The nutty Michigan coverage isn't so much about Harbaugh as it is a signal to the Big Ten that Fox wants to party.
2012 recruiting profiles
Previously: S Jeremy Clark, S Allen Gant, S Jarrod Wilson, CB Terry Richardson, LB James Ross, LB Royce Jenkins-Stone, LB Kaleb Ringer, LB Joe Bolden, DE Chris Wormley, DE Tom Strobel, DE Mario Ojemudia, DT Matt Godin, DT Willie Henry, DT Ondre Pipkins, OL Ben Braden, OL Erik Magnuson, and OL Blake Bars.
|Lakewood, OH – 6'5", 294|
|Scout||5*, #6 OT, #35 overall|
|Rivals||5*, #4 OT, #1 OH, #22 overall|
|ESPN||4*, #10 OT, #4 OH, #132 overall|
|24/7||4*, #4 OG, #3 OH, #61 overall|
|Other Suitors||OSU, Alabama, Auburn, ND, Wisconsin, Florida, PSU, LSU|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Tim. Kalis referee clobberin' features in UV. LOL-worthy conspiracy theories also. Tom reports on his offer and gets a couple interviews.|
|Notes||Recommended background music for this post. OSU decommit. Father Todd played OL in NFL.|
Kalis also features in an instructional video put out by former OSU OL LeCharles Bentley, about which more later.
Kyle Kalis is one of many presents left under Michigan's Christmas Tree by Tatgate. While others may be sweeter (streak-breaking win, bowl ban, 6-7 OSU season, Brady Hoke raiding Ohio for more OSU-offered players in 18 months than Michigan had acquired in the previous decade), none is more important for Michigan's 2012 fate than an offensive lineman universally marveled at for his immediate readiness.
Josh Helmholdt commented on it($) when Rivals bumped Kalis to five stars:
"In 10 years of covering recruiting, Kalis is one of the most college-ready offensive linemen I have seen. Physically he appears able to step on a college field right now, and his technique is advanced beyond his years."
Gerry DiNardo concurs:
"I don't remember seeing many better high school offensive linemen than Kalis. Alan Faneca, who played for me at LSU, an All-Pro for a long-time, was a great high school, great college, and great pro player. (Kalis) reminds me of Faneca." …
"He's a developed player. He's further along than a lot of high school players. He's a good athlete, not a great athlete. I believe he's one of the guys that could play as a freshman. He's never on the ground, which is a critical evaluation when you're evaluating offensive linemen."
As does his personal OL guru (and former Buckeye standout) LeCharles Bentley($):
"Physically he's probably on the same wavelength as a collegiate sophomore," he said. "He came in at 290 pounds, and we have him down to 280 pounds right now. We're going to work him back up into the 295- to 300-pound range. He'll probably look about 310 pounds, though, because his body fat is so low."
Michigan's considering a walk-on at left guard and the two deep at tackle reads "Lewan, Schofield, bottomless pit"—Michigan needs Kyle Kalis, and they need him now. Thanks, Tatgate!
So Kalis is developed. He also goes to 11 in a couple other categories, most prominently proverbial mean streak and
murders run blocking. Darryl Funk talked about Kalis on Signing Day:
"He just wants to tear your head off," Funk said. "He plays like that all the time and practices like that all the time, and we need that. You can Xs and Os all you want, and that’s important, but at the end of the day, it starts up front.
"Everyone thinks it’s coachspeak, but (winning) starts with knocking the heck out of the guy in front of you, and that’s one thing Kyle does real well."
Funk laughed when he described one sequence of film in which Kalis knocks over an umpire “when he was throwing someone around” and couldn’t decide whether to help the guy up or find someone else to hit.
The beastliness/power theme runs through every report you get on the guy, and there are dozens. A selection of quotes about Kalis's beastliness:
- Allen Trieu: "whoever's across from him is destined to spend most of the day picking themselves off the ground."
- Bill Greene: "A true power plant on the offensive line."
- Helmholdt: "appears to derive great pleasure from punishing the man across the ball."
- Bentley: "me and two other guys that saw him, and all three of us said the same thing: that's Jake Long as a guard."
- The excitable Duane Long: "Kalis should not be allowed to play against high school players. What he does to opponents borders on assault."
- The not-very-excitable-after-Isaiah Bell ESPN($): "…capable of mauling defenders and getting good movement when drive blocking…a tough customer; displays a nasty finishing attitude while dominating his present level of competition. … tools to become a dominant run blocker at the BCS level of play."
- …aaaand Kalis himself: "When people watch my film they can easily see that I’m one of the nastiest linemen they’ve ever seen.”
The caveats offered are usually along the lines of "not the greatest athlete" in his high school class, which a couple of the Scout guys mention. Scout's profile also lists "arm length" as an "area for improvement," which… uh. Bucknuts dropped him from 2nd to 11th in their state rankings after the year but provided little explanation.
On the positive side of the ledger, Helmholdt noted($) that Kalis "brings the same level of intensity on every play and in every game" and hypes up his intangibles after a St Ed's game versus St. Ignatius. He also thinks the guy didn't get enough credit for his athleticism because he's more filled out that most high school OL.
At the Army game the coaches moved Kalis inside to guard, where he was a bit uncomfortable at first but still held up better than anyone else against the hulking interior linemen they faced:
The 6-5, 305-pound Kalis has been the most consistent performer on the East offensive line this week…. was one of the few offensive linemen who wasn't victimized by the powerful bodies across the line.
… came out of his stance low and with power and was aggressive in team run drills. In one-on-ones, he engaged, locked up and rode his opponents out of the play consistently. He could play either tackle or guard in college with equal effectiveness and his ability in run and pass protection is balanced. He went against some big defensive tackles and excelled while other interior linemen for the East squad struggled noticeably.
He played RG in the game itself, and said he didn't have a problem($) with the move:
"I'll help the team any way they want me to," he said. "If they want me to play guard then I'll play guard."
His stock remained steady in the aftermath of the game; as a five-star-ish player that is a positive development.
In this episode of "which Michigan OT commits end up on the interior?" we tell you Kyle Kalis is a guard, man. Side by side shots of Braden and Kalis:
Which one of these guys is an interior lineman? The one shaped like a bowling ball with trees where his legs are supposed to be. Bentley concurs($):
"I would like to see him at guard. Tackle is a different animal, and he's more physically suited for guard. His ability to communicate and be a real leader is right in the middle of the offense."
As does 247's Barton Simmons:
… best suited as an interior offensive lineman, but that isn't meant in a disparaging way at all. He's so powerful and he's such a great road grader in that spot, that he can just really move a lot of bodies… has a chance to move inside and become a real force on the next level, particularly in the run game.
In addition, there's the Army game stuff and many other mentions of a move to the interior above.
Now, Michigan has to endure this season with no tackle depth and since Kalis is the five star who spent his entire high school career at right tackle, he seems like the best guy to turn to in an emergency. When Craig Ross talked to Darryl Funk on Signing Day, that was the tentative plan:
Kyle Kalis: looks like an initial shot at RT according to Darrell Funk. No particular reason, he might end up elsewhere, but my impression is that Funk thinks this might be the best place for him to push for PT this year.
As soon as there's reasonable tackle depth, he's a guard. And possibly even before it, as Borges just announced that Kalis was competing at the left guard slot that is currently the only question mark in the starting five.
Kyle Kalis. Mattison saw one of the St. Ed's guys and mentioned that Michigan had recruited a "real man" out that school, one that "may just maul some of our guys."
“Kyle in our opinion is the top tackle in the country,” Finotti stated. “He could have gone anywhere, but really embraced the tradition and everything at Michigan. There are not too many tackles out there with his work ethic, size and ability and will to succeed. He’s a strong-willed young man.”
Why Steve Hutchinson? Michigan's guards deviated from powerful sonsabitches who would put you in the turf and steal your girlfriend before third down a sorrowfully long time ago. Michigan has had a series of guys who get all conference recognition because they're multi-year starters and seniors at Michigan but hasn't had a really great guard-type player since David Baas in 2005, and he was a center his senior year. Before that you have to reach back to the ridiculously loaded OLs from around the turn of the century to find the sort of players that match up with the Kalis hype above.
Like Steve Hutchinson. Yeah…
…that'll do. Sometimes you have to pull the big guns out. For what it's worth, both Drew Henson($)…
Dominates his comapetition more than any other OL prospect. ... Physical beast, a great run blocker, with a dare I say Steve Hutchinson mentality. Almost like he takes it personally.
…and the anonymous former Wolverine evaluators at Rivals who give eBay ratings to everyone (A+++++++, would recruit again) also dug up Hutchinson as a comparable($). Henson went so far as to call him a "probable All-American." As far as frame goes, Hutchinson is 6'5" and topped out around 310-315, where Kalis will end up as well.
Guru Reliability: Very high. Close to universal agreement. All star appearance.
Variance: Low, OL variance be damned. I'll break out "low" for a guy who is widely regarded as a college sophomore-ish player and the most advanced OL in analysts X years of covering stuff.
Ceiling: Massive. If healthy has a good shot at being the top rated guard in his draft year.
General Excitement Level: Massive. XOXO, Tatgate.
Projection: If he's as college-ready as he's supposed to be, Michigan has a tough choice between tossing him in the mix for an uncertain left guard spot or giving him a crash course on playing right tackle so he can be somewhat kind of okay in the event Lewan or Schofield gets hurt. Initial returns indicate the former.
I don't think they can redshirt him; the chances both starting tackles take every snap this year are very low and there's literally no veteran on the roster who is a plausible tackle. So he'll get spot minutes in blowouts and for (hopefully just) dings to the starters.
Next year the tackles come back and redshirt freshman versions of Braden and Magnuson seem poised to back them up; meanwhile Patrick Omameh and Elliott Mealer graduate. Kalis will be a full-time guard then and crubberate people there for three additional years.
Previously: S Jeremy Clark, S Allen Gant, S Jarrod Wilson, CB Terry Richardson, LB James Ross, LB Royce Jenkins-Stone, LB Kaleb Ringer, LB Joe Bolden, DE Chris Wormley, DE Tom Strobel, DE Mario Ojemudia, DT Matt Godin, DT Willie Henry, DT Ondre Pipkins, OL Ben Braden, and OL Erik Magnuson.
|Nashville, TN – 6'5", 291|
|Scout||3*, #58 OT|
|Rivals||4*, #32 OT, #9 TN|
|ESPN||3*, #54 OT, #8 TN|
|24/7||3*, #66 OT, #18 TN|
|Other Suitors||Penn State, Florida, LSU, BC, Virginia, Vandy|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Tim. TomVH interview. Look Up See Blue meets the elder Bars.|
|Notes||Brother at Penn State, another one coming up next year (2014). Dad played for ND. Has 'Bama bangs.|
Also has some junior clips.
Blake Bars takes the title for greatest discrepancy between recruiting rankings and offer list in the class. One of the four sites thought he warranted four stars; Michigan, LSU, Florida, and a pre-crater Penn State thought he warranted an offer. That's weird. It's less weird because Bars is an offensive lineman with a golden bloodline, but it's still a little weird. What did Les Miles and Will Muschamp see in the guy that the recruiting sites mostly didn't? No idea. Why would in-state Tennessee ignore the guy? No idea. These things happen from time to time, I guess.
Compounding the confusion is a lack of scouting out there. In comparison to a guy like Magnuson—who hit every camp he possibly could and had me deleting thousands of words of scouting reports just because they were repetitive—Bars was a recluse. He didn't appear to hit any camps at all and he even turned down the Army game($) when they approached him late. (He'd already scheduled an in-home with Michigan coaches that day, FWIW.) His low profile most places didn't help: he didn't warrant one of those Scout breakdowns that go on their player pages, and Rivals didn't report on him in their "From The Road" segments. So there's not a ton out there.
What is out there is what you'd expect for a guy with Bars's rankings. ESPN's evaluation reads positive for most of it before dropping the "too small" item:
…although we don't see overwhelming playing strength, this prospect consistently gets movement as a result of his blocking base and good leg drive. Does a good job handling quickness and is a very effective as a down and double team blocker. … We see the athleticism to reach and gain leverage on shaded defenders showing the quickness necessary to consistently get a hat on active 1st and 2nd level defenders. Although we see the need for refinement in all areas of pass protection this guy possesses the long arms and nimble feet which should be assets… Bars doesn't appear to be an early starter at the major level of competition however his athleticism is a real positive. Once body mass is added to his frame he should have a long and productive career.
That makes Bars sound like a guy Rich Rodriguez would have chased all over the country to play guard, except he's already 290 pounds.
I see the word "reach" and I think Molk, of course, and Scout's Chad Simmons did broach the idea of center:
…not as tall as some of the other UM commits and could possibly end up on the interior, or with lack of depth at center at UM he could find a home there. He shows excellent balance, punch in his blocking, and the athleticism in run blocking. He plays with excellent knee-bend and keeps his pads low because he understands his position and trench war execution. … plays with that nasty streak that you like to see.
Darryl Funk told reporters on Signing Day that they didn't see anyone in the class as a center, but if they're going to change their mind on that it will be Bars who does it. He's got the intelligence—football family, Vandy, BC, Virginia offers to go with M—and Michigan's center is going to be 6'5" once the Hoke generation of lineman ascends into the starting lineup. Any leverage issues you might bring forward would be shared with his competitors. It's a viable plan B or C.
His toity prep school brought NFL lineman Kevin Mawae around to help coach linemen, and Rivals talked to him about Bars's strengths and weaknesses. Mawae started off by implying he was a bit of a project($)…
"He's going to have to work on his pass blocking technique. It's easy to beat guys when you're 6-6, 280 or whatever … the higher level you go, the more technique's going to be a bigger issue as far as pass protection and stuff like that. All in all, Blake did okay this year, but I thought he could have been even better. He relied a lot on size as opposed to just learning and understanding the technique, which is probably indicative of a lot of high school kids."
..and called him "definitely an outside guy" at 6'5" or 6'6" unless you've got one of those toolsy 6'7" guys, in which case he would be a viable option on the inside. Left tackle is a stretch since he's "not as athletic as you'd want your left tackles to be"… from an NFL perspective. Touch The Banner returned with a similar assessment, and his head coach also projected a move to right tackle or inside($).
Bars's head coach also struck upon something Funk has emphasized as one of the most impressive things about the class($) as a whole:
"He's extremely athletic for his size, with really good feet, and maybe the thing that goes unnoticed but I can tell you is he has flexibility - he bends really well for a kid that size."
The elusive "bend" is a priority for all linemen as it allows them to get pad level, and pad level is the most important thing ever. When you don't have bend, you are "stiff" and transfer to Western Michigan after a year like Dann O'Neill (and then carve out a pretty good career for yourself anyway). Funk likes the bend of the class as a whole.
Aaand the final piece of Bars scouting is the proverbial mean streak. Barton Simmons($):
What stands out as much as anything when watching Bars is his tenacity. He likes to get after, he plays until the whistle blows, and he looks complete each block. He plays with that nasty streak that you like to see in offensive linemen. He has the frame you like as well.
This also makes a move to guard more likely, as they get to deploy the proverbial mean streak more liberally in the run game than tackles. If it matters that much. I mean… these "mean streak" assessments are about blocking a guy even more after you've already blocked him. Blocking him first seems to be 95% of offensive linesmanship, but everyone focuses on the proverbial mean streak. It's a meme and therefore unkillable. I wonder if Funk gives two dangs about it.
We've come to the time on Sprockets were we evaluated the guardiness of the offensive lineman, and Bars is guardy. The evaluations call him a tackle, the recruiting services rank him at tackle, but by virtue of not being 6'7" and not being a universal blue chip, Bars is more likely to slide inside than either of the OL previously covered in this series.
Yeah, Funk told him left tackle($)…
"Michigan wants me to play left tackle," said Bars. "That’s where they said they’d start me out at and go from there. I’m willing to play wherever on the line for a chance to get in."
…and there's no doubt Michigan will evaluate everyone they brought in for that spot. Chances are someone else is a better fit and Bars will be placed in the guard repechage.
Etc.: Empty. This used to happen a lot when these reports focused on guys like DJ Williamson. Not so much now. The googling, oh the googling.
Why Patrick Omameh? Omameh was initially supposed to be a tackle prospect before being moved inside, whereupon he was a second-level-reaching Te'o destroyer before the power-blocking Hoke revamp made him a fish out of water. He got better towards the end of last year and enters his senior year at around 305, still ready to be mobile at you.
Omameh came in with less recruiting hype but a much more plausible claim to being a sleeper after a late growth spurt took him from Big East TE recruit to Big Ten OL recruit. Bars is bigger coming in.
Guru Reliability: Low. OL, no camps, offers defy ranking.
Variance: Medium. Character related issues seem a very remote possibility and he's pretty close to playing weight already. Still needs to develop. Is OL.
Ceiling: Moderate-plus. Athletic, good frame, seems like he could be a high quality guard playing at 310. Probably doesn't have the sheer length to be an elite tackle.
General Excitement Level:. Moderate-plus. The least hyped of the OL but he has great bloodlines and offers and despite the ratings the scouting reports are pretty good.
Projection: Redshirt. Then… whoah, has a very good shot at starting as a redshirt freshman. Even if you assume Kyle Kalis grabs one of the interior spots, Omameh, Mealer, and Barnum will be gone, leaving Jack Miller and Chris Bryant as the only other experienced scholarship interior linemen on the team.
Now that you're done shaking your fist at Rodriguez's one-man OL class from a few years back, Bars just has to be a better idea than one of those two guys to start in 2013. That's a 50-50 shot, more if Bryant doesn't lose enough weight to be effective. If he does grab that spot he'll have heat from behind as he tries to hold it; still, four years starting is not a remote possibility at all. Year one and two might be a little shaky.
Previously: S Jeremy Clark, S Allen Gant, S Jarrod Wilson, CB Terry Richardson, LB James Ross, LB Royce Jenkins-Stone, LB Kaleb Ringer, LB Joe Bolden, DE Chris Wormley, DE Tom Strobel, DE Mario Ojemudia, DT Matt Godin, DT Willie Henry, DT Ondre Pipkins, and OL Ben Braden.
|Carlsbad, CA – 6'6", 285|
||Scout||4*, #15 OT, #82 overall|
|Rivals||4*, #10 OT, #78 overall, #12 CA|
|ESPN||4*, #27 OT, #31 CA|
|24/7||4*, #6 OT, #71 overall, #11 CA|
|Other Suitors||Notre Dame, USC, Stanford, Oregon, Oklahoma, rest of Pac-12|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Tim. TomVH interview. Tom talks to his coach.|
|Notes||Not related to Magnus Magunsson. I may accidentally call him "Kevin" from time to time due to obscure old hockey defender.|
Ace didn't go to CA to scout Magnuson but a site called Sports On The Side did basically what Ace does, returning with five minutes of footage from La Costa Canyon's state quarterfinal:
Just-covered Ben Braden was the first guy to jump aboard a Hoke recruiting class, but it was Erik Magnuson that first indicated Hoke might have the recruiting mojo that sees him ripping dudes away from Ohio State and Notre Dame like it is not even a thing. A highly touted kid who had offers from virtually the entire Pac-12 (USC did offer, but well after his commitment), Notre Dame, Oklahoma, and others, Magnuson ignored everything within 2000 miles of home for one reason:
Choosing Michigan: "Well, it's pretty simple. It was coach Hoke. I wouldn't have much interest in Michigan if it weren't for Coach Hoke going there from San Diego State. So I had a relationship with him and I was pretty close with him. He started recruiting me early my sophomore year, and I had a good relationship with him all that year, and then he moved, and then I called and said, 'Get me on board. I want to play for you.'"
And so it began.
The reasons Magnuson could have gone anywhere are the usual ones when you're talking about a position with the exacting physical specifications required for a left tackle. 247's Clint Brewster)$):
…has everything you look for in a Big Ten offensive tackle in size, strength, quickness, toughness, and smarts. … Magnuson’s best attributes are his feet and his arms. He has a lightning quick kick-step when pass blocking so that his defender has no chance to get the edge on a speed rush. Once Magnuson gets his long arms on his opponent on a run block, you are caught in his web and are not a factor from then on… Magnuson plays with determination and passion as he doesn’t let up on a play until his man is buried beneath the turf.
Rivals's Kevin Scarpati($):
The 6-foot-6, 275-pound left tackle prospect has the kind of athleticism, size and tenacity that make him a great option to protect a quarterback's blind side. Magnuson displays quick feet, long arms and excellent technique in his pass-pro sets, but can seal the edge on weak side running plays.
Magnuson has an excellent frame, good feet and plays with a nasty streak. He was dominant in one-on-ones and looked good athletically moving around in position drills.
And Michigan's own Courtney Morgan(!), who was a position coach at one of the many camps Magnuson impressed at:
"Magnuson is a superior athlete," Morgan said. "He's 275 pounds, if he was 250, he could be a tight end. He has great feet. I could see him playing on the left side.
"Early on, he was overextending himself with his kick, he wasn't taking a short kick, he shortened it up in the second practice and I'm looking forward to showing him the film because he's a totally different player. …He really wants to learn."
247's Adam Gorney was at that camp scouting and came back with effusive praise; this is a take from an event that featured Zach Banner amongst others :
Magnuson was arguably the top offensive tackle at the event - and it was loaded with outstanding linemen. The recent Michigan commit is aggressive, tough, not afraid of anyone and also has great technique, extends his arms out and doesn't let defensive ends move and has great feet where he can move and block people out of the way. Magnuson continues to prove he's one of the nation's elite offensive tackles.
Those are the strengths; the weaknesses consist solely of the stuff Morgan coached out of him in a day and are declared "nitpicky." If we're trying to place all the guys labeled "tackle" into the right two-deep bin; Magnuson slots in on the blindside, fending off speed rushers and defeating pass rush arsenals. That's what Darryl Funk told him:
"Eventually I'll end up playing left tackle. . . . As far as anything he [Coach Funk] has ever said to me is that I could project to right tackle so I can play early, but eventually he wants me playing left tackle. That's what they recruited me as, and that's what they want me to play."
He's the leftest tackle in the class.
Despite that, Magnuson had a weird Army game. His coaches moved him across all five offensive line positions($) and ended up playing him at more than one. In the actual game he probably played more snaps than anyone else on either team…
Magnuson was a mainstay along the offensive line, sitting out only one drive and playing both guard and tackle. According to Magnuson, the West's ability to handle pressure up front was the difference in the game.
…and drew praise for his technique but knocks for his lack of hugeness—they were listing him at 275. Rivals named him an "Unsung Standout($)" in one article and listed him as a guy for whom there was a "Bear Market($)" in another. So… uh. Their final verdict was slightly on the negative side, as they dropped him about 40 slots after his commitment. They did leave him solidly in their top 100.
Also weird are the some of the other scouting reports, which directly contradict the stuff you see above. TTB noted his technique and mean streak but wasn't that impressed with his athleticism:
Something Magnuson lacks is truly elite athleticism. Although he has the traits I mentioned above, his feet aren't particularly quick. …seems like a LT/RT tweener to me. He doesn't have the elite quickness that I'd like to see in a left tackle, but he doesn't have the mass (right now) or run blocking technique to be great at right tackle.
His coach has the exact opposite take:
"He's one of the most athletic offensive linemen in the country," he said. "That's his big selling point is that he's a real athlete. At that size, a full 6-foot-6 and 280 plus pounds he can run with just about everybody on the team. It's ridiculous how athletic he is."
Meanwhile, Scott Kennedy praises his "power and strength"… something no one else did, and knocks his pass protection, something no one else did. This Rivals report from the Stanford Nike camp is 180 degrees in the other direction:
…Magnuson did the best in one-one drills, showing great lateral movement and balance in his kick step. At only 270-pounds, he is prone to being bull rushed, but that's not a problem coaching and weight won't solve.
I just don't know, man. The impression I get is that Magnuson needs a year, probably two, to get up to 290-300 and that plus quality coaching is about all he'll need.
We already did this bit about where he goes: left tackle, or right when Shane Morris ascends to the throne. There's some possibility he goes on the right if Braden works out really well or one of the 2013 guys ends up being Lewan/Long good, but not much of one. Guard doesn't seem likely given his size since Michigan probably won't be in need of any Schofield-like stopgaps during his time on the roster.
He's your Lewan heir apparent. Enjoy!
"That's a man right here," Pankey said. "He's a man. He has the mentality, he listens, he's a ballplayer. He's going to do well wherever he goes."
Why Michael Schofield? Man, it is tough to come up with a Michigan comparable here. We want a left tackle. Jake Long is pretty much verboten and probably too big anyway, Adam Stenavich is too small and lacked Magnuson's hype and ceiling, I don't remember Tony Pape really being that good, and don't remember Thomas Guynes at all.
So how about a guy who probably would be a left tackle if Michigan didn't have an All-American there? Michael Schofield has demonstrated the versatility to play guard at 6'6" or 6'7" and now moves outside to pass protect opposite Taylor Lewan. One of the recruitin' tidbits about him coming out of high school was that he was a high school hurdler, and this tidbit doesn't sound that different:
"He's big, but he's a trim big," Sovacool said. "Some big guys are big and sloppy, but there isn't anything sloppy about him. We were running on the track, doing some accelerated runs, and he was running as well as the secondary kids. On top of that he's dedicated. He hasn't missed one morning workout since the start of the semester. He's not afraid of hard work."
Schofield got approximately the same amount of recruiting hype (though Magnuson does pip him there) and came to Michigan an athletic, undersized guy with a reputation for meanstreakery. It took him a couple years to get up to the required size and strength, but now that he's there the expectations are high.
Jeff Backus is also a decent comparable.
Guru Reliability: High. All Star appearance, ton of camps. Some varying opinions.
Variance: Moderate. A solid bet to be a starter-level player with good upside. OL unpredictability factors in.
Ceiling: High. Short of very high; he doesn't quite seem to have that Long/Lewan length that would make him a truly elite tackle. A notch or two down from that is possible.
General Excitement Level: High-minus. All conference potential; is OL, so hard to project.
Projection: Should redshirt unless there's an injury disaster at tackle. Kyle Kalis is likely the first freshman OL off the bench, and Michigan may shuffle their line to avoid putting any freshman on the field, let alone the guy seemingly second in the pecking order. He may even be third since Braden is so much bigger at the moment.
After his probable redshirt, he'll have another year to learn the position and get stronger unless Lewan enters the draft early; assuming that doesn't happen Magnuson's first shot at starting will be as a redshirt sophomore. He'll be fighting Braden and redshirt freshman versions of this year's recruiting class; I'd peg him as the slight favorite on the blindside but it's going to be a rock-em-sock-em affair.
Previously: S Jeremy Clark, S Allen Gant, S Jarrod Wilson, CB Terry Richardson, LB James Ross, LB Royce Jenkins-Stone, LB Kaleb Ringer, LB Joe Bolden, DE Chris Wormley, DE Tom Strobel, DE Mario Ojemudia, DT Matt Godin, DT Willie Henry, and DT Ondre Pipkins.
|Rockford, MI – 6'6", 308|
|Scout||3*, #40 OT|
|Rivals||3*, #38 OT, #8 MI|
|ESPN||3*, #50 OT, #7 MI|
|24/7||3*, #40 OT, #10 MI|
|Other Suitors||Michigan State, Wisconsin, Syracuse|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Tim. Ace scouts Braden vs. East Kentwood. wresler120 does the same vs Lowell.|
Ace scouts Rockford v. East Kentwood:
There was a time long ago in a galaxy that seems far away but is actually this one that Brady Hoke's ability to recruit was a big question mark. Almost two months after Signing Day, other schools had started locking down their classes but Michigan was bereft. Ben Braden and Caleb Stacey changed that by committing on the same day. Stacey would later decommit and end up at Cincinnati, which is close to home; Braden had no such thoughts. Braden's commitment anniversary was noted by mgouser uniqenam on the message board:
I thought it interesting to note that a year ago today Michigan got its first 2012 commit, and by this time in 2013 we're already more than halway done with this class. Really highlights the speed with which this class has been built.
Now is not then. But that's not really about Ben Braden.
Things about Ben Braden: he is large, and raw, and raw, and large. I can't tell you how many articles I've waded through that note his late transition from hockey to football($) after a massive growth spurt turned him into Zdeno Chara and his skating couldn't keep up. He first drew attention when he showed up at Michigan's camp having never played a snap of high school football; when he committed he had all of one season on the OL($) under his belt.
So it's reasonable that the scouting services were a little cautious about ranking him highly, and reasonable that they'd make technique concerns a major issue in their analysis. Here's Allen Trieu:
Power And Strength
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT
A kid who has really grown into his body and now has the type of body that could allow him to play early in college. Moves well at that size, showing surprising athleticism for a bigger kid. Naturally strong and a good drive blocker, he has improved as a pass blocker, but is still working on his technique.
We detect some lower body stiffness however his balance and agility allow him effectively play in space; from a three point stance this prospect comes off the ball low and hard when drive blocking; displays good initial quickness and explosion; his fit and pad level along with a sound blocking base and persistent leg drive usually results in immediate movement. … demonstrates the quickness and agility to gain leverage when reaching on shaded down linemen and we feel he is capable of consistently getting a hat on active 1st and 2nd level defenders. This is a tough aggressive finisher who should be able to successfully execute all the run blocks at the next level. His long arms should be an asset in pass protection… his overall posture and balance will need to improve. Although we like his upper body playing strength, all areas of hand use will need refinement.
And… that is fine by me. Technique is dead last on my list of things that are important to find in your offensive linemen. They all redshirt, very few get decent position coaching, and even fewer ever get rocked enough to have a Come To Technique moment. You get 90% of your technique in college.
More important in my book are—hey!—feet, power, strength, and size. The evaluations that come along with the three-star ratings offered by those scouting services sound downright great. If you're thinking there's a disconnect between those evaluations and his rankings, I'm with you. There's even a disconnect between the rankings and this awesome opposing coach quote:
"I've never seen a human being move as well as that Ben Braden at this level. I was standing on that field, and I didn't feel good about putting my kids in front of him. He's huge, and he's a really good player."
Or this nearly as awesome opposing coach quote($):
"He is a specimen. That guy is the best offensive lineman I've seen, hands down," Zengunis said. "He's phenomenal, and a rare occurrence where you get a 6-7, 300-pound kid that can move with that kind of athleticism."
Or this pretty good plain ol' coach quote:
Ben is just a massive people moving machine. His rare combination of size and strength that is growing by the month allows him to be a physically imposing presence. He is an aggressive force with great straight-ahead and lateral speed."
I have an operative theory: Braden only showed at Michigan's camp after his commitment, and while he did very well there the only guys who saw him were the local experts and they did not have enough pull to get him bumped once the season started and Braden started taking on iffy smallish West Michigan competition.
So here's the camp stuff. From Rivals' summer wrap series($):
…showed up in Ann Arbor for Michigan's summer camp at 6-7, 315 pounds with little fat and a lot of muscle. His increased strength was evident in one-on-ones where several Division I-caliber defensive linemen were stopped cold immediately after locking on with Braden.
The talk of the town so far has been Michigan commit Ben Braden. The Rockford product is now up to 319-lbs and moving well enough that we have changed our stance on him. Previously thought to be a right tackle or guard prospect, we believe he has a chance to be a college left tackle. He was excellent in 1-1s. He is very strong, evident in his initial punch and ability to lock on and control defensive linemen. He put more than a few guys in the dirt and was very very good today.
…dedicated himself in the weight room this offseason, adding good weight and getting up to 319-lbs. Even at that size, he was moving well enough to be considered a left tackle prospect. He's strong, technique is improving and he's more athletic than previously thought. He has a chance to move into the top 7-8 in-state and the four-star range when rankings are updated.
And here's what the local guys said during the season. Helmholdt($):
We continue to be amazed at how well put together physically Braden is. At 6-7 and 320 pounds he almost looks lean. His weight is proportioned well throughout his body, and he all muscle with very little extra weight. Trotting him out against high school competition is almost unfair. … He fires out fast and low, and is able to get into defensive linemen before they are able to react. From there, he simply overwhelms defensive linemen who either do their best to stay on their feet or concede and get pancaked.
Braden is not a complete lineman yet, though. While his initial burst is good, he is still a little heavy on his feet and this comes out in his pass pro. Speed rushers do have the ability to beat him around the outside, and as the game goes on his feet appear to slow down.
That scouting report had Braden above Terry Richardson and Shane Morris as Helmholdt ranked the most impressive players he'd seen over the past few weeks. (FWIW, a kid who signed with CMU was #1, so maybe not 100% predictive of college success.)
…had a great game out there, showing excellent feet, technique and strength, particularly in pass protection. … a people mover. A kid who's big enough, strong enough and athletic enough to lock on and drive defenders out of the play. As I've said before, the biggest thing I'd like to see him add is more of a mean streak. He has fantastic tools though, and he showed tonight that he is much farther along technically than most kids who have only been playing the position for two years. Wolverine fans should be excited about this one.
And here's the rating: unchanged, three stars, next OL we can't really predict that well. This is the point during hypothetical recruiting gymnastics where we pay up front for the judges to take a second look at things. I protest!
Okay, it's not all sunshine and roses. When Ace checked out Braden against East Kentwood he came back impressed with Braden's hugeness but a little worried about its relative lack of impact on the game:
Along with Braden's size, his quick feet appear to be his best asset. Rockford pulled Braden on many of their running plays, and he's very fast in getting off the ball, through the hole, and into the second level, where he can ideally crush the poor linebacker standing in his way. While the latter part happened a couple times, there were several instances in which Braden simply did not find a man to block—I am by no means an expert on offensive line play, but it was disconcerting how many plays ended with him running five or ten yards downfield looking for someone to hit.
This brings me to my biggest point of concern about Braden—one that has been voiced elsewhere—and that's the lack of the proverbial 'mean streak'. In a game in which Braden regularly was called upon to pull and block linebackers, all of whom he outweighed by at least 100 pounds, I counted exactly two plays in which he put a defender on his backside.
…Braden showed why he's a Michigan recruit—his combination of size and quickness is really tough to match—but he's definitely a work-in-progress.
Tim Sullivan scouted Braden's game against Lowell($), coming back with this hilarious picture…
#26: "I told you I was going to get my older brother to beat you up."
TomVH: "I'm totally taller than #26."
…and some Real Talk scouting:
He looked very solid as a pulling lineman and on outside zone running plays. For a guy as enormous as he is, the agility he demonstrated was outstanding.
… There were a few times he had a defensive lineman under control, and one big burst could have buried the kid. He only did that on a couple of occasions, and missed some opportunities to deliver a knockout blow.
His pass protection was also just okay. … [got] a little complacent in his protection, just leaning up against the kid to not give any ground. It did the trick last night, but against better competition, he's going to have to be sure to keep his blocking base underneath his upper body.
Trieu also noted a desire to see Braden display "a little more fire and nastiness" after seeing his as a senior amongst the usual slate of praise ("all the tools" physically, pass protection seems "effortless"). Maybe that's just an artifact of playing against guys a lot smaller than him.
These days Michigan's only recruiting guys that the services think are tackles—of the nine guys Michigan has acquired in the Hoke era, only David Dawson is listed as a guard by Rivals—so most of these OL evaluations are going to have to figure out how you fit all those guys in a line by judging each player's potential at guard. (Center seems taken care of between Jack Miller and Patrick Kugler.)
Braden's guard potential is low. While there were very occasional mentions of the possibility in my tab thicket, the guy is 6'7" with long arms and decent or better feet. He'll compete at both tackle positions first, with guard a plan B if that doesn't work out.
"He's kind of a brawler. He's big, powerful, and he's quick," Rockford coach Ralph Munger said. "He blocks well on the run inside and outside, and his pass protection technique is excellent. He's just a big old, rough, tough, lunch-pail type of young man."
Why Jon Runyan? There's a lot of conflicting information above about how mean Braden is, but everyone agrees he's an amazingly large person with good agility. He arrives at Michigan at 308, but the sort of 308 that will see coaches continue to put pounds on a not-at-all sloppy frame. So now we're searching for truly huge right tackle types, and 6'7", 330-pound John Runyan seems to fit the bill best. Braden will have to significantly amp up the mean streak and get his technique down to reach those heights, obviously.
Guru Reliability: Moderate. They all agree, but then they open their mouths and they don't agree with themselves.
Variance: High. Has the frame to be a star, but is a long way from that ceiling with just two years of football under his belt. Also as a general rule, OL are less predictable than any other spot.
Ceiling: High. Maybe doesn't have the agility to be a killer left tackle, but can be an All Conference type on the right. (Shane Morris lefty complications are ignored for purposes of not confusing people.)
General Excitement Level: High. A boom or bust type-ish but I like him better than the recruiting services do. Meh rankings offset by early Wisconsin offer, since Wisconsin knows what they're doing when it comes to OL, and the glabdanged recruiting analysts themselves, who talked about him like he was a much higher-rated guy.
Projection: Redshirt unless disaster strikes the tackles, and even then chances are Kalis is more likely to see the field this year. He concurs, FWIW. After that, another year of cooling his heels behind Schofield and Lewan unless Lewan changes his mind and enters the draft. We'll take him at his word and assume that doesn't happen.
In 2014 both tackle spots open up, then. Magnuson will be the top candidate on the left, and Kalis will either be the top candidate on the right or a returning starter at guard. If it's the latter, Braden will have a year on the various tackles Michigan has committed and seems like the favorite to lock down the spot. If not, he's probably stuck as a career backup. Anyone surveying the current depth chart finds that a reassuring prospect. The bet here is Kalis ends up at guard and Braden is a quality three-year starter.
I've changed my mind from earlier: Ben Braden is the MGoBlog Sleeper of the Year.
Previously: S Jeremy Clark, S Allen Gant, S Jarrod Wilson, CB Terry Richardson, LB James Ross, LB Royce Jenkins-Stone, LB Kaleb Ringer, LB Joe Bolden, DE Chris Wormley, DE Tom Strobel, DE Mario Ojemudia, DT Matt Godin, and DT Willie Henry.
|Kansas City, MO – 6'3", 336|
|Scout||4*, #7 DT, #65 overall|
|Rivals||5*, #3 DT, #2 MO, #14 overall|
|ESPN||4*, #16 DT, #5 MO|
|24/7||4*, #6 DT, #2 MO, #51 overall|
|Other Suitors||Alabama, Florida, Ohio State, Oklahoma, USC, MSU|
|YMRMFSPA||Gabe Watson, but fast!|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Tim. I talk about how Pipkins might see Michigan move to a hybrid defense where he two-gaps while others one-gap.|
|Notes||Originally from Saginaw.|
Army Bowl stuffs:
And the already-legendary Hoke impression:
Also there is an hour of stuff on hudl.
The only thing larger than Ondre Pipkins himself may be his personality. I mean, the Hoke impression. It's right above these words. Click it. Again, if necessary. There's that, and then there's Pipkins running his mouth about OSU commit Tommy Schutt…
"Tommy Schutt ate turf," Pipkins said. "He ate turf the whole time."
…OSU commit Kyle Dodson…
"I gave a little bit to what's his name, Dodson," Pipkins said. "He ran away from me. That's what they do. They run their mouth, and then when they meet up with the belly of the beast -- I call myself that because I am -- then they run away. When it comes to reality, they want to run away."
…and OSU itself:
"Are you talking about those people down south? I don't want to give them the time of day."
He also opened up an interview with Mike Farrell by eating an ice cream cone symbolizing Ohio State or something. Hopefully you've got your fill of Pipkins wackiness, because now that he's on campus he'll be kept as far away from microphones as Brady Hoke can manage.
The reason Pipkins gets to demonstrate that personality at place like the Army All-American game is that a person his size should not be able to move in the way that he does. One of many scouting reports emphasizing this, this one from Allen Trieu:
"Pipkins is a big-bodied space-eater that can command double teams, but he's quick enough and light enough on his feet to penetrate and disrupt," said Trieu. "Once he learns to really use his hands and consistently play under people, he's going to be an even tougher guy to move and block. Right now he's rated the No. 16 defensive tackle nationally, but he does have a chance to move up higher. Big kids like him that are 320 pounds and move the way he does are very rare."
A little later in that Sam Webb article, Pipkins says Michigan State was recruiting him for three tech. Yeah.
Appropriately, then, Pipkins's main highlights in the Army game were a pair of sideline-to-sideline track-and-tackles, one of them on five star jitterbug WR Stephon Diggs. While those were aided by a goofy defensive scheme that saw Pipkins looping outside the tackle on almost every play, his ability to trundle at speed made him probably the breakout star in San Antonio. Everyone raved.
Incoming maize boxes. A practice report from Rivals($):
…continually drew praise from the coaching staff and was able to split double teams in line drills. He has a great combination of strength and speed and proved very tough to block.
Guy was compared to a couple of guys who went top ten in the NFL Draft after the first day:
1. ONDRE PIPKINS, DT, KANSAS CITY (MO.) PARK HILL
Pipkins is a monster physically - he already looks like B.J. Raji or Vince Wilfork. He is one of the most physically imposing defensive tackles we have seen in awhile. At the point of attack, he is impossible to get on his heels and he penetrates quickly and athletically for a big man. Pipkins is going to be a load for the East offensive line to handle; he was simply dominating a good group of West lineman in the early session of practice.
Further Rivals reports note that he "moves much, much better than a player his size should," noted his "nonstop motor," and named him the #1 riser from the game. They followed that up by putting him in the top 20.
Pipkins also stood out to a couple of 247 analysts…
…Pipkins had the best case for top performer honors. He is a wide-bodied, stout defensive lineman that is much more than a bull-rusher or space eater. When engaged with offensive linemen, Pipkins usually dictates the movement. He also beats interior linemen with his quickness on plenty of occasions.
… Pipkins was as disruptive as anybody in his ability to get in the backfield and blowup blockers and diagnose plays. Physically he's a very stout defender and he uses that frame to take up a lot of space while still showing quickness that is really rare in interior guys. He is a tough kid to block.
“The Ondre Pipkins kid in the middle has really been impressive but all of those kids have really done a good job of reading blocks and picking up what we’re trying to do. He’s the one guy that I think has been the most impressive of the group.”
That's unprompted, and suggests that Pipkins is The Ondre Pipkins. As in, there are no more Ondre Pipkinses around here. There is The Ondre. There are no other Ondres.
After all that, 247 and the rest of the services slid him up significantly. ESPN didn't bother because ESPN is a fire-and-forget service unless you go to the UA game; in situations where a kid surges on all the other sites I tend to ignore the static evaluation provided by the WWL. ESPN did bump him a bit; when he committed he was a generic three star to them.
There's a ton of additional stuff out there from the various camps Pipkins hit up before his senior year, all of it in the same vein as the stuff above:
- "power and quickness creates nearly unstoppable upfield momentum"
- "when he decided it was time to get upfield, no offensive lineman showed the ability to stop him."
- "…wide and powerful and he will demand multiple blockers and free up his linebackers behind him. On Saturday, Pipkins used that powerful frame and added good explosiveness, agility and power."
- "Ondre is strong and quick off the ball, and when he can latch onto an opponent and stay low, he can take care of some gaps for sure."
Ondre heard it himself:
Pipkins on what college coaches are telling him: "At 320 (pounds) you move. What I've been told is, 'I've never seen a kid who is 320 pounds move like you do.' I run a 5.1 (seconds) 40 (yard dash) and I bench 360 pounds. That's rare for a defensive tackle in his junior year. I'm very strong, very explosive and I have a lot of quickness and speed. It all ties into me being an athlete in the offseason and me working hard."
- You get the idea, and hope it will fling opposing guards backwards for four years.
So what's the catch? There must be a catch. Even the bluest of blue chips flame out regularly. I think you might find it between the lines of this high praise from an opposing coach:
"That kid has great explosion and punch off the ball. When he's tuned into the flow of the game, it's impressive the plays he makes. He'll chase players from gap to gap. He had a nice play on Evan - here's this 300-pounder chasing down a 160-pound running back, diving for him, getting him by the back of his jersey and throwing him to the ground.
"There are times where he chooses to go, go go and he's pretty destructive in the middle of the field. Almost unblockable, even with two or three kids. I can understand why everybody in the country is so enamored with him."
- I closed out one of my many many Ondre Pipkins tabs in a fit of "argh so much" that I wish I could locate again in which Pipkins's coach talks about how he had some frustrating times with the kid trying to get him to show effort.
- That's the best I've got, and it goes hand in hand with the fact he's a massive defensive tackle. It is, however, something that I think all Michigan fans were frustrated with during the above-mentioned Watson's career. He was really good, but when he decided to be great, he was great. And that wasn't often enough to be GREAT.
If Pipkins ends up in the same fan memory bin as Watson, the ability to give effort on every play will be the main reason… and he'll probably still be a multiple-time All Conference performer.
Tremendous (sort of interrupting): Michigan State is pretty close to home too though, right?
Ondre: I grew up a Michigan fan. They are not Michigan over there.
Pipkins features in the closest thing to Catlab that is not Catlab. Preps KC documents his nomadic high school life. Signing Day article from the KC Star. Long freebie sample of GBW magazine features Pipkins. AnnArbor.com profile notes the weirdest thing he heard during his recruitment:
"I like big, angry black guys on my D-line."
Two out of three, I guess?
Why Gabe Watson? Michigan nose tackles have not often been the run-clobbering battleship sorts who hover around 330 pounds and can play effectively at that weight. Gabe Watson is the only guy in program history who has. Terrance Taylor was a shorter fireplug sort, Alan Branch a 6'5" penetrator, Mike Martin a slab of quick-twitch muscle. Guys before Watson were never that big, either. He stands alone as a Michigan comparable.
People remember Watson as a disappointment but if he was one it wasn't much of one after being named first-team All Big Ten twice and getting drafted in the fourth round. His specialty was taking one on one blocks and depositing them on their ass many yards upfield, and that's what Pipkins will do if successful.
If you want to add a dash of Alan Branch, okay, since it seems Pipkins is a little smaller and more athletic than Watson.
Guru Reliability: High. All Star appearance.
Variance: Low-plus. With guys the size of Pipkins there's always a chance weight becomes a persistent issue. If that isn't a problem it's hard to see him not being a very good starter.
Ceiling: As massive as Pipkins himself. Potential NFL first rounder.
General Excitement Level: Very high. Obvs.
Projection: Won't redshirt with very little behind Campbell and Pipkins seemingly the obvious choice to replace him next year. Probably starts off a little slow due to conditioning issues and general freshmanhood, starts coming on midway through the year, and does some stuff towards the end of his freshman season that get everyone revved up about year two.
From there he's likely a three-year starter somewhere between pretty dang good and All-American.
Previously: S Jeremy Clark, S Allen Gant, S Jarrod Wilson, CB Terry Richardson, LB James Ross, LB Royce Jenkins-Stone, LB Kaleb Ringer, LB Joe Bolden, DE Chris Wormley, DE Tom Strobel, DE Mario Ojemudia, and DT Matt Godin.
|Cleveland, OH– 6'2",
|Scout||3*, #38 DT|
|Rivals||3*, NR DT, #59 OH|
|ESPN||3*, #97 DT|
|24/7||3*, #74 DT, #54 OH|
|Other Suitors||Illinois, Pitt, Syracuse|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace|
|Notes||Cleveland Glenville (Pierre Woods, Frank Clark)|
He also has a junior reel.
Willie Henry was probably the second-happiest guy in the world that Michigan struck out with its A-list targets down the stretch, with fellow late pickup Dennis Norfleet #1. Both guys got offers out of nowhere and are now at Michigan. But while Norfleet was on Michigan fans' radar as a guy everyone wished would get an offer, Henry was no more than a name when he popped up.
Recruiting sites weren't much more up on Henry than Michigan fans if the massive discrepancy between the weights they had for him (around 270 pounds) and the number he popped up on the roster with (302, then 314). Rankings and scouting reports are similarly sparse. ESPN's evaluation($) was chucked up at the end of November and lists him at 265(!) pounds:
…at times he shows a nice burst at other times he can be a beat late and needs strive to be more consistent in his get-off. He can tend to play high and needs to work to keep his pad level down. When he does work to stay low he can get overextended and needs to do a better job of playing with better bend and generating more power from his lower body when he engages blockers. … Displays marginal short-area change-of-direction skills. Henry shows flashes of being able to occupy blocks and at times be disruptive and we also would not be surprised to see him land on the offensive line in college, but either way he needs to keep improving and developing his technique to allow him to get the most out of his abilities.
They also really do not like him. The ellipses up there are constantly repeated questions about whether the guy knows how to play football. I think coaching types make way too big a deal about a player's technique in high school, especially at a place like Glenville that specializes in winning by massive talent acquisition, but the concerns expressed in that report are above and beyond the usual.
Meanwhile, Trieu knocks Henry's size and praises his quickness and skills…
Pass Rushing Skills
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT
Henry is an athletic player who is light on his feet, has good coordination and closing speed. He is disruptive and gets good penetration because he has good get off. He shows a good motor and foot speed in pursuit. He has to add some bulk and strength to be able to anchor against the run, but he flashes, makes some big plays in the backfield and is a good interior pass rusher.
…and I'm just like "what's going on, man?"
It's possible ESPN was working off of junior film, when he wasn't doing that well:
"You watch his film and you go, 'why isn't he ranked higher?'" Trieu said. "You also go, 'Wow, why didn't he have a ton more offers?'" …
"He just didn’t play much, didn’t really make an impact as a junior, and that happens at talented schools like Glenville," Trieu added. "He was a kid who just completely stayed off the radar until late. But, once you saw him play, you could tell he can really play.
"Michigan's getting a very good player, even if he isn't ranked like it."
But since there apparently isn't much junior film, this may be just differing opinions about how much technique matters. It's worth noting that Scout was the highest on Henry by a large margin, too.
Other analysts agree with Trieu's take on Henry as a guy with some penetrating upside. Helmholdt:
“He’s a kid who can play the three-technique on U-M’s defensive line, and that’s important in their scheme,” rivals.com Midwest analyst Josh Helmholdt said. “They need to add depth there, with Mike Martin leaving and no clear heir apparent. [ed: obviously Martin was not a 3T] He’s from a great program at Cleveland Glenville and shows good potential with a quick first step. That’s the first thing you notice. If he’s as big as he’s listed, he’d be plenty big enough. It’s just whether he can add strength and bulk. [ed: bulk is checked off] But from everything I see on film, he could be really solid.”
The quick defensive tackle boasts a 4.78 forty yard dash, and that is indeed his biggest strength - speed. I'm particularly impressed with how quickly Henry gets off the ball and penetrates into the backfield. There are multiple highlights where he sprints downfield when blocking. Not only does that show his speed, but it also shows effort. You can't teach speed, and when you combine that with desire, it's hard to stop. I like how hard he works and the way he celebrates after making good plays. It's pure excitement, but not the "look at me" variety.
The downside is the technique again—"very raw"—and a lack of recognition. Local scouting service MRS Ohio echoes:
Listed at 6'3-270, he uses his athleticism and quickness to beat offensive linemen. Really like the way he uses his hands to separate. Plays pad under pad. Needs to improve his change of direction, but his closing speed on his pass rush is excellent. He agrees that his quickness is his strength. A weakness is that he feels that he must play hard every down. Going both ways on a high level program is hard. He wants to play hard every play. Conditioning and pacing himself is important. Honestly, evaluating him, he does not take many plays "off."
Again we get some conflicting information about technique, but eh… it's technique. Finally, here's a random OSU fan:
I've seen Willie Henry play. He can be really really quick off the snap of the ball. He can penetrate into the backfield and be disruptive. He would not be good if you want him to just stand up and tie up blockers. A DC must allow him to penetrate and get into the backfield since that is his strength as a DT.
Excellent quickness and very very good speed for a DT. He also has a good motor.
You get the idea.
Henry entered the year with a smattering of Big East offers of which Pitt was the most impressive and added an Illinois offer during his senior year when he got a lot better. Steve Wiltfong noted Henry was Glenville's "most dominant" DL at the Herbstreit thing last year as he notched nine tackles, two behind the line, and said OSU was "monitoring him." Nothing came of that thanks to Penn State imploding and the incredible bounty of DL in Ohio last year.
When Henry committed people assumed he'd be a three-technique since he seemed to be around 270 and had a reputation as a penetrator. That assumption changed when he was listed on the roster 45 pounds heavier than anyone expected. At this point he's probably going to lose weight over the rest of his career, maybe to the point where he will be a viable three-tech. But the roster almost demands he plays at the nose.
There is Pipkins, of course, but the only other nose tackle on the roster next year will be Richard Ash, a guy who hasn't seen more than a handful of snaps yet and may never. Quinton Washington might slide down if he gets a fifth year, and Maurice Hurst might end up at nose tackle. Even if all those things happen, the roster makes more sense with Henry at NT than fighting Heitzman/Wormley/Strobel/Godin/Poggi/Brink/Wilkins for one of the two fairly interchangeable SDE/3T spots.
"Henry is a five-star player. But the three-star thing is somebody else's opinion of the kid. He was a five-star player for me for three years. Nothing kept him under the radar for me as a coach. To me, he was rated just as high as [four-star Ohio State wide receiver commit] De'Van Bogard. The recruiting thing is somebody else's opinion, and that's not the opinion that I had here."
Uh… but you didn't play him?
"Well the thing is we were looking at our numbers . We would like to have another defensive lineman and we watched the tape on him. This guy right here is a young man that really developed. His film jumped off the screen to us. This is a guy we want. "
Uh… but you thought Tommy Schutt was awful or something?
Not relevant but weird: if you do a Google Image Search for "Willie Henry" you get a lot of mugshots. Like… an unbelievable number of mugshots. Enough mugshots to make me want to start a "name with the greatest percentage of GIS results that are mugshots" competition.
Why Rob Renes? Renes was a nose tackle who made a living off of his ability to penetrate with a quick first step but was never the kind of annihilating force Mike Martin got to—at least probably not, I have not UFRed his career—and that's the prototype for a guy like Henry, who's not a battleship but seems suited for the nose more than the three-tech spot.
Martin is another comparable, but he came into Michigan a slab of muscle and exited looking like the Hulk. Henry isn't that sort of freaky wrestler guy. Another guy who he might remind you of if he hits the tippy top of his potential: Jerel Worthy.
Guru Reliability: Low. Henry had no profile before his senior year and emerged late. Apparently no camps.
Variance: High. The recruiting sites don't seem to have a good grip on him, the weight is variable, and Ohio State fans have noticed that Glenville kids frequently flame out or dance on the edge of doing so. Michigan's had a similar experience with Pierre Woods, who barely held onto his scholarship after a standout sophomore year, and Frank Clark, who's currently in alleged limbo. While not fate, it's a trend that can't be ignored.
Ceiling: Moderate. Sounds like he's got more penetrating upside than a Godin, and he's more naturally suited to a position as a squat 310-pounder. Not impossible to see him hitting an all conference level if Michigan rolls a natural 20.
General Excitement Level: Low-plus. Clear plan B recruit, comes from a place with a poor record of preparing kids for the rigors of college, and the extra weight is probably not a good sign. "Plus" since it does seem like he's an athlete and Michigan might be able to morph anyone into a pretty good DL these days.
Projection: Should redshirt. It's unlikely much of that 50 pounds is good weight, and there are a couple freshmen who should be ahead of him on the freshmen playing time pecking order. Past that, he's got a tough road. It's hard to see him surpassing Pipkins at the nose, but it's hard to see him starting elsewhere because Michigan really needs someone to rotate in for Pipkins when he tires, and he's the only other underclassman on the roster who seems to fit a nose tackle profile.
That's not all bad, since it seems likely he'll be a rotation guy. 2013 commit Maurice Hurst may end up at nose but seems more like a three-tech right now, which would leave Henry as clearly the best option for times when Pipkins is huffing on the sideline. Henry's not likely to start until he's a senior, but he's got a good shot at being the second guy in for a big chunk of his career.