"He's a hard worker, and he watched me and Tim (Hardaway Jr.) and Nik (Stauksas) put work in to become (first-round picks), and I'm just happy he's getting better," Burke said. "It's great for the program, too. It shows what type of program the University of Michigan is and the direction it continues to go in."
2012 recruiting profiles
|Detroit, MI – 6'2", 215|
|Scout||4*, #2 MLB, #111 overall|
|Rivals||4*, #9 ILB, #4 MI, #184 overall|
|ESPN||4*, 80, #9 ILB, #2 MI, #113 overall|
|24/7||4*, #25 OLB, #209 overall, #5 MI|
|Other Suitors||Alabama, Florida, Miami(that Miami), Oklahoma, MSU|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Tim. Ace scouts Cass games versus De La Salle, Cody, and Harrison. Ace interviews him.|
|Notes||Cass Tech (everyone). Army All-American.|
Michigan's third Westside Cub in the 2012 class, Royce Jenkins-Stone is also the second consensus four-star linebacker and second Cass Tech kid covered in this series. As a recruit he's a lot different than his Police Athletic League compatriots, though: where both James Ross and Terry Richardson are praised for advanced skillsets and knocked for their size, Jenkins-Stone is an A-level athlete who needs some molding.
Jenkins-Stone's name first started popping up when he was a rising junior hitting the camp circuit all Cass Tech kids hit hard. Barry Every came back with this evaluation($) from the 2010 Columbus NTFC:
Royce Jenkins-Stone, 6-2/216, OLB, Detroit Cass Tech (2012 class)
Has quick feet, long arms and a great frame for adding more muscle mass. … Displayed tremendous lateral movement during the 10-yard boundary drill, basically taking away any chance of a running back just trying to hit the sideline.
CONCLUSION: Detroit Cass Tech has another future star in the making. He has the size and speed to become not only one of the top prospects in Michigan next year, but a national recruit.
That was borne out as Jenkins-Stone went on to a productive, aggressive junior year. He racked up 90 tackles and a handful of sacks as he spearheaded the Technicians' defense. When the recruiting sites started releasing rankings, he was first or second in the state; Rivals had him the only Michigan kid in their top 100. ESPN's evaluation($) was last updated in June of 2011 and serves as a snapshot of where his star was before his senior year:
Has the size and athleticism for the outside linebacker position at the major level of competition. This guy is a strong knock'em back tackler who will punish ball carriers when the opportunity presents itself; should be very productive early as a special teams player. … Although we detect some hip tightness we see the flexibility, balance and agility necessary to play in space; does a very good job getting a jump on the ball; is quick to key and read, displaying a tough downhill attacking style vs. inside and edge running plays. Shows the playing strength necessary to shed blockers while moving through traffic; keeps leverage on the ball showing good change of direction skills. … Does a great job with run and pass blitz timing; has the explosive playing strength to beat blockers through gaps and put immediate pressure on the quarterback; is responsible for quite a few sacks and hurries. This guy has very good instincts; plays with the intensity and toughness necessary to create havoc anywhere on the field.
Allen Trieu's assessment is similar, listing aggressiveness, athleticism, and toughness as assets and discipline as a drawback:
Has solid size and good speed and athleticism. An aggressive player who is best when in attack mode and shooting gaps. Good ability in coverage, as he has good ball skills and length. Improved as a junior in reading plays, but can still have a tendency to over run some plays. Often times, he is beating blocks with speed and sheer aggressiveness, so he will have to learn to take on and shed blockers at the college level.
Unfortunately, since then his star has waned a bit. Cass got annihilated in their season opener against Harrison and Jenkins-Stone did not have an impact. Josh Helmholdt($) on that:
With a Rivals100 ranking, more was expected of Jenkins-Stone in his senior season opener, but the 6-2, 215-pound prospect did not disappear completely. He registered a couple tackles for loss and showed off great speed, but got bottled up too often and had trouble picking his way through traffic. Jenkins-Stone moves well in space and when he hits you, you're going down. He made a great play ripping the ball from a Harrison back to force a fumble in the second quarter. The awesome physical tools were still recognizable, but this was certainly not Jenkins-Stone's best performance.
Helmholdt followed that up with some commentary on why Jenkins-Stone dropped like a jenkins-stone in Rivals's postseason rankings revamp:
"As a junior, Jenkins-Stone played an aggressive, downhill style of football player and was all over the field. We saw him live in two and a half games as a senior, though, and he had lost that aggressive style and was playing back on his heels. Jenkins-Stone has also grown very little since we saw him the first time as a sophomore and that raises questions about his ability to add the necessary strength and bulk to play inside in college."
Much like the last time I saw him play, there was a concerted effort by his opponent to run away from him, but I must admit I was still disappointed by his performance overall. RJS has all the physical tools you'd like to see in a BCS-caliber linebacker, but it appeared either his effort or instincts were lacking at times (my, er, instinct is that the latter is more the issue, since RJS appears to be very into the game emotionally at all times)—this is no more apparent than in the third clip from the video, in which he bites hard on an end-around fake and leaves a huge gap for the quarterback to take off up the middle.
This is not to say that I don't think Jenkins-Stone is a good player—when he's aggressive, he does a good job of finding a way to the ball and either making a play or forcing the ballcarrier into the rest of the defense. I like the way he's able to shed blocks to get to where he wants to go, and his athleticism and size combine to be a huge asset, and if anything, he's just got to harness that athleticism and play more under-control.
A later game against De La Salle was better; Ace pointed out that RJS also got 22 carries as a meat-grinding tailback and that Cass Tech's reliance on him on both sides of the ball suggests his motor is excellent. Cass did claim a whopping 145 tackles for him as a senior. I'm a little skeptical of that since his numbers in the three games that were heavily scouted add up to maybe 15 tackles.
After his somewhat disappointing senior year, Jenkins-Stone fell out of top 100s everywhere but retained his guy-we-rank-and-give-four-stars status. ESPN and Scout continued to list him just outside of their top 100s, but ESPN still has a fire-and-forget tendency.
You may note the weird offer list, with huge national names but no Penn State, Notre Dame, or Ohio State. (MSU did offer, but they're going to offer any four-star prospect in the state every year.) That's probably the local powers wanting Cass kids to actually show up on campus before they seriously pursue yet another player headed to Michigan. The recruiting articles on Jenkins-Stone mention a planned Notre Dame trip, but are silent about the result of it—it probably never happened. The powers halfway across the country were tossing the offer out as a way to get interest.
The local heavies hesitancy was well-founded. RJS was the first Cub to commit, taking himself off the market in mid-April($) right after Kaleb Ringer. Like Richardson, he flirted with visits to some of the power offers he picked up but ended up backing off after getting a stern phone call about the consequences of doing so.
At Michigan he'll start out as part of the MLB/WLB battle royale. However, the depth chart suggests someone is moving to the strongside. With Brennen Beyer and Frank Clark poised to duke it out at WDE, Jake Ryan's only backup is actually older than him. Michigan is going to have to slide someone down.
With Joe Bolden looking like the heir apparent at MLB and James Ross too small, the prime candidates are Jenkins-Stone and Ringer… except Ringer is listed at 6'0" most places and is not regarded as a vertical attacking threat in the same way RJS is. Michigan had already moved Beyer when Ringer showed for spring practice and he was still playing on the inside.
If Michigan wants to start grooming a Jake Ryan replacement this fall, RJS is the guy. While most of the sites list him as an inside linebacker, various analysts note the possibility he'll move outside. More Trieu:
He is truly has the physical presence to play inside, and the athleticism to move outside depending upon where Michigan needs him and has the potential to compete early. An aggressive player who is best when in attack mode and shooting gaps.
From both a roster standpoint and a player fit standpoint, that seems like the move. Most of the evaluations above hint that he's better as an athlete who can operate in space instead of a play-reading, traffic-evading inside linebacker. SLB is the land of insane athletes who can terrorize quarterbacks and take on tight ends without having to worry about guards or seam routes, and that sounds like Jenkins-Stone.
“They’re getting a kid that is athletic,” Wilcher said. “A kid that has great hands, catches the ball well. Good feet. Strong and has great speed for the linebacker position. One that can cover backs coming out of the backfield. Michigan runs the same style of defense we run, so I think hell fit right in. He’ll know all the calls and all the gaps, and I think he'll adjust quickly.”
An old old Webb News article.
Why Jake Ryan? Ryan is an often-irresponsible (but getting better) vertical attacker around 6'2" who has filled out into the 230-240 pound range and spent his high school career terrorizing backfields as a blitzer.
It's not a fantastic fit because the recruiting services missed on Ryan thanks to his late emergence and he played as an OLB in a 3-3-5; RJS was an inside linebacker in a 3-4. It's still pretty good. If you were going to list three assets and a drawback for Ryan you'd be hard-pressed to deviate from Trieu's formulation of RJS above: aggressive, athletic, tough… and a bit undisciplined.
Guru Reliability: Very high. Healthy, heavily scouted, same (or very similar) college position, and an All-Star appearance.
Variance: Moderate. Does need to put on some weight, may end up a bit of a tweener between the inside and outside, and has some boom/bust potential.
Ceiling: High. Seems a notch below the nutso athleticism that would get him a "very high" but easy to see him topping out at an all-conference level.
General Excitement Level: Moderate-plus. A little leery of the senior-year backslide a lot of responsibility on offense may have had something to do with that. Probably needs to make an adjustment to a position he hasn't played before. Doesn't seem as likely to hit his ceiling as Ross or Bolden, but still nice bullet to have in the chamber.
Projection: Jenkins-Stone is the most likely of the four incoming linebackers to redshirt. Bolden and Ringer came in for spring practice and Ross has a reputation as a guy who sees the game ahead of his years. Even if he makes the move to SLB Michigan has two solid options in front of him. Given the evaluations above, burning a redshirt for special teams activity seems highly inadvisable.
After a hypothetical redshirt year, RJS will find the linebacker depth chart largely in place. Only Kenny Demens departs after this year; with everyone else back it'll be tough to fight past Bolden, Morgan, Ryan, Gordon, et al, to find the field. He should get plenty of time on special teams and some garbage time drives. He'll probably find his way onto the two-deep as a redshirt sophomore and will be a prime candidate along with Mike McCray to replace Ryan in three years.
Yes. Michigan has a touted guy they shouldn't have to unearth until he's a redshirt junior. On defense and everything.
|Orchard Lake, MI – 6'0", 209|
|Scout||4*, #7 OLB, #83 overall|
|Rivals||4*, #14 OLB, #172 overall|
|ESPN||4*, 80, #8 ILB|
|24/7||4*, 95, #6 ILB, #116 overall|
|Other Suitors||OSU, PSU, Notre Dame, USC, Nebraska|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Tim. Tim interviews him at SMSB. Ace checks out OLSM games against De La Salle and UD-Jesuit.|
|Notes||OLSM (Chris McLaurin, Jermaine Gonzalez). Army All-American.|
James Ross is the second of three highly-touted Westside Cubs who will arrive at Michigan at the fall. Terry Richardson was the first, and Ross is an awful lot like a linebacker version of Richardson. He's four of four on Midwest power offers, four of four when it comes to recruiting site hype, and got a bid to one of the all-star games.
Like Richardson, the scouting reports are a series of good things… after they get in a shot at his size. Random example($):
Ross made plays in high school thanks to his instincts and quickness, rather than his size. He'll get the chance to show that being slightly undersized won't hurt him at the next level when he faces off against the all-star cast from the East.
They're not wrong. Six-foot-ish is a bit wee when it comes to linebacking, and edging just over 200 pounds is something that may prevent him from seeing the field immediately. FWIW, he says he's put on more weight:
"I'm 6'1'' and 225 lbs. right now, and a lot of criticism I get is because of my size. But I always like to throw this out there: my favorite two linebackers, Ray Lewis and Patrick Willis, are only 6'1". I guess this sport has come down to where it's all about size, but I feel that at the end of the day, that doesn't matter. "
But the instincts bit is promising. Think of various weakside linebackers past—just about any will do—and imagine the exact opposite of their relationship with your frustration, and that is James Ross's rep. His coach sums it up best($):
"He's one of the best instinctive players I've ever coached," Porritt insisted. "He reads plays so fast, and his first step is so explosive. He's physical, too, but it's his uncanny ability to read and get after the football that is his greatest asset. He's a great young man who works hard and is very humble."
This will of course be tested when he hits the field at the next level. Please do not refer back to this post in the event he turns out to also take the wrong side of the fullback 800% of the time. Please do in the event his instincts lead to a lot of plays like this:
The instincts bit is repeated in other scouting reports. Ace:
I'll reiterate what I said when I saw Ross earlier this season—he's the most polished, college-ready prospect I've seen play this season with the possible exceptions of Aaron Burbridge and Matt Godin (to clarify, I'm not necessarily saying the most talented, but the players who are the most fundamentally sound and impactful right now). …
Once again, Ross's ability to tackle in the open field really impressed me—he has great tackling form, and his superior range allows him to be in the best possible position to stop the ballcarrier. He diagnosed plays quickly and never seemed out of position, and his ability to make quick reads allowed him to shoot past blockers before they could even touch him, resulting in multiple tackles for loss. Ross isn't afraid to take on a block and does a good job of shedding after initial contact without losing his angle on the ballcarrier….
After seeing Ross in two games, one against a weak Inkster team and the other against a much stronger De La Salle squad, I'm convinced he'll be a multi-year starter at middle linebacker and a player in the David Harris mold.
Although we detect some hip tightness when in coverage his balance and agility along with the ability to quickly key and diagnosis running plays allows him to be a dominant run stopper. We like his instincts and quick downhill play; can beat blockers to the point of attack with good playing speed or take on and defeat them with his upper body playing strength. This guy is a tough customer who has no problem stepping into the line and mixing it up with big offensive linemen; does a great job moving through traffic, showing excellent pursuit habits and recovery speed.
They do knock his current weight and express doubts about his ability to cover receivers in man; they praise his zone instincts. Trieu:
Smart, instinctive backer who does a great job of taking plays head on, getting rid of blockers and finding the ball. Measureables are not super, but football smarts, toughness and fundamentals are. Does a solid job in coverage, and is physical when asked to cover backs and tight ends. More of a finished product, than an upside guy, but a kid who has always been productive and should continue to be so in college.
24/7's Barton Simmons:
Though he's not a kid with great size, Ross is a kid with great instincts, awareness, and desire to get to the football. When he gets there he's physical and in the pass game, he's comfortable catching the football and finding throwing lanes. Ross is very similar in skill set to Oklahoma State's Shaun Lewis who made an instant impact on the college level.
Simmons again, this time from the OSU NFTC last year:
Headlining the group in Columbus was Michigan commit James Ross out of West Bloomfield (Mich.) St. Mary’s Prep. Sporting a Michigan hat on the Ohio State practice fields, Ross already looked ready to strap on the pads and head into Ohio Stadium. At 6-1, Ross is not an overpowering presence but his feet, balance, athleticism and activity in space were all unique. Ross was nearly unblockable in the pass rush drill and he also has the ability to run and cover in the pass game.
You get the idea. He is a ball-locator and tackler. He is not a five-star athlete.
As mentioned in a UV posted a couple weeks ago, Ross credits his time as a hockey player for his ability to diagnose plays:
“I actually think hockey is what separates me from most linebackers,” Ross said. “I think it helped me with that first quick step and getting to the ball as fast as you can, because hockey, once you see it you have to go. There is no delayed step into it. That’s definitely something that separates me.”
Despite Ross's friendship with Richardson and Royce Jenkins-Stone, the third Westside Cub in the class, it was actually Ohio State who seemed like the leader out of the gate. From a now-vaporized Sam Webb article in the News:
Ross Jr. might have been more taken aback by his impression of Michigan. Not because it was better, but because it so utterly different from what he expected.
"I really did not like Michigan like that," Ross admitted. "I was always an Ohio State guy. I kept it to myself. It really wasn't that big of a deal. My family always gets mad when I bring up Ohio State. They just say that I do not understand the success that Michigan has had."
Ross was just a sophomore when that article was published, but he'd picked up Michigan and MSU offers super early, something that was notable, uh, two years ago. Not so much now.
Whatever Ross's feelings about OSU were, his recruitment was effectively over when Michigan hired Greg Mattison. From an old Tom weekly roundup post:
He fell in love with coach Mattison. I never paid attention early on to coordinators that much, but that guy was great. He was kinda funny too. He and coach Hoke broke it all open for him. We were there close to three hours just talking about football with Mattison, and more conversation with Hoke. Hoke's like a good ole boy, it was refreshing.
That was at the end of Febuary; it took a couple more months to come to a decision but that was basically it. (The commit turned this Buckeye Planet thread into an excellent schadenfreude repository, FWIW.)
With the burden of Ross's decision off his shoulders, OLSM shot to a state title. Ross championed the defense, tackling everything that moves. He racked up a ridiculous 151 tackles and 13.5 TFLs along the way. Rivals named him to their "RivalsHigh 2011 All-American Team" as a result. His recruiting rankings didn't shift much; his performance was about what people expected.
At Michigan Ross is ticketed for the weakside, though this is where I say the usual bits about how there are only minor differences between the MLB and the WLB in Mattison's system. The WLB has to be a little better down the seam and gets a little more protection from lead blockers, but it's mostly the same gig as MLB.
"He never wants to be the guy who someone sees at a game and says, 'This guy's supposed to be all that? He's kinda crappy' " Ross, Sr. said. "He never wants to be that guy, so he strives to give everyone what they expect and more. He's looking to go bananas this year."
Why Ian Gold? As an inside linebacker who topped out around 6'0" and 225 but made it work with great instincts and an ability to cut through traffic, Ian Gold is a tight fit as a YMRMFSPA. His career was before I watched every game in extreme detail, though.
Gold came to Michigan as a tailback but was moved quickly; Ross has an edge when it comes to experience. He'll do very well to match Gold's productivity and NFL pedigree—a second rounder with almost 500 career tackles.
If you want a guy of more recent vintage, the Mini David Harris suggestion offered by Ace above is a good one.
Guru Reliability: High. General consensus, healthy, multi-year starter, well-known kid who showed at an all-star game.
Variance: Low. Projects to (basically) same position in college, lots of experience, ahead of the curve mentally.
Ceiling: Moderate. Size will be an issue and the scouting reports don't mention the sort of "wow" athleticism that could make up for that.
General Excitement Level: Moderate-plus. Seems like he'll be the platonic opposite of Jonas Mouton, the Janus of weakside linebackers. Mouton alternated ridiculously good and ridiculously bad plays. Ross probably won't turn in as many of either. A solidly above-average Big Ten linebacker who is short of national stardom seems like the most likely outcome.
Projection: Ross's lack of size and a healthy depth chart at WLB (which returns rising sophomore Desmond Morgan, senior Brandin Hawthorne, and adds redshirt freshman Antonio Poole) suggest a redshirt. Like Richardson, it seems smart to get him a second year of separation from guy who started as a freshman. Unlike Richardson, there's a lot of room on special teams for linebackery tackling types, so he may get drafted into coverage teams for one of those Argh Wasted Redshirt wasted redshirts.
Either way, there's a clear path to the two-deep in his second year. Hawthorne and Demens will graduate. The former opens up the backup WLB spot and there's a chance the latter will drag Morgan to MLB, which seems like a more natural position for him. Even if that doesn't happen, Ross will be fighting with Poole for a good chunk of playing time behind Morgan. I wouldn't put it past Ross to win the job outright at some point, either. If he gets the redshirt dollars to donuts he's at least a two-year starter.
|Detroit, MI – 5'9", 165|
|Scout||4*, #14 CB, #183 overall|
|Rivals||4*, #18 CB, #224 overall|
|ESPN||4*, 81, #5 CB, #68 overall|
|24/7||4*, 95, #12 CB, #142 overall|
|Other Suitors||Oklahoma, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Penn State, Alabama, LSU, USC etc.|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Ace takes in Cass Tech games against De La Salle, OLSM, and Farmington Hills Harrison. Tim interviews him. Tim Hello post.|
|Notes||Cass Tech (all the people). Played in UA game. Lemming had him top 50.|
Terry Richardson is the short-ish to unbelievably short cornerback who comes out of Cass Tech every year.
Oh, fine. Here's all this other stuff.
Yea, Cass Tech did go unto Olympus and ask the gods for power unlike any Detroit high school had seen. And the Gods said to Cass Tech, "we will grant you a boon, but all things have a price." Cass Tech readily agreed. The gods provided a phone-booth-sized black cube with black trim and no reflective properties whatsoever. It came with a red button. Thomas Wilcher was instructed to press it at 3:30 PM every June 13th, whereupon a black door that was not there would slide upwards and a smurfy but unbelievably agile guy would stride out, covered in gross amniotic goo.
Cass Tech won a state championship last year. The price was watching all those smurfy corner types go off to college and not do much.
- 2008: Boubacar Cissoko is a top 50 player who heads to Michigan. He doesn't play well, possibly because he's going a little loopy, then gets in a bunch of legal trouble and ends up in jail.
- 2009: Teric Jones may be a running back, may be a defensive back, is definitely really small, starts at RB, gets moved to corner, gets moved back to RB, eventually stops playing football.
- 2010: Dior Mathis is a top 250-type guy who heads off to Oregon, where he's appeared in five games so far.
- 2011: Delonte Holowell goes to Michigan, where he types all-caps tweets and sees a little time as a freshman.
It's possible Mathis or Holowell will break through but their height (they are the smurfiest of the bunch at maybe 5'8" each) makes it hard to see either being a star; Richardson and 2013 commit Jourdan Lewis have yet to give it a shot.
So there's this background of skepticism about Terry Richardson because Michigan's taken the above plus a number of other Cass Tech guys over the years and only Thomas Gordon has really worked out. Even the generally rapturous coach quotes on offer are toned down. Wilcher:
"I think Terry is learning. He's learning what a big-time player's got to be. I think that if Terry keeps working, he'll be all right."
The recruiting sites do not share this skepticism, ranking Richardson higher than any of the recent Cass Tech defensive backs save Cissoko. Neither did college coaches, which pounded his mailbox with early offers. Richardson had all of the above offers a year before he put pen to paper. While the outlying offers may have been "visit and we'll offer (probably)" type deals, Richardson was four for four amongst Midwest powers. Coaches also thought he was legit.
Yes, despite the size. All scouting reports filed mention his size as a negative. Picking one at random, this from Scout's evaluations($) at the Under Armor game:
Richardson has some very quick feet and he may not be the tallest or biggest defensive back in this event, this young man can cover. He flips his hips well, he stays on balance, and he made great breaks on the ball on day two.
This evaluation is repeated everywhere. Trieu:
Not the biggest corner, but one who makes up for it with his understanding of the game, quickness and ball skills. Does a nice job of playing the ball in the air, and high points it, which helps him get over his lack of height.
Terry Richardson (Cass Tech CB/WR #9, 2012 commit): Richardson's coverage was a big reason why Shane Morris could never find a rhythm, as he was consistently right in the pocket of the receiver he was tasked with covering. … Though Richardson had been battling a leg injury since the regular season finale, and spent much of warmups on his own testing out the leg, he looked just fine once the game started, exhibiting the speed and hip swivel that make him a four-star corner prospect despite his small stature. He was also strong in run support, tallying four tackles, including a textbook wrap-up in space on a play that got to the outside quickly—he was alone on an island, but managed to drive through the ballcarrier and keep him from gaining any extra yards.
Ace's in-person guess at Richardson's height is 5'8".
You get the idea. If you don't get the idea, these links may help.
- Trieu again($): "showed the same quick feet, hips and aggressiveness we have touted him for for the last few years. For a guy who isn't as big, he does not back down from anyone and plays right up in receivers faces. "
- Tom Lemming: "Forget his lack of height. With his anticipation, timing and vertical leap, Richardson can play with any CB in the country. Explosive and confident, he‘s a lockdown corner and a five-star player with the ability to become a standout as a true freshman."
- ESPN: "Richardson lacks obvious size but plays and competes much bigger. … Knows where he is on the field with great awareness skills and soundly reads the quarterback, routes develop and expertly anticipates the pass. …Has tight, polished footwork. Very fluid and light in and out of his pedal and breaks underneath extremely quick without wasted steps in his transition. Closes the cushion extremely fast out on the perimeter with great quickness…. The area of concern when projecting for the college level is his size and ability to press, defend the jump ball and set the edge as a run supporter."
- 24/7: "Michigan commit Terry Richardson has to deal with size issues as well …. Richardson was in attendance on Saturday and he met his expectations. He has an ability to seamlessly turn his hips and change direction in coverage and when he has to turn on his burners, he can absolutely accelerate with any receiver.
If you're still confused about the composite of all Cass Tech cornerbacks, you may be the composite of all Buckeye fans. Stop tilting your head.
So… yeah. As a terrific athlete who can stick to receivers in space but is ill-equipped to take on a fullback, tight end, or galloping Wisconsin tailback, Richardson is a quintessential "field" corner. This means he lines up to the wide side of the field, a role Blake Countess took over last year. Richardson's been told that's where he he's headed, with a detour at nickelback possible:
Role at Michigan: "Well, to me personally, playing corner is just playing corner - I don't believe in any field side corner or the boundary corner. My role is to lock on the best receivers and shut them down. But pretty much they want me playing like the field corner - and maybe some nickel back, too - but pretty much field corner and punt returns/kick returns."
He'll slot in behind Avery and Countess. If he beats out either it's time to pop the champagne. He may pass Holowell and/or Taylor, depending on what Michigan does with their other guys. Talbott's evidently moved to field corner; Michigan may slide Taylor over there too to get more info on what should be a heated position battle in 2013.
As for the future, at some point you have to get over the heebie-jeebies about previous guys and look at Terry Richardson as just Terry Richardson, the guy everyone wanted and has exactly one drawback. He's a nice bullet to have in the chamber.
Etc.: Wilcher did get in a more typical coach quote:
"He's a great kid to be with, a great kid to talk to," Wilcher said of Richardson. "He's a great kid to be around, the kind of kid you want to love as a son. So that's where you get a chance to get the nurturing in, and that's where it comes in, to try to make him a better player, a better person."
Why Courtney Avery? Avery and Richardson have the same sort of frame, and while Richardson is higher regarded Avery has significantly outperformed his ranking to date. As a high school quarterback who played very little defense Avery was not well-scouted.
Avery's an excellent underneath corner with the quickness to get under slant routes but a lack of size makes him a guy you try to shelter from one-on-one matchups against the Michael Floyds of the world—you know, the ones Cissoko had no prayer against. It sounds like Richardson may be a bit faster, a bit quicker to react, and more likely to emerge into a starter on the outside, but he's going to seem a lot like Avery.
Guru Reliability: Very high. Healthy, projects to same position in college he did in high school, ton of camps, UA appearance, heavily scouted school. Only slightly negative indicator is a little spread in the rankings thanks to ESPN's excitement. That may be (read: is) a UA game effect.
Variance: Low. He's not going to get any taller and has few boom/bust indicators.
Ceiling: High. Like Jarrod Wilson, Richardson hovers around a B+/A- ceiling. The height, yes, the height. Seems to have everything else.
General Excitement Level: If you'd never heard of Boubacar Cissoko in your life everyone would be saying high, so: high. No reason to project that unfortunate trajectory on another kid. Richardson comes guru- and coach-approved.
Projection: Despite the minor twitter controversy launched when Richardson angrily denounced the idea of redshirting, he should probably spend a year watching. Without a year of weights and scout team action he'll be the same sort of olé-style tackler Avery was as a freshman. Meanwhile, Michigan returns both starting cornerbacks, their quality nickelback, Holowell, Raymon Taylor, and a rejuvenated Terrence Talbott.
With Richardson destined for field corner or nickelback he's not going to be a serious contender to replace JT Floyd in 2013, so the thing that makes the most sense is to let Michigan's six-deep* corners carry the load in 2012 and give Richardson another year of separation from Countess. This thinking may be Richardson's now as well:
Forced choice: special teams only or redshirt: "That's a real good question because I think that might be a high possibility and for me to consider my options. Well, honestly, if Coach Hoke needs me out there - I'll do it. But other than that, if I can have more time and get my body together and learn the system, then by next year I'd be ready to go. But it all depends on what Coach Hoke would want."
Richardson's best bet to avoid a redshirt would be winning a return job. Jeremy Gallon's back, so fielding punts seems unlikely. Meanwhile, the new kickoff rules may make returners not particularly relevant.
*[Thank you, Jesus.]
|Akron, OH – 6'2", 190|
22 in black
|Scout||4*, #19 S, #245 overall|
|Rivals||4*, #12 S, #15 OH|
|ESPN||4*, 80, #13 S, #9 OH|
|24/7||4*, #15 S, #16 OH|
|Other Suitors||Penn State, Notre Dame, Stanford, Michigan State|
|YMRMFSPA||Jamar Adams. I mean it this time.|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Tim. Tom interviews Ricky Powers.|
|Notes||Coach is… former Wolverine Ricky Powers. Early enrolee.|
You may already be familiar with Jarrod Wilson from the spring game and practice videos. He's the guy a second late when a running back breaks past the line, the one who's diving at ankles and not quite making the tackle. That's fine. Wilson was suiting up for Akron Buchtel a few months ago and is still adapting to the speed of the college game. Once he accelerates his thinking he'll be on his feet, bringing people down.
What Michigan has in Wilson is a safety. Not a safety who's probably a linebacker, or a tight end, or a wide receiver, or a gibbering pile of meat that explodes into touchdown confetti whenever play action occurs. A safety. At 6'2", 190 pounds Wilson will fill out to 200 or 210 or maybe 220 and still be the rangy center-field type who can come down and cover a tight end or running back man-to-man. He will not end up at strongside linebacker. He is a safety. Michigan fans have a slight paranoia about this position group.
Don't listen to me, listen to everyone. The recruiting sites seemed to have huddled up on Wilson, agreed to rank him somewhere around the #15 safety in the country, and split up with a "no gibbering pile of touchdown meat" break. After dispersing, they all wrote the same things.
Wilson should emerge as an upper-tier free safety prospect in 2012. …Possesses great size. Tall, well-built with good length and room to fill out. He flashes great range, particularly in deep coverage and good overall speed. Best attribute may be his reads and diagnosing skills. Rarely caught out of position, stays deep as the deepest and expertly splits twins set receivers. Consistently takes direct angles to the ball while keeping the pass in front of him. Times his break accurately and has the range to get over and on the top of deep routes.
The lone downside is a lack of explosive explosiveness. Everything else is there: frame, smarts, range. The scouting report goes on to praise his ability to keep leverage, cover a deep half, be a cover-one safety, etc. For a Michigan fan burned over and over again by alarming safety play, this is catnip. Seriously, if you have insider, just read it, then read it again, and then try really hard not to think about Isaiah Bell.
It's basically the same elsewhere. Trieu praises his closing speed, awareness, and hands, notes his quickness and flexibility are relative downsides, and speaks thusly:
Wilson is a rangy safety with a knack for making big plays. He has good closing speed, ball skills and anticipation. When the ball is in his hands, he's usually a threat to score or have a big return. He's not as good side to side as he is in a straight line.
Bucknuts' Duane Long:
If a college coach came to me and said he played eight in the box alot and needed a centerfielder right in the middle of the field I would suggest Jarrod Wilson. He is fast and very athletic. He reads the game and reacts to the ball as well as any safety in the class. The best cover safety in the class. The best safety in the class on the ball. He needs to be a better tackler. The good news is he is a willing tackler. Never shies away from contact.
Rivals site Ohio Varsity praises($) his "ideal size," "knack for being at the right place at the right time," and says his "reactions are blue chip caliber." Run support is just adequate, man-to-man is something to work on, etc. Bill Greene caught a game and came back saying the same bit about "covering a large area of the field." You get the idea.
FWIW, when he showed at the Best of the Midwest camp last year Josh Helmholdt thought he did okay($):
One of the biggest questions regarding Wilson's game coming into Sunday's event was whether the big safety could handle man-to-man coverage, and he answered that satisfactorily. Wilson flips his hips well and showed the speed necessary to stay with even the smaller receivers. He is still destined for safety in college, but his coverage skills should be no longer in doubt.
He's not a corner; he'll be able to cope unless the defense gets really mixed up.
One area in which his athleticism is not in doubt is getting off the ground. Multiple reports held that he is a Hemingway-esque leaper, with this the most evocative($):
Jarrod Wilson, a 4-star safety prospect from Buchtel High in Akron, Ohio, had his fellow campers buzzing when he leaped so high during the vertical-jump competition that his right hand passed over the top rung of the testing apparatus.
Wilson was credited with a 42-inch leap because the machine was set to record jumps up to 42 inches. After several minutes of discussion, D1 officials reset the apparatus to accommodate higher jumps. Wilson couldn't match his previous magic, however, posting a best of 41 inches on three subsequent jumps.
All that got Wilson every major Midwest offer save Ohio State—who went after some guys who showed at camp instead—plus various distant offers of varying impressiveness: UCLA, WVU, Stanford. (It's always nice to see a Stanford offer, since that means chances of not qualifying are zero.) So: Wilson, a large, rangy safety with an issue or two in run support who is not going in the first round of the draft because he is not an A+ athlete. I'll take two.
We have yet more data on Wilson since he showed up early. Forced into the two deep immediately thanks to Josh Furman's suspension, Wilson was the subject of more chatter than all topics not involving Joe Bolden or Devin Gardner at WR. Jordan Kovacs on his adjustment:
“He’s come in and picked up the defense really, really well. That’s one of the things he’s got the football smarts and as a defensive back you really need that,” Kovacs said. “Don’t get me wrong, there are things he needs to get cleaned up and improved on, but I’m definitely impressed with how much he’s progressed and how good of a ballplayer he is as a senior in high school. He has a lot more time here and I expect big things in the future.”
Kovacs went another step. When asked if he felt Wilson could play in the fall, he said he could see it.
Powers had said something similar($) earlier in the year:
"He's starting to be a student of the game," said Buchtel coach Ricky Powers. "He's coming to watch film and do all those things that need to be done to get him better. He's a smart kid anyway, so it wasn't hard.
"We taught him to understand offenses and what defenses he should be calling what looks they're going to show us and how he can counter those looks with the calls he makes. More classroom work than anything else. The kid has the physical ability to do anything." …
"He's just a smart kid," Powers said. "There's a reason why he's going to Michigan, and he's proven that."
While no one wants to see a freshman starting at safety ever again, Wilson may be able to step in as a sophomore and play beyond his years thanks to his well-oiled thinkin' organ. If pressed into duty this year things could be as un-disastrous as they were when Jamar Adams was.
Long term, there's this feeling. It's not like dread. It's kind of a feeling that you get when the sun's out and it's nice and breezy. No idea what it is, but not dread. Sort of like thinking something might work out in the future. No idea what it is.
Etc.: Smartphone video of his commitment. Not a hat dude. Had a sign. Michigan's hat dude drought continues. Rivals AMP feature on one of his games. Team got blown out 31-6, unfortunately. Won some sort of MVP at something called the "Offense-Defense Bowl." Postgame interview. Monster game to finish his high school career.
He's on the couch. It's quite a couch. It's got plastic all over it.
Magnus is… happy?
I am a huge fan of Wilson's abilities. He has the size, speed, tackling ability, and ballhawking instincts that Michigan teams have been lacking for the last several years. And, perhaps best of all, he's the elusive Michigan-recruited safety who actually looks like a safety and not a linebacker.
Well all right then.
Why Jamar Adams? Adams gets dragged out a lot in YMRMFSPA because comparing incoming recruits to other Michigan safeties over the last decade is a good way to get on an enemies list, but in this case the comparison is pretty tight. Both guys are 6'2". Adams topped out around 215, which is where Wilson will probably end up. Adams was also a high character guy with the smarts not to get annihilated in coverage as a freshman.
While Adams was a generic three-star recruit he outperformed his recruiting ranking and had a quintessential mid-four-star career as a three-year starter who was second-team all conference twice. Adams also lacked the explosive explosivity that makes NFL teams drool, went undrafted, and kicked around NFL practice squads for a bit.
Wilson may have a little bit more upside, athleticism and range; we'll see. No one will be complaining if he's an atom-accurate replica of Adams.
Guru Reliability: High. They're in lockstep, Wilson was healthy, well-scouted, etc. Only some additional camp appearances or an All Star game thing would have helped.
Variance: Very low. Smart kid and good student not likely to have academic issues. Already on campus, picking up praise for his understanding of the defense. Projects to a spot he played in high school. Injury-free so far.
Ceiling: Moderate-plus. Seems like he has a B+/A- ceiling he's likely to reach.
General Excitement Level: After implementing a complex anti-jinx ritual I can say this: high. While Wilson seems to lack the outrageous athleticism that would pop him up into the Dymonte Thomas range, he's got everything else. He's taken the first step towards contributing by showing up and seeming to belong this spring and will be the #1 candidate to step into Jordan Kovacs's unerringly accurate shoes.
I have a lower threshold for "high" at safety than anywhere else, admittedly.
Projection: What it says above: someone's got to replace Jordan Kovacs next year and the bet here is that Wilson is the guy with Marvin Robinson the major threat. If Robinson wins run support will probably be the reason why. I am not putting much emphasis on the distinction between free and strong safety because my guess is that Michigan's safeties get a lot more interchangeable once Kovacs is gone and they don't have a weird player with elite skills and major issues all in one package.
Wilson probably will not redshirt as Michigan tries to get him prepped for major time as a sophomore. Michigan will deploy him on special teams and maybe use him to give the starting safeties a breather if they find themselves in games that aren't particularly hairy.
Previously: S Jeremy Clark.
|Sylvania, OH - 6'2" 210|
|Scout||3*, #30 S|
|Rivals||3*, #45 S, #57 OH|
|ESPN||3*, 75, #150 WR(!), #72 OH|
|24/7||3*, #66 ATH, #42 OH|
|Other Suitors||Cincinnati, BC, Illinois, Stanford|
|Previously On MGoBlog||The wayback machine. Hello post from Tim.|
|Notes||Son of former Michigan DB Tony, cousin (by marriage) of Charles Woodson. Twitter.|
Note a crap ton of great catches and a lot of Gant lining up as an off-the-line TE. This will be relevant later.
Allen Gant was supposed to be the subject of a fierce Michigan-Ohio State recruiting battle that had the potential to go national as teams across the country threw their hat in the ring for a highly-touted athlete. There's a post about him on this very site dating back to 2008(!) posted by a guy with the username "InRodWeTrust33" hyping him up as a major prospect after his freshman year. The Buckeye Planet thread on Gant fired up a week before that. Even after an injury-plagued 2009 season, Scout was still asking "Is Gant Ohio's top sophomore?($)"
As you can see by the rankings above, it didn't quite work out like that. Gant was a BCS recruit but not a national one, and Ohio State's persistent lack of interest quickly flipped Gant from a kid who only wanted to hear from the Buckeyes to one committing to Michigan in March. Gant's best offer other than Michigan was Stanford—none too shabby—but it dropped off rapidly after that, with Illinois, BC, and Cincinnati his other BCS offers.
What happened? Injury was part of it. Gant racked 'em up like Junior Hemingway; even when he was on the field he was usually nursing two or three different athletcism-sapping highlights.
The rest is probably what you get when a kid is far ahead of the work ethic curve (and therefore closer to his ceiling) early in his high school career. A long time Ohio scout erratically updates his blog MSR OHIO—which I perpetually misread as "Mrs. Ohio"—and has some thoughts on the relative lack of hype after Gant's touted debut:
Gant was so good as a freshman that it may have hurt him. He has continued to improve, but recruiters seem to expect a faster climb. A possible four letter winner in three sports. Sometimes athletes get close to being maxed out too early, but this is not the case with Allen.
Last fall I was impressed with his toughness on the football field. Stood out as a free safety. Excellent open field tackler. Good ball skills. Anticipated well. Most of all, when he had a chance to "strike" he did. Covered sideline to sideline. …
Just something that I like about Allen Gant. The challenge to keep improving every year must be tough. Expectations for three years have been high. Being mentioned in recruiting news as one of the top Ohio guys in 2012 class could get into a kid's head. My answer - Too good too early, but he has worked hard to keep getting better, but improvement is not as evident as with other athletes. Regardless, he just does his thing - play hard and compete.
Some coach tell Allen that he is not a free safety on the next level. Maybe a strong safety who plays in the box. Some coach tell Allen that he will grow into a Will linebacker. And be very good. Simple as that!
Well, let's hope so.
We have an uncommonly large pile of Gant video that isn't highlights. If you hit up this Rivals video of a scrimmage between Sylvania Southview and Chris Wormley's Whitmer team, Gant doesn't really do much except fall down once in man coverage on a slot receiver and get burnt to the outside by a tailback. In the best-case scenario (the tailback was the starter), that is a two-star headed to Toledo. ESPN put up a clip reel that appears to be from one game that features Gant looking pretty much like the rest of the kids on the field.
He has trouble tackling, doesn't seem at another level athletically from the rest of the guys, and… shows some crazy good hands on a TE corner route he runs on offense, getting leveled but hanging on. Then he scores a touchdown on a post route. This may be why ESPN didn't even bother considering his potential on defense($), instead concentrating on his ability at wideout:
Gant is a reliable and productive short-to-intermediate range receiver that appears to be at his best when working from the slot against zone coverage. He is lean and wiry with adequate height and he shows very quick feet. He is decisive in his cuts as a route runner with good quickness off the line. He is one of those guys that knows how to work the seams, settle into open areas and make himself open. … He has very good, soft hands and has no problem extending away from his frame in traffic over the middle. Catches the ball in a crowd, hauls in passes quickly and secures the catch. Has enough quickness and burst to be an effective underneath route runner and create separation.
The big downside is speed. They doubt he can be a BCS-level vertical threat and say they don't "see him explosively run by people or separate in the open field."
There is a little disagreement about that. See Allen Trieu…
Allen Gant | S | Sylvania-Southview
Gant has been on the radar since his freshman season. He has great size (6'1, 210-lbs) and runs well for a kid with that stature. Some feel he can grow into an outside linebacker. We think he can be a strong safety or a rover in certain systems, but either way, he's a great football player.
…and Duane Long…
Allen Gant, 6-2, 200, Sylvania
Gant is such a smart football player and I see a better athlete than I first thought he was. Versatility is the name of the game with Gant. He is best at free safety but he could play strong safety, and he could play receiver if things get ugly at that position for whatever school he chooses. Looked really good at the Buckeye camp last year.
…but looking at those non-highlights I'm with ESPN. Guy is not a burner. For what it's worth, the initial plan($) is safety but contains a hint of a potential move:
"They see me as kind of a hybrid-type," he said. "They said I have an advantage because I'm versatile and I can play both free and strong [safety], or I can even line up as an outside linebacker in a nickel package. That's what I have going for me which will allow me to get on the field quickly."
I think I might get the heebie jeebies if Gant lined up as a one-high free safety, certainly moreso than if he found a role as a nickel OLB*.
[TIRESOMELY REPETITIVE SIDE NOTE: this quote provides some evidence that Michigan is considering such a role in their defense. Insert usual Just Sayin' Brandin Hawthorne Should Be A Nickel LB here.]
He does seem like an excellent program guy. His coach:
"The best thing about him is how good a kid he is," Southview football coach Jim Mayzes said. "Since he came in here as a freshman he's always had the right attitude. He doesn't let anybody outwork him. Even during basketball season he's full go in the weight room."
His dad and a guy named Chet:
"The drive really comes from Allen," Tony Gant said. "I had a certain type of drive, but what he does -- lifting weights and eating healthy and drinking a gallon of water a day -- I never did that.
"I was a 6-foot, 185-pound kid who never lifted a weight in my life until I got to Michigan. He's in the weight room six days a week on his own. He motivates himself."
"Allen's always had a good work ethic, even as a youngster," Chet Trail said. "You never had to do too much to get him to practice. I wish I could take some credit for [his motivation], but Allen is a self-starter."
His dad again, from Tom:
They're going to get a student athlete who's full of character and leadership. You have to look at those qualities, he has to be smart, be a student athlete, and be a leader. From the football aspect he reminds me of [former Wolverine] Keith Bostic, as far as his aggressiveness. He loves to hit, he's a big safety. An analyst asked me why he's not nationally known, and it's because we knew it would probably come down to Michigan and Ohio State. We never went to any combines or camps, so his name wasn't really out there that much.
His dad one more time:
"I was talking to (Michigan equipment manager) Jonny Falk and Coach Rodriguez and I told them that if Bo had one scholarship to give, he would choose Allen over me," the elder Gant said. "He is almost 6-2, and weighs in the 205- to 210-pound range. He runs a 4.6, he's got a nose for the ball, he's physical, and he is smart.
"Having that type of football intelligence, it just makes his job that much easier because you want to react instead of think out on the football field. Plus he's coachable. His football intelligence and coachability are his two greatest assets along with his physical capabilities."
In the above you can see a path to the field for Gant in defiance of some skepticism I'll drop below: be Jordan Kovacs. It sounds like that's not entirely out of the question. I won't believe anyone can consistently chop down opponents like Kovacs until I see it, though. That'll have to be it for Gant, though: always being in the right place because his brain is ahead of the pack.
TVH +5/6, looks like. 6'2" probably accurate. Another coach quote:
“Allen’s been a legend in our town since elementary school,” Sylvania Southview coach Jim Mayzes said. “He could leap tall buildings, all that stuff. He had records in track all over in everything, all the way through school.
“I first heard about him when a P.E. teacher at one of the elementary schools would tell me about him.”
Gant played receiver and safety for the Cougars and finished with 21 receptions for 404 yards and a score. He rushed the ball three times for 35 yards and threw a 42-yard touchdown pass in the playoff loss. Defensively, he finished with 56 tackles, three interceptions and a fumble recovery.
“Most schools are looking at me more on the defensive side of the ball,” said Gant. “I do love hitting and I love playing on the defensive side of the ball, but after this year, I’m willing to play anything.”
Gant carries a 3.1 and should be fine academically. Caused user Chuck Norris to hurt himself. Brief Q&A with "Big House Report." Remember Howard Chen? Old Friend Howard Chen. Magnus is sad. Cheer up, Magnus!
Why Cam Gordon? Gordon's listed at 6'3", 222 on the current roster after a few years on campus, which is where Gant will end up, give or take an inch and five pounds. Gordon came in as a WR, ended up moving to free safety in an ill-fated 3-3-5, and then slid all the way down to spur halfway through the 2010 season; he now mans an analogous position for Greg Mattison at SAM.
As a 3/4-star tweener Gordon was a little bit better regarded than Gant, and he's a little bigger. Both are thick guys who don't seem to have the speed to play WR or S despite being ticketed for those slots and might eventually find themselves somewhere else after a period of positional vagabondage.
Guru Reliability: Moderate plus. Heavily scouted, but injuries complicate things a bit. Also no camps make it hard to get a clear picture of his athleticism. Still, four different scouting services were like "eh." Maybe Scout is a half-grade more chipper on him, but that's a lot of consensus.
Variance: Low. Seeming lack of explosive explosion(!) will limit him, but legacy status and self-driven high work ethic make it unlikely he'll explosively explode his way off the roster. Will contribute in some way shape or form by the time he's done.
Ceiling: Low. Seems to lack the speed to be a high-level WR or S.
General Excitement Level: I hate these. Low. Yeah, I know, it's mean. I don't mean it to be mean, but someone's got to be low or I shouldn't even bother with this bit. Caveat: it is possible that the nagging injuries have given us an excessively dim view of his athleticism. When those are shed there's some chance he reminds everyone of what he was supposed to be as an underclassman.
Projection: There are three safeties in this class and at least Dymonte Thomas coming in the next one. Someone has to lose out. With Jarrod Wilson on campus and performing well and this blog's sunny outlook on Jeremy Clark's future, that vaguely points to Gant as the odd man out.
A redshirt is certain. From there I assume he does get a shot at Kovacs's vacated strong safety spot. I expect he'll lose that battle to someone whether it's Wilson or Marvin Robinson. From there safety depth will dictate whether he's a two-deep guy there or if it makes more sense for him to move positions.
With his frame I think the place that might make the most sense for him long term is the U-back or "move" tight end that Khalid Hill is destined for. Michigan doesn't have many other U/H-back sorts on the roster and a Gant with 20 pounds of extra mass will be in that 6'2"-6'3", 230-250 pound range that it seems Michigan wants there. Weakside LB is another possibility but given Michigan's linebacker recruiting that move is the equivalent of putting Gant on a slow boat to China.
Hello. This is an annual series profiling Michigan's incoming recruiting class. I do it so that I have a Kiper-like instant recall of biographical facts on all these guys and because since a information-strewn football season has passed between most of these guys' commitments and now. You read 'em because it's the summer.
A note on "YMRMFSPA": this stands for "you may remember me from such players as." It's not supposed to be a projection of how good a player will be, but rather who he'll remind you of in the event he works out. The players I use as comparisons all worked out. I can't compare someone to Avery Horn because I don't know what Avery Horn played like.
Previously: First of the year
|Madisonville, KY - 6'4" 205|
|Scout||3*, #71 S|
|Rivals||3*, #37 S, #4 KY|
|ESPN||3*, 76, #53 S, #6 KY|
|24/7||3*, #47 S, #8 KY|
|Other Suitors||MAC schools, Illinois, NC State, Cincinatti|
|YMRMFSPA||Ernest Shazor, but sane!
|Previously On MGoBlog||Tom interviews Clark. Tim commit post.|
|Notes||Name is hard to Google.|
A previous highlight reel has been removed from the tubes.
Jeremy Clark lived the life of an itinerant hobo last summer looking for an opportunity to play Big Time college football (or any college football at all), camping at Cincinnati, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisville, Western Kentucky, Austin Peay(!), and probably others early in the summer. He almost succeeded when his camp tour took him to Ohio State in June. There he was one of three defensive backs being heavily evaluated for an offer. Najee Murray was the immediate winner in that derby; OSU told the other two guys they were "interested." He got his first smattering of offers in the aftermath.
The next weekend Clark hit up Michigan's camp and got his wish: a grayshirt offer that he took immediately, short-circuiting further developments with OSU and anyone else. By the time he grabbed the grayshirt he was turning down you-can-play-now offers from Illinois, Cincinnati and NC State: Clark wants big time.
He'll get it, and he'll get it this fall after Michigan upgraded him to the full-fledged offer in mid-October. This was a talent thing. Clark had been told that if Jarrod Wilson, Michigan's main safety target in the class, picked someone other than Michigan that he'd get the full offer, but by the time Clark was moved to 2012 Wilson had been committed to Michigan for a couple months. This was also before Michigan's late run of disappointment in the 2012 class. It was a move spurred by his play as a senior…
“They sent their coach down to watch practice last week and they were so impressed with him and our team,” Weaver said. “They wanted to get him on campus right away.”
Clark … and the rest of the Maroon secondary shut down Lone Oak QB Cole Ousley last week. … “I thought he was a very good football player,” Lone Oak head coach Orville Haskins said. “Their skill kids are really good.”
…and designed to ward off any suitors offering what Michigan was unwilling to. So he'll be on campus in the fall.
The main questions about Clark are these:
Is he really a 6'4" safety?
Can he run?
How legit was this interest from Ohio State and "other (SEC) suitors"?
Question 1: probably. That picture above is one tall, narrow dude, and there's no jitter in any of the recruiting services' listings save for a 6'2" handed out by ESPN. Everyone else says 6'4". Maybe he's really 6'3". He's still really tall for a defensive back. As far as the safety bit of that question, yeah, very probably. Part of his extreme sleeper status was the usual crazy growth spurt:
“He has the potential to be the best player I’ve coached ,” Weaver said. “He grew four inches from the summer of his sophomore year to his junior year. He grew four inches and runs a 4.4 40 (yard dash).
“He can fly and he likes to hit.”
So he's used to the idea of being a 6'0" safety. The only thing that would drag him away would be the height making it problematic to stay there.
That doesn't seem like it's going to be the case. When he committed Scout replicated this Sam Webb evaluation from camp:
This 6-4, 175-lb. safety was one of the surprises of the day. He flashed good speed and EXCELLENT ball skills. He is a bit of a sleeper on the national scene because he has grown four inches since last fall. Just as impressive was the fact that he soaked up the coaching like a sponge and just seemed to really be relishing the overall experience. After his showing today, the Wolverines are definitely wide awake to his talents. Cincinnati just offered him and don’t be surprised if a number of others, including Michigan, turn up the heat.
ESPN also says free safety all the way($) in an evaluation that's more positive than his ranking:
Clark is a tall and rangy free safety prospect with a lot of production. Very lean without a lot of bulk, strength and power to his frame right now but we like his upside and room for development as an overall player. Not yet a real explosive defender at this point but mobility and range are good. Covers a lot of ground and is active around the ball. Shows good instincts and awareness skills. Displays very good range and the ability to get over the top of routes in deep coverage. Utilizes his length to his advantage. Tracks the ball well and will go up and high-point utilizing his great height and extension. Does a good job reading the quarterback and underneath route development from a centerfield position. … Lunges as a tackler and lets up some leaky yardage. Tends to drag and question ability to provide stout run support in the box early on in college. Overall, Clark has the height, range and instincts coveted in a safety prospect. Has some weaker areas as well but feel most will be improved as he continues to work on his physical development and becomes comfortable in his taller frame. Has a high ceiling.
Weaknesses are his man-to-man technique, ability to make tight turns, and tackling/run support issues but ESPN feels "most will be improved as he continues to work on his physical development and becomes comfortable in his taller frame. Their evaluation of his ceiling: "high."
Trieu's assessment is less down on the tackling but similar otherwise:
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT
Clark is a tall defensive back that has to add some weight to his frame, but loves to come up and hit. Is willing to throw his body around, takes good angles to the football and delivers strong blows to ball carriers. Good straight line speed, but can be a little upright and straight legged in his back pedal. Good range and overall ball skills. - Allen Trieu
His coach echoes the praise($) for his smarts, saying "He has a great speed, he's very physical. He's a really smart kid. And he has a knack for getting to the football." If he doesn't work out at safety I'd guess the ball skills and the size mean a move to WR is more likely than linebacker. Also Michigan has all of the linebackers.
As far as question 2, Clark evidently ran a 4.47 40 at WKU when he hit up their camp the day after OSU's—itinerant hobo, I'm telling you—and a 4.48($) at the Cincinnati camp. If true and not a hilariously under-clocked hand-timing, yes, he can run. If? If. Elsewhere he's listed at 4.7, considerably less enthralling. I'd say he can run enough. Every scouting report has at least mild praise for his straight-line speed. There was even a random rumble($) from Rivals that Clark could play corner after Clark reported that Curt Mallory told him he could play "anywhere in the secondary($)," which would be… interesting.
I probably shouldn't have even brought up #3, as it's inherently unknowable. Erratic rumors that Florida(!), of all teams, was going to come in with an offer if Michigan didn't budge off the grayshirt don't seem credible, since they still could have offered after it. However, Clark's coach did name names once, in a Rivals article($) from Andy Reid:
"That's how he's taking it, and he's fully on board for Michigan. I've had some other schools call me to try and hop in on him now, that offered him to come in as a regular 2012 recruit. But I've talked to his parents, and we're firm. Once he committed, he's done."
Since Clark committed, he's received offers from Cincinnati and N.C. State to come in as a regular 2012 recruit. Weaver has also fielded calls from Florida and South Carolina expressing interest, but Clark has not reciprocated said interest.
You can spin that into an offer was totally coming if Clark showed reciprocal interest if you like. Clark's dad also made an oblique reference($) to "other schools" calling him in the fall by way of explaining Clark's loyalty. Given Clark's profile it's not hard to see teams being wary until seeing senior-year performance. The local paper reports that Clark only played in five games as a junior, and there was the whole growth spurt thing.
If you're making a case that the recruiting services have been excessively cautious in their evaluations of Clark and he's underrated, you've got a good deal of ammo. This is the kind of camp offer that I like to see: an under-the-radar kid with a big ceiling. Sometimes they never work out (Mike Cox), but at least you're not picking up a guy whose top end is decent. Add in Clark's loyalty, dedication, and frame and Michigan may have something here.
Clark had 70 tackles, 15 pass breakups, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, three interceptions and four defensive touchdowns as a senior. During his junior season, Clark had 75 tackles, eight pass breakups and three interceptions.
"A guy that we had in camp and watched run around and watched his film and thought he was a great fit."
Scored a lot of touchdowns on defense and special teams, including a fumble rumble, an 81-yard punt return, and going 3 for 3 on housing interceptions.
Why Ernest Shazor? Admittedly a huge reach since Shazor was one of the most touted recruits in the country and Clark is… not. But it was either that or pick a 6'0" kid. This seems less inaccurate.
Shazor is the only Michigan safety in recent memory with a frame comparable to Clark. What Clark lacks in recruiting hype and the athleticism that saw Shazor become a five star he will hopefully make up for by not being a complete nutcase who gave up more long touchdowns than anyone during Michigan's long search for halfway competent safety play. Shazor started out of necessity, blew it time and again,—he's still looking for Deandra Cobb—checked out entirely after murdering Dorien Bryant to save that one Purdue game, and went from a projected second rounder to out of football in a month or two.
If anything, this is being harsh to Clark. If he starts for as long as Shazor does he'll be a much better player.
Guru Reliability: Low. Kentucky is not heavily scouted and Clark was a virtual nobody until his commitment, when the sites shrugged and gave him the Default Three Stars We Give Almost All Random Michigan Sleeper Commits.
Variance: Large, large, large. A junior year injury, the growth spurt, the uncertainty about speed and the obscure location.
Ceiling: High. 6'4" safeties who can go are rarities.
General Excitement Level: Give it a B+. Clark's profile does fit that of a plausible sleeper, and his size will be a major asset if he works out. The link above in which Tom talks to Clark's father gives the impression that he comes from a high-quality environment, as does his refusal to consider anyone other than M even when he was on a grayshirt, and he should come close to maxing out that talent. I like Clark's profile more than most of Michigan's three-stars this year; he's not quite Sleeper of the Year but I give him a good shot at being a contributor.
Projection: Obvious redshirt with 4-6 guys likely in front of him this fall including classmate Jarrod Wilson, an early enrollee. After that he looks like a free safety all the way, hopefully one with sufficient instincts and straight-line speed to bring that frame into play. That means another year cooling his heels behind Thomas Gordon before being in serious contention for a job.
I kind of think he gets one, though. Wilson will provide stiff competition but may do so at strong safety after bulking up. Clark's never going to be the guy you want charging down into the box to Kovacs people and brings a skillset to free safety that could be tough to match.