"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
2013 recruiting profiles
Previously: CB Reon Dawson, CB Channing Stribling, S Delano Hill, S Dymonte Thomas, CB Ross Douglas, CB Jourdan Lewis, LB Ben Gedeon, LB Mike McCray, DE Taco Charlton, DT Maurice Hurst Jr., DT Henry Poggi, OL Patrick Kugler.
|Detroit, MI – 6'4", 285|
4*, #144 overall
4*, #165 overall
4*, #91 overall
4*, #65 overall
OSU, Bama, Florida, FSU, USC, MSU
|YMRMFSPA||Chris McDonald (MSU)|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post. Hello post the second. Ace scouts Cass versus OLSM and Renaissance. Oh and Brother Rice. Ace interviews Dawson at SMSB.|
|Notes||Cass Tech (all people ever). Twitter.|
Spent his junior year in Houston, which is why this doesn't look like Cass:
David Dawson's soap opera recruitment was explosive and momentarily depressing but worked out for the best in the end. An early Michigan commit, Dawson had other coaches in his ear and gave into their pitchfork whispers, taking a visit to Florida that the Michigan coaches were blindsided by. They yanked his scholarship offer, Florida seemed not to have room for him—or he just didn't like it much and wanted to stay close to home—and a reeling Dawson started saying unwise things on twitter and putting Ohio State and Michigan State at the top of his list. The jilt was on.
Meanwhile all of this was happening in the immediate aftermath of the tragic death of Dawson's father, a Department of Transportation employee who was struck and killed by a motorist as he attempted to help a guy pulled over to the side of the road. If any recruit has ever deserved a vision quest, it's Dawson.
Dawson's emotions were on his sleeve on Twitter, and eventually they moved away from jilted to regretful. His heart was still in Ann Arbor. So he did a thing. He sucked it up, talked to the coaches, and got them to offer once more. Hatchet buried, Dawson took a moment for dignity and committed shortly after. And they lived happily ever after.
What the last six months have been like for him: It has been crazy. I'm glad it's over. I'm not going to miss this. I'm thankful for the coaches that talked to me, but I'm so happy with Michigan.
If you talked shit to Dawson on twitter, learn.
This is good because Dawson is really good. You can see by the rankings about that the sites have him in the top handful of guards in the country, and since he was a Cass kid those rankings are backed by camp after camp after camp. He was excellent at all of these. I was checking out some 1-on-1s for the Taco Charlton post and stumbled onto a few Dawson reps mixed in. At this point I've seen a fair share of those things and as you might imagine, that's a drill heavily slanted towards the defense. So when Dawson stoned—like, stood up and slow-danced with—OSU commit Billy Price, my interest was piqued.
But don't take my word for it. Take everyone's. Steve Wiltfong($) caught him at SMSB last year, when the main event was Dawson versus touted CA DE Joe Mathis:
David Dawson is one mean cuss. The Michigan commit violently took it to sought after defensive lineman Joe Mathis in two easily won matches of tire tug-a-war. In 1-on-1s, he was a bully of an offensive lineman, going back and forth with Mathis and dominating nearly everyone else he faced. He delivers a good punch and has a great base. Has really reshaped his body from the season and is down 25 pounds to 280. You could tell the nation’s No. 9 offensive guard is not carrying much extra weight on his 6-foot-5 frame.
One mean cuss! If only this had been said about Chris Fox we would be in business, man. I might call Fox "The Fantastic Mr. Fox" anyway. Someone call him a mean cuss.
This was far from an isolated evaluation. Both ESPN and 247 named him the top overall performer at the Columbus NFTC camp (the one that happened mere days after his father passed). 247:
1. David Dawson, OL, Detroit (Mich.) Cass Tech. A player with good length, Dawson showed good athleticism as an edge protector in one-on-ones but really separated himself with his finisher’s mentality. Dawson really fought to win his reps in one-on-ones and many of those reps he won with authority.
The nation's No. 1 offensive guard dominated during one-on-ones, earning MVP honors. Quite possibly there has not been a lineman this year that showcased the power and quickness Dawson did with his initial punch. The future Wolverine is ahead of his years, demonstrating nearly flawless technique in his pass-protection setting.
Various other reviews talk about Dawson in terms that would be uncomplimentary if we were not talking about a football player. 247's Clint Brewster:
Dawson is a bully. Dawson is tough as nails and wont shy away from anyone. He has a great base and an extremely strong core. His technique is nearly flawless and he does a great job with hand-placement and just simply overpowering his opponent.
Tim Sullivan noted he'd move up after leaving a "trail of destruction($)" in multiple camps:
Dawson looks thin at 6-5, 305 pounds - almost like a linebacker - and if that weight is accurate, he has the frame to play at well over 320 pounds in college without sacrificing any of his athleticism. … nearly-dominant in one-on-one drills, pancaking defensive linemen on occasion (something that's not all that common in these drills), and only losing a couple reps, both when he was wrong-footed by a speed rush.
You get the idea. A mean cuss with dominating strength. Probably. ESPN's evaluation is kind of meh for a guy who they rate the #2 guard in the country—a symptom of their fire and forget evaluation style, perhaps:
… very good size, looks to have a thick lower body and the room to potentially add some more good mass… displays the tools to be a productive run and pass blocker. In the run game, he does a very good job with hand placement and will work to reroute his hands when he can't initially gain positioning. He maintains a good base and can generate good leg drive to create push. … playing with his hand down more in the run game could help him to regulate his pad level better. He displays good pull/trap ability and is able to stay under control, locate and get a hat on active second level targets. … doesn't wow you in any particular way, but he is a big kid with the tools to be a good, well-rounded and productive college lineman.
I'm just excising all the stuff about playing lower from now on, as we can agree that there has never been an OL or DL evaluation that does not mention pad level.
Dawson's abilities extended to actual football in pads last fall. Since Dawson was a Cass guy and not Delano Hill (ie, committed to Iowa during the season), Ace had multiple opportunities to check him out. Ace, like everyone else, was a fan. Dawson versus Orchard Lake St. Mary's:
OL David Dawson (2013 commit): Dawson has reached the point where I almost assume that he'll dominate. While the Cass Tech line as a whole struggled, Dawson was a bright spot, getting huge push in the run game and holding up well on the edge in pass protection. His mean streak was once again on full display as he consistently played to—and through—the whistle, and it was obvious that OLSM defenders were frustrated going up against him.
… repeatedly paved the way for big run and physically dominated the man across from him. Dawson has outstanding technique, getting his hands right into the defender and knocking him off the ball. He's also one of the quickest linemen I've seen off the snap; at times, it looked like he was false-starting, but it was just a really good jump. On nearly every play he was the first lineman on either side to get off the snap and set.
… stellar at left tackle, as usual, paving the way for a big day on the ground and keeping QB Jayru Campbell upright in pass protection. … Cass Tech actually pulled Dawson on several run plays—linebackers had little hope of shedding his blocks and often found themselves being escorted several yards downfield. Dawson's reputation of playing to—and through—the whistle is well-earned.
If we can't call him The Fantastic Mr. Fox we might go with David "To And Through" Dawson. Sonny, you don't know about mean cusses these days. Let me tell you about Ol' To And Through. Must have been dickety-six or dickety-seven when he staved a cow's face in on the field. You see, the 'hioans were so desp'rate to prevent their tackles from being flung into the stands like so many Joe Bauserman passes that they press-ganged any livestock they came across, hopin' Ol' To And Through wouldn't stave their faces in. No such luck. Cartilage everywhere. That's why 'hio State changed their nickname to the Bleeding Sobbing Noseless Cows. True story. Fetch me my robot arms, boy.
Dawson did have some technical issues, but ones he worked through. When Mike Farrell caught him at the Rivals Five Star Challenge last year he noted that Dawson tended to dominate reps or get blown through:
Dawson showed a great punch off the snap, and when he got his hands on opponents, he dominated them. However, when his first punch wasn't effective, defensive linemen went past him with ease. With Dawson, it was either win or lose within the first few seconds of each rep.
A couple weeks later at the Opening, Dawson had corrected that:
Dawson has become more patient in two short weeks…. showed the ability to get out, move his feet, keep his arms extended and not rely on a big punch off the snap. This allowed him to effectively ride defenders outside the target area and let him use his long arms much more effectively.
Tim Sullivan also noted that sometimes Dawson's aggressiveness was a detriment:
Dawson has a nasty attitude, and wants to see the player across from him humiliated by the time the whistle blows. Unfortunately, his aggressiveness gets the better of him sometimes, and he'll lunge for the defender instead of locking on and driving. It's effective at the high school level, but he won't be dominant in college without better technique.
That stuff will get hammered out, as Dawson seems to be a coachable guy. You've got the quick-turnaround development story just above and another couple notes about Dawson picking things up quickly as he moved around in various camp environments and across various OL positions. Another Five-Star note:
Though pass protection on the interior is completely different than at tackle he made a seamless transition. He has a strong base and used his lower body strength to hold the big noseguards at bay. Dawson should prove to be invaluable in Ann Arbor because of his versatility and willingness to play wherever he is needed.
And this from the UA game:
…impressed in a very important way Tuesday. It's one thing to have the physical talent the 6-foot-4, 290-pounder possess, but he very much impressed from a cerebral standpoint. Dawson knew assignments, and received praise for that from the coaching staff in a setting in which many linemen look lost on day one and two.
While we are lacking the rapturous quote from the coach about how this guy should be raffled off to the most eligible debutantes in a three-state radius, evident coachability is at least a nod in that direction.
Why Chris McDonald? I had to give up on a reasonable Michigan comparison here. There hasn't been a Michigan guard this century that seems even a little like Dawson except Baas, who I just used for Kugler, and Hutchinson, who I used for Kalis last year. I mean: Heinige, Moosman, Lentz, Kraus, Omameh, Mitchell… none of these folks really evoke mean-cuss run-oriented guard.
So, McDonald. Dawson has higher upside than McDonald, who topped out as an honorable All Big Ten, undrafted FA type, but in terms of how they might play it's a decent fit. TFY Draft's scouting report on McDonald:
Positive: Athletically limited offensive lineman who gets the most from his ability. Strong, stays square, and controls defenders at the point of attack. Keeps his head on a swivel, shows good awareness, and works well with linemates. Keeps the defender in front of him and jolts opponents with good hand punch.
Negative: Gets tall, which robs him of leverage. Stiff and ineffective blocking in motion.
Dawson has more athleticism than a guy ranked in the teens in Michigan his recruiting year; other than that, seems accurate. McDonald was a good pass protector for a guard—one sack allowed in his final two years—and was pretty much the only consistent player on MSU's line the last couple years, earning a reputation as a hard-nosed drive blocker first and foremost.
I did think about re-using the two stars above, particularly Hutch, but I like to keep the bazooka in the holster as much as possible.
Guru Reliability: Exacting. Consensus, high profile, camps, All Star game.
Variance: Low-plus. I never give OL a "low." Other than that, Dawson is already an advanced technician, comes with a mean streak attached, and doesn't have to add too much weight or reshape his body much.
Ceiling: High. Maybe lacks perfect NFL size. Maybe. He's a guard and it seems like you can't give a guard "vast" for a similar reason you can't give it to a middle linebacker. But I mean. You guys.
General Excitement Level: Very high. He has all the things you want. Usually I look owlishly at guys who waver all over the place, but I mean… if you don't have your decisions go a little wonky when you're 17 and your dad dies, you are a robot.
Projection: Is OL, redshirt.
After that he will probably have to push past an established starter if he wants to see playing time. He's rooting for Ben Braden to win the left guard job, as Braden will move outside next year. If it's Glasgow he's got a tougher road to hoe.
Either way it' going to be a knock-down, drag-out fight with Kyle Kalis presumably on track to being a four-year starter, Kyle Bosch equally touted and already on campus, Chris Bryant still being huge, Blake Bars existing, and Glasgow being just as large and possibly more experienced than anyone. Oh and Mason Cole is coming in behind this madness with plenty of recruiting credentials to his name.
I have no idea who wins that melee. I do know that whoever does is going to kick ass. Gun to my head, I cower, void my bowels, and accept my fate. And bet on Dawson. Or Bosch. Please don't put a gun to my head about this.
Previously: CB Reon Dawson, CB Channing Stribling, S Delano Hill, S Dymonte Thomas, CB Ross Douglas, CB Jourdan Lewis, LB Ben Gedeon, LB Mike McCray, DE Taco Charlton, DT Maurice Hurst Jr., DT Henry Poggi.
|Wexford, PA – 6'4", 280|
5*, #27 overall
4*, #82 overall
4*, #101 overall
4*, #97 overall
Notre Dame, Florida, FSU, Miami, PSU, Stanford, MSU
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace.|
|Notes||Father was Steelers' OL coach, now HC at UTEP. You guys.|
Junior highlights (he is the left tackle or a DT):
Offensive linemen are notoriously the hardest players to project. Enormous long-armed bodies might not be able to "bend" and end up at Western Michigan. 240-pound tight ends might balloon into the top pick in the NFL draft despite playing at Central Michigan. Relying on sleepers and development has been good enough to send Wisconsin to the last three Rose Bowls. Etc. There is no such thing as a sure thing on the offensive line.
But if there is, Patrick Kugler is it. Let us describe the ways:
- SIZE: at 6'4", 280-ish as a freshman Kugler will easily approach the 300-pound range that NFL centers usually are.
- PEDIGREE: his dad was the frigging Steelers' OL coach, and he was so good at that UTEP hired him to be their head coach. His older brother plays center at Purdue.
- TOUGHNESS: played through a torn labrum to participate in a high school all-star game.
- TECHNIQUE: no doubt because of his pedigree, folks say he was "easily the most technically sound offensive lineman" at said high school all star game in which he played despite having a torn labrum.
I mean. Seriously. You guys($).
Sam Webb: … if you’re a scout in the stands, and you’re watching Patrick Kugler on the field, what do you see?
Patrick Kugler: “I would just say mean. I mean, people who I go against don’t like me very much. I try to be the meanest guy out there. My dad taught me that. Just, if anything, be mean. I just try to be mean all the time, and if you’re pounding them into the ground, they just don’t want to get back up. That’s my goal.”
Sam Webb: Have you ever been on the field against someone and done something to them, and said ‘oh man, I feel bad about that’.
Patrick Kugler: “One time. This guy, he kicked me the play before, and I just grabbed him by the face mask and ripped it off, but I mean, I felt bad about that afterwards, but at the time it seemed like the right thing to do.”
You guys. His dad's advice:
Asked what words of wisdom his father has shared with him, Pat said: "Be nasty. Don't let up until you hear the whistle."
Pat paused and added more sage advice he's picked up having spent his whole life around football:
"Maybe give 'em a little after the whistle. Kill 'em, basically."
When he committed to Michigan and word came out that he was going to play center that made so much sense to me, and then as this season developed with its missed blocking assignment fiesta I craved the presence of Kugler on campus as quickly as possible.
I'm weird. I love David Molk almost as much as anyone to come through this program not named Denard. I'm weird, but I'm not wrong. In the NFL, centers who can do all the things that make your offense work with their brains are a fungible commodity. In college, they are a treasure. See also: Michigan's with-and-without-Molk YPCs in the Denard era. I'm not wrong. It is only barely hyperbole to call Patrick Kugler the most important recruit in this class.
As you might expect from the son of an offensive line coach, Kugler is an advanced technician and nasty dude. Virtually every scouting report will start off praising his technique and IQ. A sampler:
- Bob Lichtenfels, Scout: "Kugler is a technician and he is nasty. He finishes his blocks and always plays to the whistle. He has great feet and gets to the second level as well as anyone. Very dominant at the point of attack. … very cerebral and is rarely in bad position. Very good knee bend and deceptively athletic."
- Allen Trieu, Scout: "great feet and gets into the second level very well. He's a technician and a smart player … bigger and more athletic than most center prospects. You essentially have a kid that could easily play tackle or guard for most schools at center. That is also a position where smarts and knowledge of the game come into play and this kid certainly has it."
- An opposing coach: “He looks like an NFL guy playing with middle-school kids … You know he's a coach's kid. You can just tell. He's got great technique. He gets off the ball so hard. He does not look like he should run as fast as he does. You see kids that big and they're slow and gawky. But he's got great, great feet. I think he's in a class by himself. He stands alone.”
- Anonymous Rivals evaluator: "comes off the ball strong with good blocking angles and shows very little hesitation before impact on the defender. He does a good job of lowering his 6-5 frame to get under the smaller high school opponents he faces. … shows that he likes to put defenders into the turf with violence."
Kugler is not only the son of an O-line coach, but also one tough dude. … not unreasonable to think he can't easily fill out into a 300-pound interior lineman. He is a physical and tenacious run blocker. He does need to watch his pad level at times, but is able to play with good leverage. He does a good job of getting placement with his hands and being able to control defenders. He can deliver a good initial pop, but looks to have much better drive once he is into a defender rather than initial explosion on contact. He is able to create and maintain push with sustained leg drive and looks to bury the defender every play. He displays a good understanding of combo blocks and good pull/trap ability. He moves well in space and can get a hat on active second level defenders. … mixes good ability and heady play with a tenacious style to get the job done.
A lot of these scouting evaluations expect these high school kids to be NFL-level players based on junior high school film, and that's never more true than it is for OL. That's a highly positive evaluation with some minor, obvious issues—"does need to watch his pad level at times" is something you could put in every OL evaluation ever without raising an eyebrow.
Meanwhile, Scout's profile has our favorite Area For Improvement:
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT
Kugler plays both sides of the ball for North Allegheny. He has excellent quickness and feet. He has good flexibility and change of direction which is displayed when playing defensive tackle. Kugler has the athleticism and reach to play tackle with the mentality of an interior lineman. He gets good leverage and push on both sides of the ball. Finishes blocks and easily gets to the second level - Scott Kennedy
I assume that area for improvement is based on the idea Kugler would end up as a tackle, which some of the sites projected him to early. All eventually came around to the idea he would be an interior lineman.
Importantly for a guy projected to center, all of those evaluations emphasize Kugler's ability to get to the second level. If your center can pull—and Kugler will be able to—that opens up additional options in the run game, and if he's good at moving to the second level your inside zone game ramps up its effectiveness. It's a key attribute for a center, and not necessarily one I've seen mentioned much in evaluations of offensive linemen.
"Intensity" is another word that comes up frequently. Tim Sullivan:
Kugler showed outstanding stamina, athleticism and effort while playing both ways, just about the entire night for North Allegheny…. In the second half, Kugler played like a man possessed. His intensity greatly improved and he showed his leadership skills while pushing his teammates to put the game away. He was displayed very good technique and footwork while pass blocking and he showed a very good burst when he was run blocking. Although he is most comfortable when pass blocking, he gets to the second level extremely quickly and looks like he will develop into an excellent run blocker.
“Once the game starts, he changes to a different level of intensity,” Walker said of Kugler. “One of the reasons why he was so focused on schools in the B1G is that he loves to run block. He’s a physical kid, and he wants to put people in the ground. He’s a very aggressive blocker.”
A Brady Hoke kind of guy.
As mentioned, Kugler drew heaps of praise at the UnderArmor game, where he was the headiest, most advanced OL there:
…easily the most technically sound offensive lineman in attendance. He adapted well to different pass-rushing moves used against him, knew where to place his hands, and listening to him talk to other offensive linemen and the coaches nearby, his high football IQ was apparent.
He quickly adapted to both interior OL positions, earning a start at guard while simultaneously being named the best center around.
Patrick Kugler, Wexford (Pa.) North Allegheny
The Michigan commitment has manned the toughest position on the line in the all-star setting better than anyone else. Taking into consideration that it’s fast paced, with new install, very little time for connectivity among a line and in a setting that most certainly favors defensive linemen, the 6-foot-4, 275-pounder has been reactive, fundamentally sound and shown excellent lateral quickness.
I mean. You guys.
David Dawson- Dawson and Patrick Kugler might be the two best lineman overall on the white squad. … Patrick Kugler- Kugler was as good as advertised in the first day of practices. Kugler won the majority of his one on one reps and did a good job in the team periods. Kugler had outstanding technique and showed very good lateral quickness. Kugler had a mean streak and was able to move opposing defensive tackles in the run game.
Based on that performance and Kugler's all-around profile, 247 would name him (and David Dawson) to their All-America team, calling him the nation's top center.
Kugler is another opposite-of-character-issue guy what with his dad. (A pattern emerges.) His prep coach confirms:
“He’s a young man that loves the game,” Walker said of Kugler. “He loves to compete. He does a good job of getting himself prepared and taking on leadership responsibilities. He does all the little things off the field to prepare. He’s a student-athlete all the time. He does what he has to do in the classroom, and carries himself well. He’s a good kid to be around, he has the right kind of focus and he’s not taking anything for granted.”
I mean, Kugler told various sites he actively hopes to redshirt, something I have never ever seen. He backed off a hard stance either way a bit later, but the desire is clear:
"I have no idea if they want me to play next year, or not," Kugler stressed. "Personally, I'd love to redshirt and get that fifth year of education, but if the coaches need me to play that would be great. I'm a team guy first, so whatever they need from me is what I'll do."
Kugler further stated he hasn't even looked at the depth chart because "Michigan was the school I fell in love with, so that never mattered to me." As of January he was at 285, with a goal of arriving in the 295-300 range. (Area For Improvement: check.) He was also scheduled for surgery on his labrum. That must have slowed down his workouts, but with a four-month recovery timeline by the time he arrives on campus he will be full-go.
That depth chart is ripe with opportunity, with only Jack Miller and a couple of walk-ons currently competing at center. With the labrum injury and Glasgow showing he can be good depth for the interior spots, a redshirt is still in the cards. After that, it's going to be a war on the interior.
"I saw it in his face," Patsy said. "As a mom, you know your kid so well, and I could just see his face light up with emotion. I could see it starting to happen."
“I can't grow facial hair,” Kugler said with great disappointment. “It's bad. I've been growing it a month, and it's barely noticeable.”
People might be surprised to know that ...? Me and my brother used to play ping-pong the morning before every game. It would be intense ping-pong. We would wake up in the morning and play before school on game days. I don't know why, but we would play at 6:30 or 7 in the morning.
Kugler popped up in a "Spartan Sizzling Seven" at the start of last year's cycle as one of the most likely players to end up at State. That list: Riley Norman (MSU, but for track and field), Jon Reschke (check), Kyle Bosch, Steven Elmer, Patrick Kugler, Ethan Pocic, and Greg Webb. One of seven is… well, it ain't good. Kugler in particular twisted the knife, visiting State a half-dozen times, then hitting Michigan once and abruptly ending his recruitment a day before he was scheduled to go to East Lansing again.
Why David Baas? High school tackle at 6'4" who moved to the inside, starting at guard before moving to center, where he was an Outland finalist, Rimington winner, All-American, and second-round draft pick. Topped out at 310 pounds, which is well within Kugler's range, and was a highly-regarded recruit who hit some high school All-American lists.
Guru Reliability: A shade less than exacting. Healthy, high profile player, All Star game, consensus. They are projecting a position move.
Variance: Low-plus. Only the facts that this is an offensive lineman and that there is a slight position adjustment—albeit one almost every interior lineman makes—hold this down from plain ol' low.
Ceiling: High. It is tough for centers to work their way into the first round of the NFL draft because they're just less rare than 6'8" guys just as agile. He could be a Rimington contender, though.
General Excitement Level: Very high. You guys.
Projection: Nonzero chance he emerges into a starting job in year one. Likely? No. Would I even regard that as a bad sign? Well… yeah probably. But not as much of one as you might think. It would be lovely if they could get a redshirt on Kugler and have Miller in front of him for two more years and get a couple of upperclass years from an eminently prepared guy.
If that does happen, Miller is going to be pretty good. If Miller does stay in front of Kugler, Kugler will likely compete at the guard spot opposite Kalis as a redshirt freshman. That will either be vacant (if Ben Braden wins the job and moves to tackle) or held by Graham Glasgow.
That I can't project this guy to definitely start until he's a redshirt junior says something about the burgeoning depth on the offensive line. Some of these guys will wash out from injury or lack of ability; this is inevitable. But the guys who do work out are going to be high four-star potential sorts who have lived up to it, and the competition to emerge is going to be brutal. That's how you build a kick-ass line.
|Baltimore, MD – 6'4" 270|
4*, #143 overall
4*, #70 overall
4*, #255 overall
4*, #120 overall
Alabama, Ohio State, PSU, Stanford, Notre Dame, Auburn, MSU, A&M
|YMRMFSPA||Will Johnson or Ryan Van Bergen|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace.|
|Notes||Twitter. Dad is his coach at Gilman.|
UA game performance:
Yes, yes, it's yet another four star recruit from a high powered program with extracurricular reasons to expect he'll be a success who picked Michigan over another power program. This is Michigan, fergodsakes.
In Henry Poggi's case, the high school is Baltimore private school Gilman, a powerhouse that sent two other prospects to BCS schools last year (QB Shane Cockerville went to Maryland, LB Micah Kiser to Virginia), four the year before, two the year before that, etc. etc. The extracurricular reasons are dual: 1) his father is the head coach at Gilman, and 2) he really likes the Big Lebowski. The power program bested was Alabama, which liked him enough to take a run at him right before Signing Day.
As you might expect from a coach's son, Poggi popped up early as a technically and physically advanced player. As a junior, various folks projected him to be a top, top player. Rivals had several different reports on him then. An example:
Poggi will be one of the top interior linemen in the country next season. He has size (6-4, 255) and quickness to go along with terrific athleticism, solid speed and soft hands (he made two nice grabs on Saturday). …more than held his own down in the trenches and was very effective in run support.
Other evaluations follow in the same vein, with a focus on technique, physicality, and effort. IE, Poggi has all those coaches' kid qualities you'd expect. Foremost is stamina. A two-way starter for Gilman the last two years, Poggi impressed with his fortitude:
What's most impressive about Poggi, however, is his ability to maintain his fundamentals and play through the whistle for all 48 minutes. He starts both ways for Gilman but has the stamina and desire to scrap like his job depends on it. Physically, Poggi keeps his pads low and uses his legs to generate power. He has a stiff, dead-arm punch and impeccable strength, which allows him to overwhelm inside tackles at times.
"Henry was awesome," he said. "He started both ways at tight end and defensive tackle. I don't know how he played as hard as he did. He was really impressive and did a really great job in the playoffs. He played every play running around and was exhausted by the end of the game, it's a tribute to his character, his motor is ridiculous."
"He has ten sacks from his three technique position as a junior," Russell added. "He plays with incredible passion and has a non-stop motor."
. JC Shurburtt:
“There’s defensive tackles across the country that either have a lot of heart or a lot of talent. Henry’s got both,” Shurburtt said. “[He is] the complete package of what you look for in a defensive tackle.
“He’s definitely an inside guy. That’s what gives him plus athleticism.”
Scout's Brian Dohn said Poggi has a chance to be "a star grunt" in a scouting report, which makes sense despite being paradoxical. Overall the picture painted is of a guy right up Brady Hoke's alley:
What to like
In watching Poggi in person and watching lots of junior tape, a few things jump out. Mainly, he is physical. He is also physical, and when he is not playing physical, he is playing physical.
Poggi is engaged on every play, loves the contact and has the strength to make an impact on every play.
He lines up in the middle of the defensive line, and is a disruption no matter how opponents try to block him. Poggi is always moving, always looking for the ball and plays violently (in a good way). He has the body type, strength and mentality to be a classic nose guard who can handle getting hit from all angles and still be a factor because of very good balance. …
What needs works
…time and again Poggi has to rely on his strength and there are few times he gets off the line of scrimmage and gets into the backfield untouched. That is all about staying lower and maximizing his burst.
Dohn actually hits that note about playing him at the nose more than once, but it seem doubtful he'll end up the requisite size, about which more later.
Poggi was not one of the huge standouts at the UA game but did impress 247:
5. Henry Poggi, DT, Baltimore (Md.) Gillman
The 6-foot-3, 260-pound Michigan commitment lined up over the ball on Tuesday, and proved to be too quick and technically sound to be blocked one-on-one. Poggi not only flashed a quick first step, but also got small and used his hands to near perfection quickly dismissing would be blocking centers.
On the other hand, ESPN has a lot of hemming and hawing:
. … flashes a good initial burst, but is inconsistent and can be a beat slow. He does need to watch his pad level, but displays the ability to fire off the ball low and gain leverage. He is a hard-nosed player who can make good contact and be tough at the point of attack. He is active with his hands, but needs to do a better job of consistently separating from blockers. … He is a physical and high-effort player who works to get around the ball. As a pass rusher, he comes upfield hard. He will try to attack half-a-man and displays the ability to be violent with his hands. He gives effort and will make opponents work to block him, but can be a bit out of control at times. He is adequately able to quickly and tightly bend back in towards the quarterback.
They like his potential, overall but think he's more of an effort guy than a big timer, and that's reflected in their rankings for him.
There's some debate about Poggi's frame. 6'4" and heading towards 300 pounds seems pretty good to me, but ESPN's relative skepticism is largely based on a lack of upside because they perceive him as a tweener:
He possesses good height, but is a bit of a 'tweener size-wise as a defensive lineman. … While Poggi looks to carry his weight well, he may be somewhat limited in the good size he can add, making him an undersized D-tackle or more of a swing player if he stays on defense at the next level. Poggi is a tough and smart player. While he may have some limitations, he is a good football player who can help a team and be a good productive player if he can find the right position fit.
Their evaluation in fact mentions four different spots—DT, OC, FB, TE—as possibilities. A quadruple tween. A 247 evaluation from Poggi's UA game appearance has a similar concern:
The 6-foot-3, 260-pound Poggi has lineup over the ball in one-on-ones, and been very tough to block due to a quick first step, active and quick hands, a strong initial punch and the awareness to get small. While all of that ability is not in question with Poggi, his ability to carry the desired weight remains in play. While he can certainly carry 20-25 more pounds on his frame, there is a question of if he can carry the ideal weight to play over the ball at the next level.
This is a bit of a different take than early evaluations had. For instance:
At 6-4, 255, Poggi has a great frame; he's a tall, thick defender with a wide base, stout legs and broad shoulders. He plays with a low pad level, which makes him difficult to move off the ball. He also has tremendous upper- and lower-body strength, allowing him to collapse the pocket and toss offensive linemen around like a dog with a chew toy.
At 6-4, 255, he has a powerful base, long arms, broad shoulders and ideal height. … If Poggi continues to add power and build his body he'll be one of the top D-tackle recruits coming out next season.
To me that signals a guy who started being a college player early and may be closer to his physical peak than most others in his class. Think Marvin Robinson. When you're Jabrill Peppers this is just fine. When you're 270 and you already have a neck wider than your head…
…I get the concern.
So Poggi is likely to end up a three-tech, which is part of the reason I projected Hurst to nose tackle. Yeah, I am also tantalized by potentially sticking Hurst at the three but in the context of the roster it makes more sense for Poggi to end up there. FWIW, Poggi told the Baltimore Sun that Michigan would start him off at the five and move him inside when he put on enough weight, causing JC Shurburtt to shake his head:
"Maybe I’m wrong, but I just don’t think long term that [playing DE is] realistic if he wants to play beyond college and be very good,” Shurburtt said. “If he were a 3-4 defensive end we were talking about, I think he’d be in business. But I think 4-3, that’s a stretch.”
To me, those spots are near interchangeable and there's no reason to get in a huff about who's playing where at either of them, but that is a useful take on how Poggi can be an effective college player.
There is also a backup plan. Though all the sites rated Poggi as a defensive tackle, a number of evaluations paused to praise his potential as a blocking tight end. Tim Sullivan:
… Poggi showed a tenacity and quickness in his blocking that truly impressed. He wasn't perfect in the blocking game, but was very good. In fact, he could probably add weight and play guard if that's what a team needed of him (and that's where some schools, including Alabama, were recruiting him).
Offensively, … where he really excelled is as a run blocker. Poggi did a great job stalemating his man at the point of attack before driving him off the ball. He showed the ability to chip, gain leverage and readjust to quick edge rushers. Right now, the only question is how much bulk he can pack onto his frame and what position he'll fit best at.
ESPN flat out suggests he'll be better on offense:
… overall skill set may be better suited as a blocking tight end and we wouldn't be surprised if he landed on offense at the next level at some point.
Michigan didn't bring in an AJ Williams type in Poggi's class and they won't in the next one; there is a large window for a second 270-280 pound face-masher on the roster, especially if Wyatt Shallman ends up moving to defense at some point.
Etc.: Has Michigan pajamas. Second team AA according to 247. First team to USA Today. 31 TFLs and 16.5 sacks as a senior. Has a brother at Iowa. Here's a big long profile on the family. USA Today interview.
Why Will Johnson or Ryan Van Bergen? Tough to choose between the two as far as how he'll end up, so let's go with both.
Will Johnson was listed at 6'4", 285 pounds by Rivals when he was a recruit and 6'5", 285 pounds by Michigan when he was a senior. While Poggi figures to add some weight from his listed 260-270, he probably won't exceed 285 by much.
Meanwhile, Johnson was a solid player as an upperclassman who was mostly a stubborn run defender. He had good technique, but his mgoblog career summary is basically this:
Johnson did okay against a wide array of double teams but not great.
Johnson was a low four star recruit to the contemporary services as well.
Ryan Van Bergen is another good comparable in size and recruiting ranking. He is the upside here as a tireless worker with some pass rush ability and fantastic balance. Poggi's endurance and high-effort playstyle are right out of the RVB playbook. Also, Poggi's hair is a virtual replica.
Guru Reliability: Moderate. Conflict between early evals and late, few camps, but high profile school and UA appearance.
Variance: Low. Good, not great size, advanced for his age, doesn't seem to have huge upside.
Ceiling: Moderate. If you ask me I'd invert Hurst and Poggi's average rating. Disclaimer: I'm just this guy on the internet. Poggi should be a contributor, but right after watching Hurst's film my main takeaway was that Poggi lacked that dynamite first step.
General Excitement Level: Moderate. Poggi should be a solid contributor for a while.
Projection: Redshirt unless he comes in at 285 or something, which doesn't seem likely. After that will attempt to break into the three- or five-tech two-deep, with the former more likely. Three tech is actually pretty open depending on who slots where: other than Poggi it's Wormley and guys who may or may not play there: Matt Godin, Willie Henry, Maurice Hurst.
Poggi is likely to be a rotation three-tech at some point, but it's hard to predict when with the uncertainty at the spot. Ideally it wouldn't be in year two. It may be. Eventually starting may be in the cards depending on how well his compatriots work out—call it 50/50.
If Poggi doesn't end up in the two-deep at three-tech he's got a second shot as a blocking TE.
|Canton, MA – 6'2", 295|
4*, #139 overall
3*, #32 DT, #2 MA
3*, 77 rating
4*, #190 overall
OSU, Nebraska, MSU, UVA, UNC, Vandy, Rutgers
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace.|
|Notes||Son of longtime NFLer Maurice Hurst. Twitter.|
Techno remix senior highlights:
Also here's a lot of stuff from the Semper Fi game:
Junior highlights come highly recommended since they include a lot of Hurst being a terrifying/hilarious running back. Stay for the first TD run at 30 seconds.
I am trying to keep things reasonable around these parts, but I watched Maurice Hurst's highlight reel and now I'm impressed. You know those defensive line drills where you start out in a stance and then burst upwards into a fake opponent's chest? Maurice Hurst is going to be awesome at that. Also now I'm just going to grab that run and put it right here because it is delightful:
His coach on that:
"For a kid who's that big, to make that kind of athletic move, and to run as quickly as he did, was OK," Stevenson said.
It was actually that run that put Hurst on a lot of maps, including Michigan's.
“We tell all the college coaches he’s a defensive lineman and that’s what they’re recruiting him as, then all these defensive coordinators, this guy from Michigan, Billy McGovern from BC, they come in and sit down and they go, ‘Oh ya, that 75-yard touchdown was unbelievable.’
“Billy McGovern says he ran it back and asked all the guys in the room, ‘Do we have anyone who can do that?’ They go, ‘No.’ Well OK, we’re offering him.’’
Michigan fired out an offer to him as well and that was about that. Hurst is a high-academic kid who had an OSU offer but was looking for something else…
"Academics are my big priority. Football ends, so I want a degree that will last a lifetime, one that is more than a piece of paper. UVa and Michigan are tremendous schools and offer prestigious degrees."
…and cut his list to Michigan and Virginia—a pattern emerges—before a visit to Ann Arbor sealed the deal last June.
Michigan has won themselves a quick first step attached to a body. That body is not enormous like Ondre Pipkins's or a single pulsating muscle like Mike Martin's. Hurst does not pass the look test… until you snap the ball.
When Hurst was a freshman, the first thing Stevenson noticed wasn’t his size, his competitiveness, or his skills. It was his first step.
“I think probably the first indication to me was my defensive coordinator Al Fornaro said, ‘You’ve got to see this guy come off the ball.’ I looked and went yay. … I would compare his first step to a kid who played for us the late ’90s, Scott Bradley. Scott had a tremendous first step and that was the thing that sold all the coaches on Scotty, that first step. The difference between the two is that Scotty was 215 pounds, Mo is 295 pounds. If you’re 295 and can do what a 215-pounder does, you’re a good football player.’’
This is the first time in the history of this series it has caught a hard-nosed gravel-eating sonsabitch high school football coach describing something as "yay."
Hurst wasn't much of a camp guy, only appearing at one area event when he was a rising junior, but he left a similar impression.
… has a nice frame that can still add weight but what really stands out about him is his quickness off the ball and his light feet. Hurst beat most of his opponents with his first step and he was able to win the leverage game most of the time as well. At times he can be too upright and present too much of a target. His footwork is excellent and he has natural balance, and he is very good at responding quickly to the initial punch of offensive linemen. He also showed a good motor.
Every evaluation continues in a similar vein. Rivals praises his "great burst first step" in their Areas of Improvement(!) for him by mentioning he needs to use it more consistently. They're just going off his highlight film but they also like his technique:
Hurst uses his hands extremely well for a young player. On each play he is seen using his hands to control his opponent, quickly dismissing a block, or maintaining leverage as he pursues the ball carrier. Good balance is critical for interior line play and Hurst shows that with impressive body control.
In other news of a similar variety:
- Coach: "He's a great athlete…. His first step off the line of scrimmage is very strong, and he's very powerful."
- An opposing coach: "We tried to run away from him but sometimes that's worse because he's so quick."
- Scout's take: "Hurst is athletic, explosive, moves his feet well, has a few nice techniques he uses to get into the backfield and runs well for a defensive lineman."
On the downside, ESPN's evaluation is heavy on words like "capable," "flashes," "adequate," and "consistently." Unlike some ESPN profiles, the drapes do match the carpet here. It sounds like a three-star eval.
…capable of being disruptive. … You would like to see more consistency but displays a good first-step that can allow him to quickly get penetration. He is at his best when he can fire out and primarily be a penetrator that disrupts schemes. Flashes the ability to be tough when taking on blockers as he can quickly fire out low and gain leverage and with solid strength hold his ground. While he does possess a quick first-step he can at times almost as quickly pop up and play tall and needs to work to consistently keep his pads down. … Hurst is capable of quickly getting off the ball and being disruptive and if he can continue to maintain that while adding size and rounding out his game he can develop into a good and productive college defensive tackle.
Despite some impressive offers, Hurst's visibility was pretty low for much of his recruitment. The competition level in Massachusetts is… uh… not high, and after that one camp before his junior year Hurst ditched the camp scene.
Hurst's relative obscurity was somewhat lifted by his appearance at the Semper Fi game. While Semper Fi is clearly #3 in the All Star pecking order it's still a major step up in competition for everybody there, let alone a guy tossing around MA kids. Hurst did well, acquiring a sack on one of his first snaps in the game itself and impressing everyone in practice. 247 Pitt analyst Bob Lichtenfels is just answering Pitt questions here and drops in a Hurst mention:
Michigan pledge Maurice Hurst Jr. was a beast.
Hurst was beasting despite having strep throat.
“He struggled between plays,” said northeast recruiting analyst Brian Dohn. “It looked like he could barely move. Once the ball snapped, he was a complete animal. His explosion is terrific. His aggressiveness and ability to get underneath lineman is tremendous. And what impressed me the most about him, was beside his physical ability, was the toughness he showed in practicing for two days when he was just sick as a dog.”
247's Barton Simmons:
Hurst is the type of player that you don’t really notice when he’s standing in the huddle but as soon as the ball is snapped, he shows up quickly. His play on Wednesday was characterized by high effort, an intensity to get to the football, and quickness to get into the backfield. The Michigan commit has been one of the better practice players this week.
247 and Scout moved them into their top lists as a solid four star; Rivals barely covered Semper Fi, apparently sending one guy to cover 100 or so players. Hurst didn't get a mention in the one article about who might be good on his team.
Michigan projects Hurst will add a ton of weight, telling his coach they think he'll end up pushing 330 pounds. That would make him a nose all the way. That'll also take a bit of time. While he's bulking up he may find some time as a three-tech. He's got the burst to be effective there and is already larger than Jibreel Black; while I expect a redshirt since Michigan seems to have a solid two deep (or more) at both spots Hurst can play, playing time could come as early as next year if he has the versatility to play two spots.
Etc.: Hurst's senior year stats were eye-popping as you might expect from a kid headed to Michigan playing against Massachusetts folk: 23 TFLs and 11 sacks. At press time, Hurst's most recent tweet is "Need food" and his location is "A BACKFIELD NEAR YOU." Instagram is something. TTB interview. Tap dancing!
Tell us something that most people do not know about you?
MH: Most people do not know that when I was younger from first grade until about fifth grade I took tap dancing and I really believe that it helped me with my foot work on the football field.
On the difficulty of his decision: "Not that difficult. After coming in, there was just that feeling, 'What if I went somewhere else?' or 'What if I committed when I thought I could go to another school?' At first I thought I was gonna commit to BC, then I thought I was gonna go to Virginia. Then Michigan came along, and I knew this was the school I wanted to go to."
"He's a great kid," Stevenson said. "He's a captain for next year. He's a good worker in the weight room, he's a good leader for his teammates as far as his work ethic, and I've never heard anything negative from his teachers. He's done some community service helping with the elderly, helping at a shelter for abused women, and at a place where they provide help to feed the poor."
Why Mike Martin? Two words: snap explosion.
Martin was a bit higher rated—consensus four star outside the top 100, IIRC—and an ever-growing slab of pulsating muscle from day one. Hurst isn't going to be quite as ripped, but he is a kid who can get off the ball in a flash, bury himself in the chest of the opponent, and then rip through the dude before he knows what's going on.
Guru Reliability: Low. Significant disparity, Massachusetts is virtually ignored, apparently did not hit a single camp, though he did show for the Semper Fi game and impress.
Variance: Moderate. Another guy with the opposite of character issues. Coming from seriously weak high school competition, which makes for hilarious highlight reels but also uncertainty.
Ceiling: High-minus. Love, love his quickness and he has adequate size. Probably not a guy with first round upside, though.
General Excitement Level: High. I know, I know, I'm just a bubbly 14-year-old girl about this recruiting class, but what can I say? Hurst is a guy who has bloodlines, can make a reasonable case he was overlooked because of his state, stature and camp avoidance, and blew up at an All Star game that caused everyone who paid attention to shoot him up in the rankings. And if you're asking me the #1 thing I want to hear about a DT "explosive first step" is it.
Projection: Ondre Pipkins had better get on his horse because Willie Henry and Hurst are coming for him.
Hurst should be a redshirt lock with a solid three-deep in front of him. In year two the three guys mentioned will have a battle royale for the starting spot Quinton Washington vacates, with the runner-up also getting a significant amount of playing time. Pipkins is still the favorite, but I would not rule out Hurst becoming a productive backup as quickly as next year. Failing that he should emerge into a rotation nose tackle as a redshirt junior, if he is not the starter.
Hurst also has the potential to compete at three-tech with his explosion, and if things are going well at nose I expect he will be moved there and be a heavy rotation feature, whether that's behind or in front of Chris Wormley. He should be getting significant snaps by year three, if not earlier.
|Pickerington, OH – 6'6" 265|
|Scout||4*, #174 overall
|Rivals||4*, #237 overall
#10 WDE, #13 OH
|ESPN||4*, #116 overall
#9 DE, #7 OH
|24/7||4*, #108 overall
#3 WDE, #6 OH
|Other Suitors||Notre Dame, Nebraska, UCLA, Iowa|
|YMRMFSPA||Will Gholston, but not a cannibal|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Ace hit up the Pick Central vs Pick North game. Hello post.|
|Notes||Early enrollee. Given first name is "Vidauntae." Twitter. Pickerington Central (Caris LeVert).|
Ace also caught a game of his:
Taco Charlton was the sixth guy to commit on that fabled Saturday last February when Ace filed a worker's comp claim because his fingers had been worn down to nubs. What an awesome day for everyone who isn't Ace. But I digress.
As a result of the timing of his commitment, Charlton may have been somewhat overshadowed by ALL THE OFFENSIVE LINEMEN. Is it just me, or was Charlton kind of an "oh and that guy is around too" kind of commit? In any case that oversight went a ways towards being corrected when Charlton, an early enrollee, was listed at a strapping 265 on the spring roster and started collecting more hype than anyone on the defense not named James Ross.
Why is obvious. I mean, here's Charlton next to Shane Morris, David Dawson, and Mike McCray after the Columbus NFTC:
on the right, obvs
There you have three highly-touted, consensus-four-star recruits and a guy who makes them look like dudes headed to EMU. No one in Michigan's class—and almost no one nationally—approaches Charlton's first-guy-off-the-bus factor. But don't take it from me:
Charlton is the type of player that you want coming off the bus first as a prospect with phenomenal length and athleticism. There may not have been a defensive end in attendance that has a better set of raw tools to work with than Charlton.
That was as a rising junior, when he was probably 20 pounds lighter than he is now.
Also here is Charlton jumping over a six-foot tackling dummy.
I know. I know that's how tall people are.
Charlton was unsurprisingly a camp fiend what with the hugeness and athleticism. A take from one of the two NTFC showings he made last summer:
… won every rep he took. Camp settings are a perfect showcase for Charlton's outstanding physical tools. Charlton showed he has the speed to beat linemen around the edge and also his the natural strength to power through the opposition.
Charlton also hit up the LA NFTC since he was in the area anyway. Scout:
Charlton set the tone on the first 1-on-1, by blowing by the tackle without being touched. He too only lost 1-on-1, and won every other. The future Michigan Wolverine is a nice long athlete who just needs to add some weight, but he's got the quickness off the edge to be a top-tier pass rusher.
ESPN was there as well, saying he "has a lighting quick step to complement his long stride, making him nearly impossible to block."
An example of the camp killer aspect from The Opening:
4. Taco Charlton – Charlton is always good in camp settings because he has elite athleticism and elite frame. Once again he looked very athletic rushing the edge and turning the corner on offensive tackles and he continues to show one of the best sets of tools in the nation at the defensive end position.
Scout's take from that weekend:
…without question one of the best athletes in this group. He looks the part, he was very fluid during the drills … showed enough to make Scout think he could end up being one of Michigan's top recruits in 2013. He is still raw and he needs to get stronger, but he is athletic, he is very quick, he has good length, and a lot of potential.
I mean, the picture above says it all. If it doesn't, take it from Duane Long, who said his "potential is unlimited" and called his physical tools "elite." Saying he has a high ceiling doesn't do it justice.
The catch is actually playing football. While the Buckeye urban legend that Charlton didn't even start for his high school team as a junior was overblown (he missed a couple series in a high profile game), he is the opposite of just-profiled Mike McCray in that regard. He's a camp standout who doesn't quite translate that potential to production, or at least didn't before his senior year.
Even with a productive senior year you can watch those highlights and the fact that the 6'6" guy stands straight up after every snap leaps out at you. ESPN mentions that and similar technique issues in their evaluation:
…possesses excellent size … not always consistent, but he has very good initial quickness. He can be a tough edge run defender, flashing the ability to keep his pads down and use his reach. When he does, he can quickly separate and shed. He is a tall kid who needs to watch his pad level, though, and be more consistent with his technique as he can stand up too much to look in the backfield and can rely too much on his athletic ability and the fact that he is much bigger and stronger than most of the people he goes up against…. changes directions well and displays good balance and body control. …has the potential to be handful as a pass rusher. … does need to learn to use his reach and hands more to his advantage, develop a pass rush arsenal and have a plan as he can attack the whole man and get caught up.
Raw. And raw. And raw.
This didn't prevent him from being an effective player even during his relatively raw phase. Helmholdt caught the state title game Charlton participated in then:
My appreciation for Charlton grows after each new evaluation. I thought he was OK at the Ohio State NIKE Camp back in May, thought he was better when I saw him on film early in the season and thought he was really solid in last weekend's Division I state title game. …was effective bull rushing offensive tackles. But Charlton also does a great job using his hands and releasing from blocks. He did not record a sack in Saturday's game, but hit the quarterback as he released the football on at least two occasions and got good pressure throughout the night.
But in that evaluation you can see hints of a guy who just wasn't doing much as a junior, something Scout just plain states in their profile for him:
Body Control and Balance
Pass Rushing Skills
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT
Great athlete with an excellent frame. He really stepped it up as a senior and made more plays. Has to add weight and strength to become a more complete player, but has the tools to be a situational pass rusher early in his career. The fact that he's still learning, still growing, and has good physical tools leads us to believe his best days are still ahead of him. - Allen Trieu
Part of that rawness is an Andrew Copp effect. Charlton spent so much time playing another sport that it may have slowed his development in his main gig. With Copp that was football; for Charlton it was basketball($):
Playing basketball nearly year-round has been one thing that's prevented Charlton from reaching his potential so far. He drops weight during the long season - one that included a state championship for Pick Central this winter - and doesn't have the time to focus on technique for the football field.
Charlton dropped basketball last fall and has added 15 pounds as a result.
So all of this sounds wonderful but wait! We have to talk about The Great Opening Hot Take Controversy. Charlton showed up at the Opening, as you saw above, and drew praise for his general Taco-ness from many people. A couple of those evaluations are linked above; I elided a couple more. Then Farrell dropped some truthiness on those evaluators by naming Charlton the worst guy there:
…looks the part, he really struggled. He has great size, long arms and he is very athletic. However, he is also very upright, only has an outside move and when coaches tried to teach him misdirection or crossover, he didn't grasp it well at all. He was beaten on almost every 1-on-1 rep he took.
This got a lot of heat from various quarters, spurring a protests-too-much defense ("simply struggled regardless of what others say") and eventually a tweet from Charlton himself showing him atop the leaderboard for 1-on-1 rep wins at said camp. Charlton would later provide some perspective on a bad day:
"Yeah well, I did real good the first two days," he said. "I actually ended up still tied with the most wins, but I was doing real good the first two days. The last day, I was sort of sick, and then a whole bunch of stuff went on and I just wasn't feeling too good. The Nike guys asked me to wait and compete later in the day, to hold off and see how I felt later. I still was feeling a little bit bad, but I chose to compete."
So there you go. The lovely thing about Mike Farrell is how he makes the kids look professional. Honest day's work, that. Anyway.
As an early enrollee we have a bit more information on Charlton yet, including those 15 pounds. Charlton is an easy guy to notice and folks around the program did, what with Mike Rothstein projecting him to contribute right away and into the the NFL. Mattison did sound a note of concern about his motor, albeit after calling him "the prototype":
Taco Charlton’s been mentioned a lot. You said he’s the prototype. What do you mean by that?
“Taco’s name comes up a lot because if you’re 6-6, 265 and should be going to your prom and you’re here practicing football at Michigan, you’re going to like that. You always want strong, tall, athletic guys. Well, he’s 6-6. He’s very strong for his age, and he was a great basketball player. Now you have to get the mental part. He’s one, for example, it’s very interesting -- he’s one of the guys that doesn’t understand that at Michigan we run to the ball hard every play. And he sometimes thinks he’s going hard, but that’s maybe hard for where he was last year, not hard for where we are in this program. And he’s getting better and better.”
I took a close look at him during an inside zone drill Michigan ran before the game-like section of the spring game:
As everyone's already said, Charlton looks the part and then some. He was struggling in a drill before the scrimmage where half the OL would play half the DL on zone running, getting blown out of his assigned lane; once he got some time against the backup OL he dominated. Unless Cam Gordon's really good, he and Ojemudia will duke it out for the nickel DE spot Ryan's injury has vacated.
During the game-like section, Charlton was neutralized by Lewan and Schofield, then obliterated a walk-on tackle to get a contact sack against a guy wearing a red jersey. Blood makes the grass grow.
Etc.: Oblig. coach rapture quote($):
"I'll never look at No. 33 the same," Laminico said. "I won't be able to do that. It'll be hard for someone else to wear that number and really fulfill it. ... There are few people that can wear that number next after he takes it off for the last time."
UPDATE: Wins this year's Carvin Johnson Award for hatred of losing.
Why Will Gholston? ESPN's evaluator actually made that comparison in their profile of him and that made a ton of sense to me. Both are enormous lanky weakside defensive ends who are not finished products. In Gholston's case that's after three years of futilely trying to get around Taylor Lewan and deciding to injure him instead; Charlton has some time yet.
Gholston was overrated as a recruit but not by a wide margin as a long-term starter and mid-round NFL draft pick, which is about Charlton's baseline as a guy just outside most top 100s. Gholston was listed at the same weight Charlton was as a recruit and eventually worked himself up to 280; Charlton is just 15 pounds away from that already and is a bit shorter, so the leverage issues you get with ends that size should be slightly less of an issue.
If you want a Michigan comp, Shawn Crable is it. Crable was a chicken-legged stick person, which Charlton isn't, and spent most of his career at linebacker, which Charlton won't. They are in the same mold of athletic knives to hurl through offensive lines.
Guru Reliability: High. Same range, same things said, lots of camps. Farrell's HOT TAKE from the AA game is disputed, though, bringing it down from exacting.
Variance: High. Charlton is probably going to be a useful player no matter what simply because of his size, but the upside makes the variance wide. Charlton could be a poor man's Gholston… or he could be Julius Peppers, another 6'6"-ish weakside end.
Ceiling: Vast. A 6'6", 265-pounds-and-counting weakside defensive end that pans out in a big way is destined for the top end of the NFL draft.
General Excitement Level: High. Ceiling is a great thing to have with this coaching staff. Lot of work ahead for Hoke and Mattison with this guy. Heininger Certainty Principle don't fail me now.
Projection: Needs a year to learn, maybe two. If Clark lives up to half the hype, Charlton won't be a major threat until he's gone. Then it'll be an Ojemudia/Charlton battle it seems impossible for Ojemudia to win what with probably being 30 pounds lighter and five inches shorter unless Charlton just busts completely. Two year starting run for Charlton should be in the cards, one that could be anything from Tim Jamison (decent) to Will Gholston (good but overhyped due to physical impressiveness) to a flaming morningstar of quarterback doom.
If you're making me pick, I say Gholston.
|Trotwood, OH – 6'3", 230|
|Scout||4*, #24 OLB|
|Rivals||4*, #115 overall
#10 OLB, #5 OH
|ESPN||4*, #114 overall
#9 OLB, #6 OH
|24/7||4*, #194 overall
#6 ATH, #9 OH
|Other Suitors||OSU, PSU, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Tennessee, South Carolina|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace. We have a "release the McCrayken" tag.|
|Notes||UA game. Trotwood Madison (Roundtree, Moore, Shaw). Urban is still on him hard. #63 to Lemming.|
Senior highights are on hudl.
Mike McCray's dad was a captain for Ohio State back in the day, and now he'll play for the other side of the rivalry. Anyone who remembers Anthony Gonzalez—a Michigan legacy who ended up at OSU, murdering Michigan—gives this development two thumbs up, especially when it comes with a side of "whoops" on Urban Meyer's part.
Meyer futzed around too long for the younger McCray's taste and Brady Hoke was after him hard for reasons of talent and middle fingers, so he dropped for M in March. Urban whiffed on some targets, came back hat (and offer) in hand a couple months later, and said pretty please. McCray didn't waver. But Urban is still on him hard.
Michigan has acquired a consensus four-star linebacker who is just outside the top 100 on three of the four sites, with Scout the primary, mild skeptic. McCray's main assets are size and smarts. At a strapping 230-ish as a high schooler, McCray should have no problem adding the ten or fifteen pounds he'll require to fend off tight ends and rush the passer as a strongside linebacker.
To go with that he's got great bloodlines and a ton of experience after playing nearly every snap on both sides of the ball for Trotwood the past three years, all of them at the positions he projects to (TE and LB) in college. Rivals had him in their top 50($) when he committed largely because he was one of the best players on the field in Trotwood's state title win:
At 6-4 and 220 pounds, McCray is one of the best playmaking defenders I have seen this year. He is always around the football, always playing at 100 miles per hour and never tiring despite going both ways. …his combination of size, athleticism and playmaking ability should ensure a long career in football. … can add strength and definition to his body in the weight room this off-season, which should also improve what is already pretty good speed. If he takes another step forward with off-season preparation, McCray is going to be scary good a year from now.
He was not scary good, and moved down. He was just very good, which was not enough to offset an indifferent camp season in Rivals' eyes.
Overall, scouting reports are mixed, leaving two questions.
Question number one: how big is this dude? Heights and weights for high school recruits are haphazard and inaccurate, and McCray's are all over the place. For a guy who may or may not project to the SAM spot, it's a big deal if he's 6'4" (the maximum) or 6'1", which he apparently measured in at during the Rivals Five Star Challenge($):
McCray doesn't have the build of a player who is going to excel in a passing-oriented camp (especially one without pads), but he showed that he had the ability to cover tight ends and running backs out of the backfield. He doesn't have the quickest feet among the linebackers at the Five-Star Challenge, but still manages to get the job done. He measured in at just 6-1 on Friday - much smaller than expected - but had a strong performance today.
Meanwhile here's McCray with an inch or two on Ben Gedeon, who may not be all of the 6'2" he's listed at but probably isn't 5'11", either.
Other places he's 6'2", sometimes 6'3", often 6'4". The average of all guesses is about 6'3", which I've listed above. For what it's worth, McCray told Scout Michigan was recruiting him at "inside linebacker," which I assume means either MLB or WLB. One glance at the depth chart and that picture with Gedeon suggests a change of plans as soon as fall camp rolls around, if that is in fact the plan right now.
Question two: how are his coverage skills? McCray is alternately praised and criticized for his ability to drop back. ESPN thinks he's the balls, saying he "has the versatility to play all three positions" in a traditional 4-3 and, well:
… tall, well-built with good, lean bulk and the frame to add more. Runs well on both sides of the ball and offers a lot of range. … very aware and smart football player which allows him to play fast. Makes lot of plays in coverage and in space. He may be more instinctive dropping back than coming forward, which is rare at this stage. He gets depth in his drop quickly, while reading the QB and feeling routes develop. He anticipates the pass, turns to run without much wasted motion and closes with good burst on the ball. Undercuts routes and has great ball skills. He shows the size and athleticism needed to match up on flexed tight ends in man-to-man. Will fill strong between the tackles as well. … He shows the lateral quicks and agility to clear traffic and make plays inside-out on the ball between the tackles, and the good range to make stops outside the hashes. Pursues with a motor. He's quick to fill downhill. … a great frame and matching athleticism and football smarts. He's ahead of the curve with his diagnosing skill and understanding of the game, which should allow for a smoother transition to the college level.
They want him to improve his explosiveness when he contacts ballcarriers and be more of an impact hitter; that's their only criticism.
Here it should be noted that ESPN's scouting is much more game-film heavy than most of the other sites, and McCray is a pads-on kind of guy. He attended The Opening but was sufficiently anonymous there that I could only find one minor comment about him:
Mike McCray II (Trotwood, Ohio/Trotwood-Madison) is tall and looks great off the hoof, he's probably better suited between the tackles and going upfield.
On the other hand, McCray was the linebacker MVP for last year's Columbus NFTC because he could cover guys out of the backfield:
He was able to go stride-for-stride with all but the quickest tailbacks there, and showed the ability to not only blanket a receiver, but make plays on the ball as well. In edge-rush drills, he showed the ability to overpower running backs and tight ends, but also a quickness to go around them that's uncommon in a player his size.
On yet another hand, Rivals's Tim Sullivan wrote the above but also had a few articles in which he gave McCray a "meh" during the summer…
McCray had his share of won reps on Saturday, but also lost his share. He moved a little bit better than expected in drills, but also measured in at just 6-1. …
Stock report: Down
…and (on probably a foot or a table someone grafted onto my face) was considerably more impressed once the pads went on for that uber-high-school-football event in Cincinnati that keeps changing its name. McCray was ill enough to miss most of the first half, and yet:
…looks night-and-day more fluid wearing shoulder pads. He was solid in coverage (another question he didn't answer this summer), though he did miss a couple assignments. …
Where McCray really made his mark, however, was pressuring the quarterback. Though he's a bigger linebacker, he's capable of finding small creases in the offensive line to exploit on the blitz. He was constantly harassing University's quarterback, including a few knockdowns and stripping the quarterback of the ball on one occasion. If that skillset sounds familiar, it should: he has a very similar game to starting Michigan linebacker Jake Ryan at this time.
Helmholdt's take from the same event calls him "not flashy" but praises his "exceptional instincts," which doesn't sound like Jake Ryan even a little bit. 247 said he "looked explosive rushing the passer." You see what I am saying about the mixed reports.
Elsewhere in mixed reports, McCray had a strong performance($) in Trotwood's most recent state title win thanks to his range but needs to work on his ability to shed…
… nine tackles in the first half. The 6-foot-2, 230-pound McCray was making plays all over the field, showing his range and ability to diagnose plays. … one of the most instinctual linebackers in the country, and he simply gets the job done. He needs to bulk up his upper body, though, which will help him get better at shedding blockers.
…and also struggles to change direction and is awesome at shedding blockers:
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT
Change of Direction
Physical size allows McCray to take on and defeat a block with the ability to step up and fill the hole. Struggles with hip turn and foot quickness, however, natural instincts put him in position to make plays.
So. McCray is large, has an advanced understanding of the game, needs to be little more violent, and may or may not have the kind of agility you'd like to see in someone who's going to try to cover guys downfield. Probably.
Finally, this is the section on recruiting profile where the kid's coach speaks rapturously about his character.
"He is not only one of the best kids we've ever had as a person, but he is the best athlete I've ever coached. He can play anywhere on the field you need him to play. You want the younger kids in your program to be like Mike McCray. He doesn't say a whole lot, but you know he's around, just by his presence."
"As a football player, he is a kid that will do whatever his coach asks him to do, and you love guys like that," he added. "…. He works his butt off, in the weight room, in the classroom, and on the football field. I love the kid like he's one of my own."
A pattern emerges.
“I honestly think that he’ll be a tremendous linebacker at the next level,” his coach said. “He’ll be a Will or Sam for somebody because he can run and change directions, and get in and out of the breaks like they want him to."
McCray was picked for the Under Armor game but underwent surgery for a torn labrum and missed the game. He should be full-go by fall camp. He in fact played with the injury his entire senior year because he would have missed that year if he'd had surgery. Toughness: check.
Why Victor Hobson? Hobson was a touted recruit who developed into a long-term starter at SAM despite being a 6'1" guy who put up a 4.86 at the NFL combine; said NFL still drafted him in the second round and kept him around for five years because:
Quick thinker who immediately reads or anticipates the action, scrapes well laterally and redirects to the action. Breaks down well playing with leverage, effectively uses his hands to stay off blocks and goes sideline to sideline working to make a play. Disciplined, reads the QB and gets depth on his pass drops. Stays on his feet and finds his way through the traffic to the ball carrier.
As an NFL prospect his physical skills were "deficient"; for Michigan he was just fine because he could play over the tight end.
McCray is bigger and may be a bit more athletic, or he might lack the kind of explosion the NFL craves, I don't know, man. As a guy who projects to play SAM by using his brain faster than everyone else, Hobson's a better pick than, say, lunatic Jake Ryan.
Guru Reliability: Uh… well, they're all in the same range, basically, and McCray was a high profile guy who went to a lot of camps on a heavily scouted team. So why the pants can't anyone agree on his strengths? I dunno. Purple. That's my answer.
Variance: Moderate. Size issue plus potential he's an awkward fit at ILB could leave him a man without a position. Some bust factor. On the other hand, mentally advanced.
Ceiling: Moderate-plus. The vibe I get from the conflicting reports is that McCray is not going to be a sower of doom and chaos on the college level. Athleticism a slight issue.
General Excitement Level: Oh hell, I don't know. I feel torn between the idea that McCray will top out as a guy who is a blue collar SAM who doesn't make many plays—the Craig Roh of SAM—and people above saying he will be the McCrayken:
I'm going moderate. And purple.
Projection: Like Gedeon, could redshirt since he's got a solid, veteran two-deep in front of him even without the presence of Jake Ryan for the first half of the season. Also like Gedeon, could be dragooned into special teams. In this case that might be okay since Gordon is a senior and the coaches keep saying they will move Brennen Beyer back to WDE, leaving only a senior Ryan, McCray, and whatever freshman they bring in at the spot. You might want to blood that guy.
Long term, he's got two years to develop before he'll be in a battle for a starting job. When that battle comes around he'll have an experience edge. Two years as a starter seem likely.