creeper van originals
The first time The Van made a trip down to Toledo to see Chris Wormley, Whitmer played an overmatched, undersized, and generally overwhelmed team of Canadians, making it somewhat difficult for your intrepid recruiting analyst to really get a decent scouting report on Wormley. So on Friday I returned to Whitmer once again to see the undefeated Panthers take on rival Central Catholic—who were 7-2 overall and 5-1 in the Three Rivers Athletic Conference—with the chance to win the TRAC title outright. Whitmer didn't disappoint their home crowd, who packed the house and saw the Panthers jump out to a 31-7 lead en route to a 38-21 victory, capping off a perfect 10-0 regular season.
Wormley's physical talents were on display, but he had his ups and downs and didn't have a spectacular game statistically, recording two solo tackles (one TFL), three assists, and a couple QB hurries. CC did their best to avoid his side of the field when running, and their quick passing game didn't allow many pass rushing opportunities. Here's the highlight reel, set to the theme song from Halloween, which Whitmer's PA guy awesomely played before critical defensive plays (you can hear the tail end of just that on the very first clip):
Chris Wormley: The knock on Wormley has been his lack of a consistent motor, but that wasn't at all an issue in this game—he was quick off the line and very aggressive in pursuit (sometimes too much so). While this was promising from an effort standpoint, it did bring up some issues, mainly in identifying plays. I had a quick, mid-game Twitter conversation at halftime with Rivals midwest recruiting analyst Josh Helmholdt, who was also at the game, and we agreed that Wormley has to do a better job diagnosing plays—there were several instances in which he beat his blocker and went tearing after the running back or quarterback, only to realize that the ball was in another place entirely. Part of this may have been coaching, as it looked like he was supposed to crash down the line on zone reads, with the linebacker scraping over the top, but there were too many instances in which CC took advantage of Wormley's aggressiveness—utilizing misdirection runs, QB keepers, and screens/shovel passes—for it to be just a coaching issue.
That said, Wormley's physical abilities make him a tantalizing prospect, and I can't shake the notion that with some coaching up on technique he could be a real force. His size and strength are obvious (just take a look at the film, most notably at the 1:54 mark, when he makes his TFL by essentially suplexing the running back), and he had enough good plays from an assignment standpoint—holding contain on the running back, for example—that I think his impact would greatly increase just by virtue of the transition to being coached by Brady Hoke, Greg Mattison, and Jerry Montgomery.
Wormley's best way to get penetration was to simply run right around his blocker, and while this was nice to see in terms of evaluating his quickness, it brings up another point of concern—how is a 6'6", 270-pound Michigan-bound DE not completely flattening the 6'2", 225-pound offensive tackle across from him with malicious regularity? Again, motor wasn't the issue, but instead pad level; Wormley can get low on occasion, but several times he stood right up off the snap and let the tackle get right into him, turning him into a non-factor. This is more disconcerting to me than the questions about his motor, especially if Wormley ends up moving inside at the next level. Anyone who's watched Will Campbell knows the importance of pad level, and also how difficult it can be for a big, tall lineman to correct that issue.
I don't want to sound down on Wormley, as I really think he could turn into a star if he fixes his pad level and improves on his technique (the play diagnosis I think comes down to coaching—Chris is a bright kid), but I'm not sure he'll be able to come in and be a big contributor right off the bat, as many have hoped. I think it's more realistic to expect Wormley to take a year or two to work his way into the rotation as he learns to get low and figures out where he best fits along the defensive line. From there, just about anything can happen—Wormley looks like a boom-or-bust type, and I honestly can't say which way I think it'll go. If I had to choose, I'd say he'll end up being quite good, simply because it's rare for a player to have his frame and physical talents out of high school while also having so much room to add pounds and get even stronger.
I also had the chance to catch up with Chris and interview him after the game, though unfortunately there's no transcript, as the audio on my recorder was rendered unlistenable thanks to the RAWK blaring over the speakers where we were talking (I'd say Special K has a side job, but this guy had much better taste in music). Wormley slightly tweaked his ankle and calf on the aforementioned suplex, but continued to play (and play pretty well) afterwards and said he'll be fine for next week when the OHSAA playoffs begin. He was extremely happy with his team's performance for both the game and the season, and he also mentioned that he keeps in contact with several other commits, mostly over Twitter during the season. This Whitmer team may be the best in the state, and it's clear that nothing less than the state title will satisfy Wormley or his team.
Jayme Thompson: I wanted to quickly note the play of Central Catholic junior safety Jayme Thompson, who visited Ann Arbor for Saturday's game ($, info in header) and has a good shot at earning a scholarship offer. The CC roster listed him at 6'1", 180 pounds, which looked about right to me, and he's got very good speed and fluid movement for a safety at his size. I didn't get a chance to focus on him too much in coverage, though he looked solid in that regard, but what I was most impressed with was his run support—he came up and laid a couple big hits in the open field, the type that elicit that instinctual "ooooooohh" from the crowd. Thompson definitely has BCS-level talent, and it'll be interesting to see if Michigan likes him enough to extend an offer to another safety considering Dymonte Thomas's early commitment and the small number of spots expected for the 2013 class.
I haven't had a chance to look at the playoff matchups this week, so right now I have no clue where I'll be going on Friday. I would make up for missing Kyle Kalis's game two weekends ago, but he's playing on Saturday night and driving to Cleveland would cause me to miss at least a large chunk of the Michigan game, which isn't an option. If you see a matchup you'd like for me to head to, chime in with a comment below.
Last Friday the Creeper Van made its way east of Cleveland to Mentor, home of defensive end Tom Strobel and the Cardinals, to watch them take on the Medina Bees. I was greeted in Mentor by a pre-game downpour, which had me worried about being able to shoot film, but then the skies cleared to reveal this, which subsided my concerns entirely:
What does this mean? Oh, time for some football.
Anyways, I'm guessing you care far less about double rainbows than Tom Strobel, so here's the part where I tell you Mentor won 45-7 while Strobel recorded ten tackles, three tackles for loss, a sack, and two QB hurries in a little over three quarters of action. Highlights are short—Medina did their best to run to the weak side (Strobel always flipped to the strong side) and roll their pocket away from him—but relatively spectacular:
[EDIT: Original video didn't play due to copyright issues with the song I used, but this one should work fine.]
Considering Strobel's opponent did everything within their power to stay away from him—both running and passing—and he still managed to finish with double-digit tackles and multiple stops behind the line, I thought he had a pretty outstanding game. I have now seen each of the three players recruited for strongside defensive end in this class—Strobel, Matt Godin, and Chris Wormley—and Strobel impressed me the most, just edging out Godin.
At this level of competition, Strobel utilized his superior strength by essentially doing the same thing on every play: bull-rushing the offensive tackle, pushing him 3-5 yards into the backfield, then either heading for the quarterback or peeling back towards the line of scrimmage to make a play on the running back. While this strategy is entirely unsound against college competition—any good offensive coach would've realized that Strobel repeatedly opened up a big crease off-tackle and run right at him—it worked quite well since his side was avoided entirely, to the point that I think he was being coached to play this way. It certainly worked.
While Strobel isn't the quickest player, he did a good job of getting off the snap and shooting right into his blocker, getting his hands into an offensive lineman's chest before his counterpart could get a hand on him. This allowed him to get great leverage, both in terms of pushing his man off the line and in helping him disengage from his block. Strobel recognized plays quickly and there wasn't a play when he couldn't shed his block and get two hands on the ballcarrier if one was within reach. When Strobel got his hands on someone, that was it for the play—his upper-body strength is impressive.
One area where I had a mild concern was with Strobel's will to play to the whistle. He had a great motor off the snap, always pushing his blocker back and trying to disrupt the play early, but there were a couple long-developing plays in which he was loafing a bit instead of tearing towards the opposite sideline. This only occurred on plays that were across the field later in the game, so perhaps fatigue (doubtful, considering his initial burst) or simply the fact this game was a blowout (far more likely, IMO) played a factor, but it would be nice to see him finishing every play around the ball like I saw with Matt Godin.
The other point of concern for me was with Strobel's lack of variety in his off-the-snap moves—he bullrushed, again and again, without showing much else except a quick shove to the inside that wasn't quite a full swim move. Again, there are some obvious explanations for this: the bullrush kept working, so there wasn't much of a reason to switch things up, and Medina almost never attempted a pass without rolling the pocket away from Strobel and throwing quickly. There just wasn't enough of a reason—or many opportunities—for Strobel to switch things up.
At 6'6", 265 pounds, Strobel certainly has the size to come in and be an immediate contributor, and I think he has the best chance of doing so out of the three recruits coming in at the five-tech. He needs to add a couple pass-rush moves to his arsenal (or at least utilize a couple more), but he showed a lot of ability against both the run and the pass and the motor to be in and have an impact on a lot of snaps.
Mentor had a pretty cool pre-game video tribute to the seniors, if you're wondering what the second picture of the scoreboard is all about. Strobel is #36, and also the guy who's bigger than everyone else:
I'm deciding between heading to the Prep Bowl, which features Matt Godin, Wyatt Shallman, and Detroit Catholic Central facing off against James Ross and Orchard Lake St. Mary's for the Catholic League title, and going back to Ohio to catch Kyle Kalis's St. Edward squad take on Cincinnati Moeller. I've seen OLSM twice this season and DCC once, plus the game being at Ford Field means it may be more difficult to get good film, so right now I'm leaning towards seeing Kalis play for the first time. Your suggestions are encouraged in the comments.
In this week's CVO, I finally got the chance to see Shane Morris play in person as his Warren De La Salle squad hit the road to play Orchard Lake St. Mary's, who happen to feature fellow Michigan commit James Ross at linebacker. The game was close in the first half, with Morris scampering 20 yards for a rushing touchdown to cut De La Salle's deficit to just 14-10 at halftime, but OLSM pulled away in the second stanza with three unanswered touchdowns to cap off a 35-10 victory.
The stat line for Morris differs depending on where you look, but I had him down as completing 5-of-11 passes for right around 100 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions, plus the one rushing touchdown and a couple short scrambles. Morris also punted for De La Salle, showing off a decent leg and delivering a huge (but late) hit after a return that drew a flag but also looked fairly awesome, especially coming from a quarterback. Ross, meanwhile, had a dominant effort across from Morris, finishing with seven tackles and three tackles for loss while regularly wreaking havoc in the Pilot backfield. Hello, highlights:
Shane Morris: I had several people ask me via Twitter whether or not Morris was really as good a prospect as advertised, given his rather pedestrian stat line, which wasn't the first of its kind this season. To answer that question, look at the first highlight in Morris's segment (0:45 mark)—in which he buys time, gets his body turned, and delivers a strike that should have gone for a touchdown if his receiver could just hold on—and the throw at the 1:00 mark in which he chucks an absolute laser on a 30-yard post route. There are absolutely no questions about his arm, and though he had a little bit of difficulty with the accuracy on his deep ball, for the most part he was right on target.
Unfortunately, Morris didn't have a lot of help—his offensive line allowed pressure all night, sacking Morris three times and forcing the junior into awkward dumpoff throws or desperation scrambles on several other plays, and there were a couple drops by his receivers, including an on-target pass that comically doinked right off a player's helmet in the flat. If I were to say one negative about Morris's play, it's that he held onto the ball too long at times, and on one occasion stepped up to avoid pressure, but moved up the pocked too far and shuffled right into a sack.
For the most part, however, Morris did everything you could reasonably ask of him in a game in which OLSM was just the better team. He's obviously got great size, and his ability to change speeds with his throws is already at a very advanced level—he knows when to bring the heat and when he needs to put some touch on the ball, which you can see in some of his shorter throws. He did seem to get a little overzealous when throwing the bomb, but he also didn't really have any open receivers when he threw far downfield, to the point where it was difficult to tell if he was inaccurate or just executing a functional throwaway.
As you can see on the touchdown run, Morris is decently mobile. Nobody is going to confuse him with Denard Robinson, but he can buy time in the pocket and burn defenses with his legs if given the space to do so. He's also clearly a tough guy who knows he's the emotional leader of his team—he was not going to be denied the end zone on his touchdown scramble, and his (yes, late, but still) hit on the sideline after a punt was the hardest blow any Pilot player laid on an Eaglet all night. He also delivered on a third-and-13 late after taking a hard hit on a sack the previous play, which I liked to see in a game that was clearly getting away from his team. I came away from this game just as impressed with Morris and I was by his highlights and accolades—give him talent on the line and at the skill positions, and I have little doubt he'll excel at the college level.
For the scouting report on Ross, photos from the game, and bonus highlights of Jordan Payton, hit the jump.
Ben Braden is quite large, especially in comparison to his rather diminutive teammate
This week the van traveled to the west side of the state to see offensive tackle Ben Braden and Rockford take on East Kentwood in an OK Red division battle. Rockford got off to a slow start, allowing a fumble return for a touchdown on their first offensive snap of the game, but the Rams proceeded to reel off 41 straight points to close the game, winning 41-6. Braden—playing mostly at left tackle and exclusively taking snaps on offense—helped pave the way as Rockford tallied over 200 rushing yards before pulling their starters early in the fourth quarter. Highlights go here:
The first thing that stands out about Braden is, of course, his size—he's listed on the Rockford roster at 6'7", 319 pounds, and he looked every bit that big, standing out among a very large Ram offensive line. He doesn't appear to be carrying any bad weight, as evidenced by his surprising quickness for a player his size, and as they say, you can't teach size—Braden certainly passes the eyeball test when you're looking for a BCS-level offensive tackle prospect.
Along with Braden's size, his quick feet appear to be his best asset. Rockford pulled Braden on many of their running plays, and he's very fast in getting off the ball, through the hole, and into the second level, where he can ideally crush the poor linebacker standing in his way. While the latter part happened a couple times, there were several instances in which Braden simply did not find a man to block—I am by no means an expert on offensive line play, but it was disconcerting how many plays ended with him running five or ten yards downfield looking for someone to hit.
This brings me to my biggest point of concern about Braden—one that has been voiced elsewhere—and that's the lack of the proverbial 'mean streak'. In a game in which Braden regularly was called upon to pull and block linebackers, all of whom he outweighed by at least 100 pounds, I counted exactly two plays in which he put a defender on his backside. Against an overmatched team like East Kentwood, either Braden was taking it easy—which I don't think was the case—or he needs to work on developing a bit more aggressiveness in his play.
In the run game, I thought he was solid, but not as good as I expected. He was able to get playside of smaller defenders and seal them off a few times in impressive fashion, but he also didn't push the pile and knock guys around as much as one would expect from such a large, talented lineman.
Rockford only attempted nine passes in the game, and I'm pretty sure Braden was out of the game for a few of those, but in limited chances he had some ups and downs. On a couple passes, he was barely tested and able to shove aside any defensive lineman who dared get within his reach, and he did a nice job of getting off the line and staying relatively low in his stance—he appears to have the groundwork for some solid technique. Unfortunately, there were two plays in which he missed his assignment—one is included in the above video, in which he just let a rusher run free around the end and looks confused as to who he should block—and both ended with his quarterback under heavy pressure. This is his first year at left tackle and it appears he's still getting used to the new position.
Overall, I thought Braden showed why he's a Michigan recruit—his combination of size and quickness is really tough to match—but he's definitely a work-in-progress. While I haven't had the chance to see any of the other 2012 OL commits personally, I'd expect there are at least a couple who will be more ready to see the field if called upon next season or even in 2013. If Braden develops more of an edge and continues to work on technique, however, he could end up being an extremely good lineman at the next level—he's got the size to push guys around in a MANBALL scheme, the quickness and reach to develop into a very good pass-blocker, and he's already looking good on zone running plays.
Apologies for the lack of action shots, but by the time I realized I should be heading down to the field Braden's night was already over.
ACE: First of all, that was an impressive performance by the team today. How would you assess the team's performance and your individual performance?
BEN: I think as a team, I definitely have to commend the guys, we're always working as a team together and always trying to figure things out. Just like me and everybody else, we've always got to work on stuff individually, but team-wise we did pretty good.
ACE: Can you elaborate on your own performance?
BEN: It was alright. Like everybody else, you work as a team, and you've always got things you've got to work on for next week.
ACE: You were the first commit to Michigan this year. What's it been like seeing the recruiting class come together?
BEN: It's been very exciting. I'm definitely getting to know the rest of the teammates and everything and it's fun—it's great to get to know the guys and everything, and I'm looking forward to [playing with them].
ACE: Which recruits have you been in contact with?
BEN: Caleb Stacey, a little bit, but kind of just everybody. Juwan Lewis, a little bit, from Muskegon, and then just when I go to the games, when I see people—whether they're committed or just recruits—just talking with them.
ACE: Do you have any visits planned for the rest of the season?
BEN: Nothing official just yet. I'll probably go to the Purdue game or a couple more games.
ACE: There's a lot of offensive linemen committed, and possibly at least one more on the way. Michigan is a little thin on the offensive line next year. Are you ready to come in and play next year and where do you think you'd fit in on that line?
BEN: I'm just going to go in, work my hardest, and try to learn everything as best I can—just work with the guys and try to get in and gel with them.
ACE: If you were to assess your own game, what would you say are your strengths and what are your working on to get ready for the next level?
BEN: Strengths, you know everybody's got their strengths and weaknesses. I'm a little quicker than people [expect], but everybody's got their differences. [I'm working on] getting low, just the real basic stuff, keep working on my footwork, that kind of stuff.
There are two games this week in which Michigan recruits face off against each other, one being Sycamore (A.J. Williams) vs. Oak Hills (Caleb Stacey) in Cincinnati, the other Warren De La Salle (Shane Morris) vs. Orchard Lake St. Mary's (James Ross). Considering Williams and Stacey both play on the offensive line, I haven't yet seen Sugar Shane in person, and OLSM is much closer than Cincinnati, I'm strongly leaning towards attending the latter game.
This week, the van returned to the Toledo area to see 2012 safety commit Allen Gant and his Sylvania Southview squad take on rival Maumee in front of a packed house at Maumee High School. It initially looked like Southview would run away with the game as they cruised to an early 24-0 lead, but three straight Panther scores cut the deficit to just three points midway through the third quarter. That woke up the Cougars, however, who reeled off three of the next four scores en route to a 45-27 victory.
Gant had a strong game overall, finishing (by my unofficial count) with seven tackles, one pass breakup, a reception for 20 yards, and a two-yard touchdown run. The senior spent most of the game on defense, playing a lot as a linebacker/rover with a lot of short zone responsibilities while coming off the edge often as a blitzer—he only dropped back deep as a safety on a couple plays in obvious passing situations. He saw a few snaps on the offensive side of the ball as a receiver and wingback, and scored his touchdown run as the quarterback in a special Wildcat package. Here are the highlights from this week—as you'll see, the game was played on an extremely muddy field that made it very difficult to make any sharp cuts without falling over (I almost ate it just trying to make my way to midfield for the post-game interview):
As previously mentioned, the field conditions were far from ideal, which made it very difficult to evaluate Gant from an athletic standpoint. It was clear early on that his cleats were not giving him the proper footing, as he spent much of the time in warmups scraping mud off of them, and on one of the first defensive snaps on the game he slipped to the ground and would have given up a long touchdown pass if the Maumee quarterback had seen the uncovered receiver. Gant displayed solid, not spectacular, straight-ahead speed, but any impression of his agility would be skewed greatly by the conditions.
Despite playing a new position (more on that in the post-game interview), Gant did a very good job of playing with discipline and being in the right place—Maumee never really challenged him on underneath routes because he had either the short middle or flat covered when he wasn't brought on the blitz, with Southview playing almost exclusively zone defense. On the one opportunity Gant had to man-cover a receiver down the field (that is, without falling to the ground), he stayed step-for-step with his man but was victimized by a well-run route and a great throw, which you can see in the first clip above.
It was very interesting to see what Gant brought as a linebacker, as he could very well be ticketed for that position at Michigan because of his size. He made some very nice reads, including one play where he sniffed out a screen and nearly made a spectacular one-handed diving interception, and he put decent pressure on the quarterback when coming off the edge.
While Gant's tackling technique was solid—he does a very good job of wrapping up the ballcarrier—I thought he was a little passive when coming up to make a hit, including on one play when Maumee's quarterback scrambled and was able to carry Gant and a couple of his teammates a few extra yards after initial contact. This could be chalked up to playing an unfamiliar position, but Gant had a few plays where he let the play come to him instead of identifying the ballcarrier and taking an aggressive path to the play, and despite the seven tackles he didn't have any big hits, in large part due to his lack of aggression.
One thing I really liked out of Gant was his persistence—he's the proverbial guy who doesn't take plays off and always ends the play around the football, and he chased down a couple of his tackles from the opposite side of the field. He also held the edge well, which I'm sure Michigan fans are happy to hear, although on one such play he tackled a little too high and ended up drawing a face-mask penalty.
Overall, I think Gant shows more promise as a safety than at linebacker, although that may be a harsh judgment considering I caught his first game at a new position. The key for him will be maintaining his athleticism—which I believe is good enough for safety, especially if he's paired with a center-field type like Jarrod Wilson—and not adding too much bulk to his 6'2", 210-pound frame (he looked every bit that big on the field). He's got promise as a safety who is decent in coverage and can come up and make plays in the running game, but I'm not sure he'd hold up well as a linebacker, though we'll see if he improves given more time at the position.
This week, my amateur photography skills are on full display:
ACE: That was a hard-fought win out there. How do you think you played personally?
ALLEN: I thought I played pretty decent. There were a couple assignments I wasn't sure about. Actually, today I played a different position than the one I've been playing, so I thought I did pretty decent out there.
ACE: I know Michigan is recruiting you as a safety. It seemed like you were playing linebacker today, or at least close to the line of scrimmage. How was that for you?
ALLEN: It was tough. It was tough to adjust. I had a lot of safety instincts that were in my mind, but I just have to continue doing my job and continue playing to help my team.
ACE: It looked like early on you were having trouble keeping your footing. Was that just an equipment problem or an issue with the field conditions?
ALLEN: The field was pretty bad. But you know, I kept playing and kept going.
ACE: You've been to all three of Michigan's home games so far. What has your impression been of the team so far?
ALLEN: The team is really, really, really good. I think they've done a really good job so far of working hard, I can tell. They keep fighting to the end, especially in the Notre Dame game. I was proud of how the guys fought.
ACE: Have you been keeping in contact with other recruits?
ALLEN: A little bit, not as much as I was during the summer.
ACE: Are you planning on taking any more visits?
ALLEN: Yes. I won't be there the next couple weeks, but the following home games after that I'll probably be there, and then for sure the Nebraska and Ohio State games.
ACE: Overall, what are you working on in terms of getting ready for the next level?
ALLEN: Just continue to get quicker and faster, and keep working on my technique.
These plans are always tentative at this point in the week, but right now I think I'll be heading to see Ben Braden and Rockford take on East Kentwood on Friday night.
This week, the Creeper Van made its way to not one, but two local games, catching Cass Tech's Royce Jenkins-Stone and Terry Richardson as they took on Cody, and then visiting Orchard Lake St. Mary's standout James Ross as he faced U-D Jesuit. Both teams featuring Michigan recruits rolled to easy victories, with Cass Tech taking the afternoon matchup, 36-6, and OLSM winning under the lights (NTUTL) with a 34-0 shutout. Here are exclusive (high definition!) highlights of Michigan's commits from both games:
On to the scouting reports...
Royce Jenkins-Stone: By my count, Jenkins-Stone had four tackles through three quarters before the van made an early exit to catch the second game. 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—overpursuit was an issue on a couple plays, and I think he just needs to slow down a little to become a bigger playmaker at linebacker.
Terry Richardson: Friday's game was not exactly a showcase for Richardson, as Cody mostly ran the ball and when passing did not throw it in his direction—I didn't count a single play in which he was challenged through the air. Richardson blanketed his receiver, using his superior speed and quickness to stay step-for-step with his man, and there really wasn't an opportunity to pass on him at all. If a cornerback is practically invisible in the passing game, I'll take that as a good sign.
I was also encouraged by Richardson's physicality, considering his rather small stature. The first clip in his section above shows him playing bump-and-run and driving a wideout a few yards out of bounds without drawing a flag. Richardson also picked up a flag for holding when he got a little too aggressive in chucking the receiver more than five yards past the line of scrimmage, and while you don't like to see defensive backs drawing penalties, the fact that he was so effective in the bump-and-run was good to see.
Richardson's biggest impact came on offense, as there wasn't a returnable kickoff or punt in the time that I watched. His recorded his only tackle after a Cass Tech fumble, when he chased down a Cody defender from behind to mitigate the damage. Later in the game, he torched a defensive back from the slot for an easy 24-yard touchdown—his speed was on full display on that play. This wasn't an easy game to get a solid evaluation of Richardson, but I thought he played well.
James Ross: Ross, in stark contrast to RJS, was all over the field for OLSM, tallying 11 tackles and two QB hurries through a little more than three quarters of play. Ross was never caught out of position and did a fantastic job of diagnosing plays, using his instincts and athleticism to stymie Jesuit's running and short passing attacks with apparent ease.
From the middle linebacker position, Ross covers the field sideline-to-sideline in a fashion that reminds me (lofty comparison alert!) of former Michigan beast-backer and current New York Jet David Harris. No matter where the ball ended up on the field, Ross was there at the end of the play, either making the tackle himself or cleaning up the pile. He plays up on his toes at the beginning of the snap, as you can see on the video, and this allows him to easily go in whatever direction the play takes him with speed.
When Ross got his hands on a ballcarrier, it was over—his open-field tackling was very solid, especially on a screen pass in which he avoided three oncoming blockers and wrapped up the running back for a minimal gain on a play that should've gone for at least ten yards. His low center of gravity allows him to take on blocks and either knock his man back or simply use his quick feet to slip by entirely, the latter being his preferred method for wreaking havoc in the backfield.
Ross also played occasionally as a back in OLSM's wing-T, and while he didn't carry the ball he did deliver a few punishing blocks, including one that took out two Jesuit defenders and sprung his running back for a touchdown. While this didn't help in evaluating him as a linebacker, Ross was able to show off his strength, always knocking defenders backward when he made contact.
My one concern with Ross is his size. He's listed on Rivals at 6'0", but I think that's generous by at least an inch or two, and it will be interesting to see how much weight he can pack on to his 209-pound frame before he starts losing some speed and agility—he already looks like he's beginning to max out his frame. Otherwise, I thought he was the most polished prospect I've seen so far on the recruiting trail, just edging out Matt Godin in that regard, and I think he'll be a big-time player at the next level.
Apologies for the lack of action photos, as I was scouting these games solo and spent most of the time taking video before my camera died at just about the time that OLSM began putting in their backups. Here are a few shots from Cass Tech vs. Cody...
...and here's my set from OLSM vs. U-D Jesuit:
This Week: The van heads down to the Toledo area to see Allen Gant's undefeated Southview squad take on Maumee (3-1).