Ash's ability, and Rivals is definitely the outlier, as they give him 4 stars and say he's the 24th-best DT in the class. ESPN's evaluation:
Ash moves around the defensive line in high school and at this point he is a bit of a 'tweener between the tackle and end spot. He could start off in college as a defensive end, but in the long run we think he projects as a defensive tackle or...
Not too much evaluation of his ability, but rather just his eventual position. Scout lets Richard talk about his strengths and weaknesses:
“I’m quick off the ball. I have a good first step and have great hands. I use them good and have great technique. I like to play quick and fast.
“I want to run better and get faster in the forty. I’d like to be more explosive because that would help me get more sacks.”
So he's quick (understandable for a smaller DT), and claims to have good technique. He needs to get into better shape, from the sounds of things. Not sure how he can reconcile "I am quick" with "I need to get more explosive," but whateva. His coach, the improbably-named Blaze Thompson, praises his work ethic and athleticism.
Long story short: He's a moderate prospect with more upside (he's only played football since 9th grade) than immediate potential.
Update: duplicate effort here, but I've got some other quotes to throw in:
Ash was an obvious D-I prospect early; when he showed up at the Miami Nike camp Rivals' Barry Every praised his "great body structure and really long arms," calling him "easily the best-looking interior defensive lineman physically in the camp."
In June, the Miami Herald ranked him a meh 90th in the state, saying:
90. Richard Ash, DT, 6-3, 265, Pahokee: After a solid junior season, this gifted athlete continues to make a lasting impression this spring. Talking with college coaches, they just love his quickness, strength and knowledge of the game. Plays the run very well and knows how to penetrate the backfield. Has steadily become a major force for one of the premier teams in the state of Florida.
The Orlando Sentinel, on the other hand, had him the third best defensive lineman in the state and declared his "great speed" made him "special."
Ash went to Florida's camp and didn't do so well. This is from SoFlaFootball's Luke Stampini:
No one seems to know for sure [about Ash and UF], a lot of speculation. Some say UF has cooled on him, but I can't find a straight answer.
He came to UF's camp out of shape and tested poorly in the 40 and vert. He performed well in 1-on-1's, but certainly not to the level of Ronald Powell (All-World DE from Cali).
This is a theory that one Richard Ash also supports:
"I've been hearing things that Florida doesn't want me after I tested at camp because of my 40 and my vertical," Ash told GatorBait.net. "I did good in the one-on-ones but I guess the 40 and vertical lowered me on Florida's scale. … They didn't like me as much after camp. That's what I've been hearing."
Somewhat oddly, the USC offer came after the meh camp performances. Later, Stampini would follow up on that in response to a West Virginia fan:
I doubt [WVU pulled its offer]. Florida did for some reason (most believe poor 40 and vert at camp), but UF has had some screwy recruitments that I think will come back and haunt them.
Then FSU came out and said they dropped Richard as well, but it was interesting timing coming a day after Richard basically said he would not be going to FSU in an interview.
LSU and USC Trojans appear to want Ash to commit, and I thought WVU was in Ash's top 4 with USF also.
One defensive coach I've talked to loves the fact Ash has a good frame to add weight, long arms, moves very well for his size, is 16 yrs old still, and is from Pahokee. He feels he can take those characteristics, coach him up a couple years and have an All-Conference caliber player.
And a final scouting report from Stampini:
Well Florida and FSU offered him. UF really wanted him to commit early, but he went and worked out at their camp tested poorly, performed average and the Gators dropped him. Before that Ash did an article stating he wasn't going to FSU (for whatever reason he never liked them) and the next day it comes out FSU was no longer recruiting him.
Now Ash has all the physical tools to be extremely good, but it his motivation has come into question. If someone can get in his head to work hard, get in shape, go all out every snap, he could get paid to play the game. Sometimes lighting a fire under someones rear is easier said than done though. Another issue with Ash (and most of those Pahokee lineman) is his play did not improve from his JR year to SR year like most prospects.
So… yeah, the rollercoaster was understandable.
At one point Ash's offer list stacked up with anyone's. As early as May, when his stock was "exploding," he had 14 offers, some of them major. In June, Florida had offered and led. In early July, USC offered and moved into the lead. Plus when he committed the first time around he mentioned offers from Michigan, LSU, Ole Miss, Oklahoma State, Tennessee, South Carolina, and UCLA plus a bunch of others. An absolute ton of schools were after this guy.
The weird bit is that when Ash committed these were the schools in his final five other than West Virginia:
The 6-foot-4, 265-pound defensive tackle also listed USC, Rutgers, Minnesota and South Florida as three schools he was seriously interested in.
What a bizarre list. USC plus three schools that are Lilliputian recruiters relative to the Trojans. And no Michigan, the school he would commit to in two weeks.
So what happened? It appeared a bunch of schools cooled off on Ash after some uninspiring camp performances. By September, Ash was reporting that USC offer but mentioning that he hadn't heard from them in a while. Florida turned off their interest more explicitly, as Stampini detailed above.
The UCLA interest was sincere and persistent, as he went on an official there. LSU brought him in for the Florida game, too, and West Virginia and Michigan were both hot after him. So not everyone was turned off, just the two programs who can basically pick and choose perfect prospects all day.
His high school stats weren't explosive but this is a defensive tackle. Junior:
Ash had 80 tackles, seven for loss, four sacks, and one interception.
FAKE 40 TIME
All three recruiting sites have Ash listed in the 4.85 to 4.9 range, so there's some internal consistency at least. That's a believable time for a defensive end, but since Ash is expected to move to tackle, and admits he wants to work on his speed, it's worthy of two FAKEs out of five.
Ash is a defensive tackle, and therefore doesn't have any fil... wha? Here's the Richard Ash highlight reel:
There are also some impressive senior highlights, but I can't embed them.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Ash is not an immediate-impact type, and with Michigan's current depth on the defensive line, he won't be pushed into duty as a true freshman. A redshirt is in order to bulk up for the defensive tackle position or get into shape to be a big defensive end for 3-man fronts. Whichever position the coaches decide to let him play, he'll need a year under the strength and conditioning program to be ready to make contributions.
Ash is a boom-or-bust prospect. The up-and-down recruiting saga indicates a player with outstanding natural talent but some motivation and work ethic issues that USC and Florida don't have to take chances on. Thus the offers that ended up retracted. (The Florida State issue just appeared to be Ash not having much interest.)
Hopefully at Michigan he'll be more boom than bust, as he'll be around three other Pahokee kids who seem to be extremely hard workers—Odoms, at least, works like a dog on the field—and under the tutelage of Mike Barwis. If you end up at Michigan, you're going to end up working hard. He's also young for his grade, as Stampini mentions above, which gives him yet more upside. There's always a chance any prospect washes out entirely and Ash is farther away from his ceiling than really high-level prospects, but that ceiling appears to be about the same. If he puts in the work, he can be an all-conference player.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan now has two three-tech defensive tackles (ie, RVBs) committed with OH DT Terrance Talbott the other. That meets a major need since Van Bergen is coming up on his junior year and the only other player on the depth chart is fifth-year senior Greg Banks. Assuming that these guys don't decommit a la Dequinta Jones and Pearlie Graves last year, Michigan will have filled that spot with a couple of slightly undersized guys who will probably take a redshirt—Banks gives Michigan that luxury—and then start a long war to be the nominal starter once Van Bergen graduates.
Since MI DT Jonathan Hankins plays the nose, he is still an option.
Etc.: Maybe Ash ended up not committing to USC because he watched The Day After Tomorrow too much?
“I was worried cause they say they have earthquakes, mudslides and wildfires.”
How do any of those differed from riding out a hurricane in Florida?
“Oh, see that’s something I’m used to, I ain’t ever experienced an earthquake,” said a laughing Ash.
Previously: S Vlad Emilien, S Thomas Gordon, CB Justin Turner, CB Adrian Witty, LB Isaiah Bell, LB Mike Jones, LB Brandin Hawthorne, DT Will Campbell, DE Anthony LaLota, DE Craig Roh, OL Michael Schofield, OL Taylor Lewan, OL Quinton Washington, WR Cameron Gordon, WR Je'Ron Stokes, WR Jeremy Gallon, and RB Teric Jones.
|Pahokee, Florida - 5'6" 159
|Scout||3*, #102 RB|
|Rivals||3*, #36 RB|
|ESPN||77, #60 RB|
|Other Suitors||Tennessee, Wisconsin, Minnesota|
|Hello: Vincent Smith|
From Pahokee (Odoms, Hawthorne); early enrollee.
Life is rough in Pahokee, Florida, a place more swamp than land where the kids chase rabbits for something to do. Ask Vincent Smith:
"Life is a struggle," said former Pahokee running back Vincent Smith, now playing at Michigan. "It's a learning experience because you have to be able to adapt quickly or you can easily get into trouble. Playing sports helped put me on the outside of some of the circumstances and struggles in the town."
But not all of them. Smith's teammate and friend Norman Griffith was shot in the head on September 27th. Pahokee went out and lost its annual rivalry game against Glades Central, then ran off a series of victories that ended in a third consecutive state championship. Smith was the star of the game with 22 carries for 137 yards. Somewhere along the way, he committed to a Michigan program that had seen fit to offer him in February.
When he committed, I wasn't that enthused about a 5'6" low-three star who hadn't been the star of his offense as a junior. By signing day, though, Smith's zippy, productive senior year (2,119 yards on 248 carries with 20 touchdowns) had produced a steady climb up the Rivals rankings. Though he never escaped the three-star ghetto, he went from around the #65 RB to around the #30 RB. Then a couple folk who are employed to observe these kids emailed me saying that if Smith was three inches taller he'd be king of the universe. One did this apropos of nothing. And in retrospect, Smith's other offers—Tennessee, Wisconsin, and Minnesota—came from a weird melange of teams that, though different in philosophy, know ground-pounding when they see it.
(On the height, make no mistake: though he'll be listed at 5'9" or whatever on the roster, the height above is much closer to accurate. Varsity Blue attended the spring press conference and reported back thusly:
Smith was at the press conference, and he is tiny. I’ve talked with Odoms face to face, and I’m pretty sure Odoms has 2-3″ on Smith. He’s listed 5′6″; I’m pretty sure there are rides at Cedar Point he can’t get on, but he can apparently run the ball really well.
Anyway, by signing day I had come around on Smith, repeatedly going back to little darting Blue Devil with dreads when pinged for a sleeper in the class. (Here's the CIL archive.)
Not to be That Guy, but, uh:
Smith enrolled early and was the non-Forcier buzz of spring practice. Despite having three or four viable options in front of him at running back, he's not going to redshirt:
Rodriguez said Thursday he does not foresee red-shirting Smith, a 5-foot-6, 158-pound back from Pahokee, Fla.
"He's really come along," Rodriguez said. "He's still confused sometimes as all the freshmen would be, but he showed some flashes in the last practice, and he's probably going to play some this year as a true freshman."
"He's a pretty quick learner on the field, and he's got some natural ability."
Though his slight frame, general youth, and Brandon Minor should keep him from serious time as a freshman, if you were to poll the vast universe of people with an opinion of Michigan's 2010 running back situation, he would probably be at least neck-and-neck with Michael Shaw.
So he's passed the first major hurdle by arriving on campus and seeming like a viable future option. Plenty of recruits higher-ranked than he don't manage that (think Cobrani Mixon). So the following scouting reports are possibly a little pessimistic. Anyway…
ESPN says Smith lacks size "on paper"—which uh what about real life too—and says he runs "low to the ground," as if he has a choice. They also note his ability to pick through the traffic inside:
Very slippery to wrap up as an in-line runner and utilizes smaller body structure to his advantage. Picks and slides through the initial traffic with great shiftiness and vision. Shows good suddenness hitting the cutback lane and small run creases. Runs low to the ground with great balance and body control; rarely gives defenders a clean shot to hit.
So that's nice, but the evaluation comes back to his size and declares him a "good prospect" and one who will be a "nice change of pace back" in the spread.
Since he's a tiny spread back it's not surprising that he's lethal in 7-on-7:
I thought the second most impressive back was Pahokee's Vincent Smith [Ronnie Wingo was #1, FWIW]. Playing on the championship team, Smith was dynamite all day with his speed and explosiveness.
"That running back really hurt us in the final game," said South Florida Express coach Brett Goetz. "He's a great player and really hurt us coming out of the backfield. We didn't do a good enough job against him."
Goetz and his team wasn't the only one. Smith made plays all afternoon and showed why he's considered one of the most explosive players in the state this year.
That event also featured Ohio State commit Jamaal Berry, FWIW. Since the spread can be looked at as an attempt to turn 11-on-11 into 7-on-7, it's not surprising that it fits Smith like a glove:
And then there's his build, which Thompson simply called "that spread-offense body.''
Small but powerful, Smith projects as the prototypical player for the offensive system that has grown from obscurity into a flat-out trend. … ''He can do a lot,'' Pahokee quarterback-to-be Nu'Keese Richardson said, ``as far as catching it out [of] the backfield, making guys miss and stuff like that.''
Added coach Blaze Thompson: "When he goes to camps, he'll go from wide receiver to running back, wide receiver to running back. "He runs great routes, and he's powerful. … If somebody puts him in the spread offense, he'll be successful.''
After his senior season he was named the small-schools offensive player of the year—which Justin Feagin reeled in last year. This generated a number of coach quotes:
"He hit the scene confident and motivated," Pahokee coach Blaze Thompson said. "His maturity outside the football field has been measurable. He's just a great kid. Everyone just looks at him and says, 'I hope he succeeds. I hope he's successful' and everything's coming together for him."
And, hell, since he's a tailback I bothered to watch his highlight video and saw a one-cut-and-go player who picked a hole and zipped through it, capable of making the tiny lateral adjustments that get players past linebackers on the second level. He's not going to break many tackles in college but has the vision and quickness to burst into creases Brandon Minor perceives as defenders to maim. You can make a similar assessment while listening to the dulcet tones of Pat Summerall:
That's junior film, man.
Why Darren Sproles? He's five foot six! Virtually all 5'6" guys in college football are basically the same. Sproles is probably optimistic, since Smith would have to have spectacular numbers and deadly return skills to indicate the sort of game-breaking talent Sproles was.
Guru Reliability: Low. Huge spread, and Scout and ESPN didn't move him an inch after his senior season. They also aren't accounting for Smith's fit in Michigan's offense, and obviously didn't take his spring into account.
General Excitement Level: Moderate-plus. Though he's sort of proven himself already, there's a big difference between Michigan's second string and Big Ten first stringers. There's still a chance his size will be a significant hindrance.
Projection: Sees maybe 30 carries as one of Minor and Brown's caddies, then finds himself in a serious war to replace them next year.
All right, back to Paskorz: he's a 6'4", 230 pound LB/DE who will play "spinner" or… no. You know what? I give up. Everyone in the comments calls it deathbacker, so deathbacker it is. This guy's playing deathbacker.
|3*, #62 DE||3*, #28 WDE||78|
Prepare to hear an inordinate amount about Paskorz and his brother during the 2010 and 2011 Notre Dame games: the elder Paskorz is a fullback at Notre Dame.
It appears ESPN rushed to get an evaluation up as soon as Paskorz committed, because as I was assembling this he went from 40 (unrated) to 78 and picked up an evaluation. The most interesting portion of it as regards Michigan:
At the high school level he plays from a "two" point stance and could be considered as an outside linebacker / defensive end hybrid prospect in the right fit. Overall, we feel he will fit best more as a traditional defensive end. He could be asked to play from a "two" point, but seems best suited to play near the line of scrimmage in an attacking fashion.
This is a Greg Robinson recruit like a 5'8" guy with dreads is a Rodriguez recruit. The ESPN evaluation spends a lot of its time talking about that three-point stance and flaws in his technique that come from not being in it. The implication: Michigan got Paskorz's offer out more quickly than a lot of other school because the others were waiting to see if he could put his hand down full-time; Michigan doesn't care.
The rest of the ESPN evaluation is moderately positive, praising his size and frame but saying stuff like "displays ability to" BLANK "but needs to be more consistent." Solid is deployed frequently, and his style of play is dubbed "workmanlike."
About a year ago, Jim Stefani ran down some rising junior tight end prospects and listed Paskorz #2 nationally. That ranking is old, though, doesn't encompass everyone's junior year, and should be taken lightly.
Minnesota, Virginia, and Pitt were Paskorz' other major offers.
I couldn't find even a whisper of any.
FAKE 40 TIME
Scout's profile lists a 4.74 combine time, which was a combine time and shouldn't be FAKE.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
And it's flimsy indeed here, with very little to go on other than ESPN's evaluation and yawns from Scout and Rivals. It's so sparse here that I actually watched Paskorz's highlight reel in an effort to form an opinion—usually a futile task for non-tailbacks—and came up with this: yup, that's a two-point stance.
As the younger brother of a highly recruited player, Paskorz is not a sleeper in any way and we should take the rankings at face value. You might be able to argue that he's a better fit at Michigan because of the deathbacker slot and that an internal ranking at M would have him higher—and evidently did than most major schools. But this is another generic three-star with little upward mobility and eh offers. Paskorz's most direct comparable is a Spytek or one of those workmanlike—there's that word again—defensive linemen from the mid-90s.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
When OH LB Antonio Kinard committed the assumption was he was also destined for deathbacker, but he's listed at 200 pounds, not Paskorz's 230. With Michigan is pursuing a number of other guys—Ken Wilkins, Marcus Rush, Will Gholston (though don't get your hopes up there, I guess)—for the spot Kinard might be regarded as a middle linebacker recruit eventually.
If this post seems familiar, it's because Devin Gardner already sort of committed. He told his coach, and his coach told the world. But there's an official announcement today, so no better time than the present for a full-on googlestalk.
GURU RATINGS & CHATTER
|4*, #7 QB, #77 overall||4*, #177 overall||150 watch list|
Devin Gardner is a prototypical spread 'n' shred QB: 6'4", 200 pounds, and quick like a jackrabbit. He is also, unfortunately, a little raw. Check ESPN's evaluation of him, which starts off with this backhanded compliment:
Gardner is a prospect that after viewing for some time you respect his overall production level once you get past the fact that his methods more often than not are going to be very unorthodox and at times not pretty.
IE: "I guess we have to rank him because he accounted for 48 touchdowns and has sweet offers." The rest of it is what you might expect:
He can cut, shows burst changing directions and could develop into a dangerous read-option operator. Gardner shows very good arm strength and when his feet are set he can drive the ball down field and shows very good RPM's on short and intermediate routes… However, for all his athleticism and arm strength, Gardner's mechanics need a lot of work. Fortunately he is blessed with height because he has a very low release point and is a side-arm passer that cradles the ball and tends to push it in his delivery. … Overall, you have to be impressed with Gardner's measurables and athleticism. He can make plays and possesses a lot of raw tools.
Okay, by "a little raw" we mean raw like sushi. Premium, premium sushi. Reinforcing that is this fluffy bit from Gardner's Elite 11 camp experience, where he was a ball boy:
After watching him during the week, Gardner will have to learn to be tall in the pocket and take advantage of his height. He says his biggest weakness is his accuracy, which is a direct result of arm placement and how the ball is released. He has a real bad habit of dropping his release point when throwing, as well as sinking his hips and knees when throwing. This happens more when throwing shorter routes, as he tries to guide the ball.
This fall, expect Gardner to be more comfortable under center as a result of his week in Southern California. Not only did he take full advantage of every rep on the field but he also improved greatly on the chalk board. When asked if he left the camp a better player, Gardner's response was "absolutely and hands down, my ability to read and recognize coverages are much better now."
Gardner on himself:
"I think I can fit into any offense, really," Gardner told SN Today. "I work with my coach every day to be a better passer. ... Going into (last) season, everybody was talking about how I'm a good athlete, but now everybody's saying I'm a real quarterback, too. I've evened out my passing and my rushing."
Gardner's got a year to work on that stuff before he hits campus.
And then there's the Ohio State issue. OSU was considered the early favorite for Gardner, as Gardner grew up a fan. That was eventually revealed to be overblown, but Ohio State was extremely interested and there were rumors Gardner would commit on an spring unofficial. The issue: no offer.
The Buckeye-insider supported theory is that Ohio State's inability to bring in Tajh Boyd—they were forced to snatch a fourth-choice guy away after getting shot down by Miami of Ohio (not that Miami of Ohio) and Temple(!) commits just to get anyone on campus—put OSU in a tough spot. Believing Gardner to be a project and Pryor to be an early flight risk, they couldn't chance the future of the QB spot on he and Baylor Refugee. So they've focused on polished folk like Nick Montana, much to the surprise (and possible dismay?) of OSU bloggers. This is more evidence of premium sushi.
An impressive mix of run and pass:
Gardner rushed for 1,401 yards and 22 touchdowns as a junior in 2008, while throwing for 1,886 yards and 26 touchdowns, with only seven interceptions.
Perhaps even more impressive is the carries that got him those yards: Gardner averaged 12 YPC.
FAKE 40 TIME
Scout has him listed at 4.63, which is actually realistic.
You can just tell his delivery is messed up from the video. But you can also tell he's got that glide speed Young had.
(More video here.)
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
The word of the day is "raw." Gardner appears to be a version of Terrelle Pryor that's a couple inches shorter, slightly less of an athletic freak, and less likely to draw shame upon himself at basketball games. Check it:
"He expects us to be a good person," junior Devin Gardner said of his coach. "It's those little things. At Inkster you have to be a good person."
Gardner may have even more work to do on his mechanics. The good news is that he's got another year of high school to develop, and he'll probably camp at Michigan so they can work on him hard, and, god willing, Forcier will pan out and he won't be thrust into the starting job on day one. In a perfect world, Gardner redshirts and is the heavy favorite to win the job after four years of Forcier.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
It's nice to get the top QB target onboard early. (Yes, insert decommit crack here.) Michigan remains in dire need of quarterbacks and will pursue and acquire a second, with GA QB Blake Sims the target with the most imminent decision on tap.
PROSPECTIVE SLIGHTLY ANNOYING MGOBLOG NICKNAME
There's a lot of dreck in the googlestalking, but sometimes there's gold, too. Someone named Devin Gardner co-starred in the straight-to-DVD disaster of a kiddie movie you see at right: A KID CALLED DANGER. The man in the binoculars to the left has a sweet buckstache and is clearly cursing whatever gods allowed this child named DANGER to interfere with his nefarious plans.
Obviously, Devin Gardner is this kid called danger.
Etc.: Trieu interview.
|Princeton, New Jersey - 6'6" 260
|Scout||4*, #15 DE, #116 overall|
|Rivals||4*, #11 SDE, #215 overall|
|ESPN||80, #13 DE|
|Other Suitors||Notre Dame, Penn State, Florida, Stanford|
|YMRMFSPA||Alain Kashama… except good!|
|AA game roundup. Hello: Anthony Lalota.|
|Notes||Early enrollment. Teammate (Tyler Stockton) committed to ND.|
Anthony LaLota came to the attention of college recruiters via a very strange and nasal route: Terry Bowden. Bowden met LaLota's father at some corporate event, got LaLota's film, and then devoted one of his columns to the kid and his upside. Key graf that's not getting ahead of ourselves at all:
I've broadcasted several University of Virginia football games over the last couple of years and he reminds me very much of Howie Long's son, Chris.
Yes, Chris Long as in the guy taken right after Jake Long in last year's NFL draft. Schwing.
But we're getting ahead of ourselves. LaLota may have Chris Long upside, but his rep was that he was big and raw. Then he showed up at 230 pounds—which you'll note is a full 30 pounds less than the number above, which was harvested from dozens of internet links and Michigan's official site—and started practicing at Greg Robinson's DE/LB hybrid spot. He could probably snap 90% of this blog's readership in half, but he's not so big in context.
He's raw, at least. Notre Dame Scout.com guy Mike Frank:
"When you watch him, he's just an extremely athletic kid that just runs real well, plays aggressively, pretty big kid that just plays very well," he said. …
"I think he's one of those 'projectable guys,' a guy who's not ready to play from day one because I think he might need a little work on technique. But he's a guy that's got so much athletic ability that you think that it'll be a short time before you see him on the field," Frank said.
Frank also called LaLota "an ideal candidate defensively."
LaLota's coach echoed the sentiments about his athleticism:
“Just an endless amount of potential. Runs like a deer; doesn’t get tired. He’s relentless just keeps going after the ball. Could play offensive or defensive tackle. Ton of potential. Only played 12 games of football in his entire life. He continues to learn, and a kid that has Ivy League grades, as well.”
His position coach agrees:
"His upside is just absolutely out of sight," adds Law, who played at Rutgers. "Right now he's still learning, but he's learning fast. He has all the natural skills to be a big-time player in college."
When LaLota showed up at the Army game, he showed off his potential… and how far he has to go. He went mostly unmentioned, but Rivals' Barry Every filed this report:
ASSETS: Excellent height, great frame and long arms.
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT: Really needs to work on pad level at the point of attack. He cannot get by on size and strength alone against this level of competition.
WHAT WAS MOST IMPRESSIVE IN PRACTICE: Seems to be a high-effort guy that really wants to get better as a defensive end.
CONCLUSION: Most likely a redshirt candidate next season as he continues to learn his position and acclimate to playing against stiffer competition. His excellent frame is meant for long-term success.
LaLota was the only Michigan commitment of the eight who attended an All America game to not impress. Rivals chucked him down 90 spots and Scout took back their fifth star after he struggled with more experienced opposition. He remains in the 100-200 range on all three sites, so that's not a disaster.
Obviously, the Anthony LaLota word of the day is "potential." Of this he has a ton. Despite having only a single year of college football under his belt, by March schools from every BCS conference had offered, including Penn State, LSU, West Virginia, and Boston College. By June, Ohio State, Michigan, Notre Dame, and Florida had added their names to the list. Yow.
Michigan will have to wait and see whether he's the guy who got all those offers or the guy who couldn't quite hack it at the all star game. Though his stock has dipped of late, LaLota's inexperiece means he's barely scratching the surface of his ability. Think of him as a 6'4", 230 version of Press Your Luck. No whammies.
Why Alain Kashama? Kashama, a Canadian, was also a very large, extremely athletic defensive end with little experience. He did exactly nothing in his Michigan career until the very end of it, when he owned Florida in the Outback Bowl, but his athleticism took him on a five-year tour of NFL practice squads. LaLota projects better because he's better scouted and had a boatload of offers.
Guru Reliability: High. All Star appearance.
General Excitement Level: Moderate-plus. Though the guru reliability is "high," they all say LaLota is a boom-or-bust sort. We won't know what Michigan will get out of him for at least a couple years.
Projection: LaLota showing up 30 pounds light might actually be a boon for his chances at early playing time, as he's slotted into this spinner position and, given his athleticism, seems like an excellent fit for the spot. Still, he's so new to the game a redshirt seems likely, and preferable.