“You have two special players in Copp and (Compher),” said senior alternate captain Zach Hyman. “I think it’s really interesting that we have a captain in each of the three classes, besides the freshman class, obviously. That could be a really good thing, just to have a leader in each class.”
Probably could have gotten into Michigan if he was 5'6".
Christian Pace is the entire 2010 Michigan offensive line recruiting class. Those of you with fingers will be able to calculate the number of offensive linemen who play at the same time, note the number of people one person is (it is one), and grimace meaningfully at the lack of people just one person is. But that's another show. This one is about the one person.
Fortunately for your fingers and what they abstract, Pace seems like as close to a can't-miss sort of prospect you can get in a three-star. I usually don't advocate watching highlights but this exceptionally useful and interesting AMP piece on Pace is an exception:
If you're still allergic to video (or at work or something), Rivals's Greg Ladky says the following things:
Pace has perhaps the best tape—not highlights, tape—in the Midwest.
He's a perfect fit for Michigan's offense, which prizes agility over massive size.
He doesn't have that size, is therefore a serious longshot as far as the NFL goes, and this is an explicit factor in Rivals's rankings.
Those opinions add up to the most concrete reason to be more excited about a prospect's potential impact at Michigan than his rankings would suggest than has ever been ventured. They're also shared by many according to his high school coach.
"I’ve had coaches tell me that (Pace’s highlight tape) is the best they’ve ever seen, bar none, coaches throughout the country," he said.
“I had a number of college scouts tell me that might be the best senior lineman tape in the whole United States, it was that good,” Dlugosz said. “He’s a very, very physical player. He’s an individual that has tremendous footwork and he’s very agile. He loves the physical part of the game and he knows how to finish blocks.”
Interestingly, one of those coaches was very likely Rick Trickett, the Florida State offensive line coach/Full Metal Jacket devotee who was Rodriguez's OL coach at West Virginia before FSU flashed its thigh. The guys from Tomahawk Nation follow Florida State recruiting closely and mentioned to me after Pace committed that Rick Trickett was grumbling about letting him get away and how he could have turned that kid into a Rimington winner. Here's the version of those events from Bucknuts:
Pace didn't get four stars from anyone for a pretty good reason: dude is small. But the constant refrain from people who watched his film was that he was a nasty, agile center perfect for Michigan's zone read running game. A Florida State blogger I keep in contact with reported back that FSU offensive line coach Rick Trickett, formerly on Rodriguez's West Virginia staff, groused that he could have turned the kid into a Rimington winner if he'd grabbed him.
Add that to the pile of reasons to file Pace as Molk 2.0: an undersized, feisty center who is a crucial starter but doomed when it comes to the NFL.
Rimington winners don't play tackle, but as per usual with D-I line prospects, Pace was a tackle in high school. Due to his Molkian stature he'll move inside in college. Michigan is going to put him and his enormous brain at center, where it will be best put to use:
"He finishes blocks really well, he’s also an intelligent football player," Dlugosz said.
"Christian understands concepts, when you tell him ‘we’re running this blocking scheme,’ he will be able to visualize who everybody is supposed to block and how he fits into that scheme. So he ends up being like a coach on the field. He understands those things really well."
“He’s very intelligent,” Shoremen coach Dave Dlugosz said. “Some players understand: I’ve got to block this player on this play. Christian can look at the defense and he understands the concept of the play, and he’s capable of making adjustments not only for himself but for the rest of the team as well.
“He plays tackle for us, but Michigan is going to move him to center, where he’ll be responsible for making most of the blocking calls.”
Another AMP video featuring a Pace interview confirms:
Also though Pace picked up 25 offers from various mid-level programs plus Florida State before his commitment, his final three were Michigan, Northwestern and Stanford. This was not a guy admissions cocked an eyebrow at.
At center, Pace will have plenty of opportunities to pass off a guy to one of the guards next to him and wall off a linebacker with his agility. As a high schooler he displays A+ mobility. ESPN's evaluation is a technical version of the above praise:
Pace is a very proficient run blocking offensive lineman. He is undersized a little in terms of height but is extremely strong and powerful. Comes off the ball like a locomotive and derails the defensive lineman on run blocks. Really dominates the defender on base and drive blocks. Fires out low and hard with a flat back and strikes the defensive lineman across with a jarring first punch. Follows the initial blow delivery with great leg drive; churns legs like pistons. Impressive reach and zone blocker; uses excellent footwork in gaining position on the edge defender. Runs his legs and keeps the opponent locked in; really works hard to finish and sustain the block. Very solid combination blocker that drives defensive lineman into the lap of the linebacker. Pulls and traps with authority; turns upfield and seeks out defenders in the openfield. … He has the aggressiveness and nastiness coaches look for in a lineman.
His agility is what sets him apart from most linemen, as he has the ability to get out in space and execute blocks against smaller, faster defenders. Pace thrives as a pulling guard and his film features numerous plays where he rockets out of his stance and immediately becomes a dangerous 265-pound lead blocker. Where he really impresses, however, is that he sees the field and when pulling he has a proper feel on when to trap/kick out the blocker and when to pull around and seal the edge.
I’ve said it on reviews of other linemen and I’ll say it again: I want to see elite prospects putting defenders on their back on a regular basis. If you have a 6-foot-3, 260-plus pound offensive lineman playing at the high school level, pancake blocks should be a regular occurrence. For Pace, it is. And I love it.
Both evaluations mention some potential dodginess in pass protection, which Pace doesn't do much of, with OV smartly noting that the transition from a tackle who never pass blocks to an interior lineman is a tough one that requires the ability to pick up all manner of stunts. Pace's intelligence should help him with that, and he won't have to play until his third year at center anyway.
Other than that probably-minor issue, the only thing that hold Pace back is his size. That issue kept Pace from the rankings those evaluations—heavy breathing even for recruiting fluff—suggest he should get. (Scout unhelpfully lists as it an "area for improvement.") Pace is optimistically listed at 6'4", 270 in several newspaper articles, but the official site has something closer to the truth: 6'2", 259. Even those tend to be burnished, which means Pace could be 6'1". That could be a problem when Michigan's offense isn't busy running away from behemoth nose tackles, which is infrequent but not unheard of. Pace's ability to pull might mitigate that, though; Michigan might be able to go power off tackle, using him as a 270 pound fullback instead of an overmatched center going up against someone 30-40 pounds heavier.
If he doesn't make it, his (very) relative shrimpiness will be the reason. But many, many people think that's a problem that will be overcome.
"It’s going to be an interesting transition with snapping and everything, but I’ll play wherever they want me to," Pace said. "The center makes all the line calls and reads the defense and gives the O-line all the calls it needs but other than that, I’m basically coming in fresh to the position."
Why David Molk? Obvious. Extraordinarily tight comparison here. Same sort of recruiting profile if you give Pace the benefit of the doubt implied by the AMP video above, same size, same position.
Guru Reliability: Low? Don't get me wrong, the consistency of the evaluations and Pace's profile indicate strong reliability but when you've got Rivals guys stating that he's a great fit for Michigan but too small for the NFL as part of their evals… well, I don't care about that last bit. I care about the first bit. General Excitement Level: High. People are talking up Rocko Khoury a bit these days but he'll have a hell of a time holding off Pace after two years of schooling and weights. Projection: Likely starter as a redshirt sophomore after Molk graduates.
I don't think his height is to going factor much into whether he can run block well, his weight/strength will be the determining factor there. Being lower to the ground is actually a bonus for run blocking because it increases your leverage and chances of getting your pad level below that of the defender and thus controlling him. His quick feet and solid technique(atleast for a HS player) will aid him greatly as well.
"If they ever catch me, they can have 'em." -Denard Robinson
That's exactly what I was thinking! I don't think 6'-6'3" is too small for a college center. I really don't even see that being a problem in the NFL. It all depends on leverage and strength at that position.
NFL.com lists 83 players whose position is center*. Of those, only 4 are 6'1" or shorter, but another 17 are listed at 6'2" (and another 27 at 6'3"). Weight-wise, 6 are listed at 290 lbs or below, 17 are listed as 290-295 lbs, and 17 more are listed at 295-300 lbs. If Pace is 259 lbs now, he'd only need to add 7-9 lbs per year for 4-5 years to reach typical NFL measurements for a center. That doesn't seem out of reach to me.
*I did not count long snappers or "offensive linemen."
Football allows the intellectual part of my brain to evolve, but it allows the emotional part to remain unchanged. And this is all I want from everything, all the time, always. --Chuck Klosterman
I am pretty excited about this guy. For me, he is the recruit in this years class that no one talks about that I think can have the biggest impact in a few years. Although we only got one o-lineman in the class, I am very happy with the one that we did get.
Pace has been a guy few have talked about, but one I have always been high on. I was surprised not to hear anything about him this spring. I know he is a freshman and needs to hit the weights, but I figured with Molk out, he might get some reps. Either way, I think he has a very productive future in front of him, height be damned.
Like a blind man at an orgy, I was going to have to feel my way through
alright so a buddy of mine was actually christian's roomate last yr, i met him a time or two and remember thinking big strong dude (in comparision to the avg population) but would not have thought d-1 football lineman. Also, i remember him being a good deal shorter then me (i am 6'6" fwiw)
my buddy's best estimate is 6'3' (which i think is pry a inch or two big), but his weight guess was some where around 260-270 and this was around the end of the semester after putting on i think 35ish pounds just this winter
so ya small dude, but he seemed like a smart, nice dude and i think he will fit in great in 3 years
So if we took the conservative end of both of your estimates, he is 6'2" 260. For a guy who hasn't yet started his freshman season (which he will redshirt) that's not too small for a center. If he put on 10 lbs a year (which isn't that much for a college OL) he would be 290 by the beginning of his junior year of eligibility. Plenty of weight for a college OC. That's certainly bigger than Molk.
I don't think we should pan Rocko Khoury quite yet. The coaches seem to like him, and he'll be a fifth year senior the year after Molk leaves. Experience is important at center, perhaps more so than any other position on the offensive line. Despite the fact that the coaches like Khoury, they still moved Moosman to center rather than play a redshirt freshman.
Foote Fetish, I was thinking the same thing. Raiola's made a career, despite his size. I believe NFL measurements are very accurate, particularly at the Combines. Don't know if this kid could add 35+ pounds to even get to Raiola's size. But five years under Barwis gives him as good a shot as he can find. This could be a great story.
Not knowing too much about how the recruiting process works, I am wondering if Rich Rod or someone else on the staff sat D Hart down and let him watch Pace's video. This guy was a great run blocker in high school. With some Barwisizing, he could be even more of a beast. Picture Hart running behind Pace and Lewan. Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.
Really great video. I love how we are finally starting to run into the issue where we have too much talent to get onto the field at once. The Denard-Tate-Devin, Gallon-Odoms-Roundtree, Khoury-Pace problems are really great problems to have. Depth is a beautiful thing my friends, a glorious, beautiful thing. Once we shore up cornerback my heart will finally rest easy.
I don't know if anyone noticed, but Pace is a really bright and goal oriented. His final three schools (UM, Northwestern, Stanford) indicated that he is about academics too. His goals were long term. "We set this goal of winning the state championship in 7th grade".
These are good qualities for a center.
"To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield" --Alfred Lord Tennyson/ John Sheridan B5
I just sent a link to this site to two of my O-Linemen. I want them to watch how an offensive lineman is supposed to engage his opponent and never let up. Pancakes almost every play.
Great video. I can't wait to see this kid flourish.
"the Spirit of Michigan...is based on a deathless loyalty to Michigan and all her ways....and a conviction that nowhere is there a better university, in any way, than this Michigan of ours" - Fielding Yost