Delonte Hollowell is archetypical in many ways. He committed to Michigan before anyone else in his class (doing so before the previous signing day), he's a cornerback best described as "beyond tiny," and he comes from Thomas Wilcher's Cass Tech program. He is the median Cass Tech recruit.
This time around the recruiting sites were less enthusiastic, at least eventually. Though Hollowell started off in the Rivals 250 by the end of the season he'd dropped to a three star everywhere save ESPN, which tends to rate 'em and forget 'em unless you show up at the Under Armor game.
It's hard to fault that assessment. Hollowell really is tiny—he measured in at 5'8.3" at the Army combine a year and a half ago—and of late Cass Tech recruits have proven a bit overrated. Since his early commitment prevented everyone save Central Michigan from offering we don't have much to dispute those fairly mediocre rankings. What's more, the Army combine performance that landed him on the All-Combine team and got him an early fourth star was frankly underwhelming. While he benched a lot of weight and jumped high he also ran a 4.88 40, which tied for 40th amongst participants. (If that sounds awful, the top time was a 4.55. Subtract at least two tenths to get a FAKE equivalent.) His shuttle was in the same range. Those seem like more important indicators than a bench press for a high school corner.
It's not all bad, though. Though Rivals dropped him to a three star it was by the smallest possible margin. The guy one slot ahead of him got that star. ESPN did think well enough of him to give him a fourth star. And it seems like he's got the intangibles down:
During his presentation, Rodriguez told the story of deciding which of two unnamed prospects to offer last year.
“I said, 'I want to take him,'” Rodriguez said. “The coaches said, 'Why do you want him?' I said, 'I was at the Sound Mind, Sound Body camp and I watched the one-on-ones and that guy was trying to get in the front of the line and that guy was trying to hide in the back.' I want the guy that wants to take every rep against every guy, who’s not afraid to compete.
“So we took that guy, and I’m glad we did because he’s going to be a great player.”
Hollowell was at the SMSB camp last year, and those who know him say that sounds like him.
Of course, Justin Feagin also had the intangibles down, caveats, etc., etc. An assessment of that camp says Hollowell "regularly stepped up" to battle eventual Vol DeAnthony Arnett but did not come out on top often.
The median Hollowell scouting report reads "Despite his size, Delonte Hollowell's size despite should be taller his size Y U NO taller despite his size." Delonte Hollowell is not a large person. Examples from Rivals($)…
"Delonte Hollowell has a lot of upside and athleticism despite being small for a cornerback."
Has a well-defined, deceptively strong body but does have marginal height and could struggle to defend the jump-ball versus today's taller college receivers.
You get the idea.
At this point we've got a very small corner who's not that fast or quick at this one combine and you might be wondering WTF. Well, maybe that combine was a bad day or something because every subjective assessment says he's not quite as quick as Dior Mathis but there's no shame in that. Rivals scouted a game of his and came away calling him a "taller, thicker" version of the even more diminutive Mathis..
If Hollowell had a bit more size he would likely be considered a top national cornerback prospect. ... Has a tight, fluid pedal and transitions smoothly in and out. Sharp and direct out of his breaks with good burst; can decrease receiver separation quickly. Does a good job reading the quarterback and jumping routes in zone schemes and can mirror tightly with his fluid hips and turns in off-man coverages. Very effective in press and bump-and-run coverages as well.
A lack of top-end speed is their other main complaint; they figure that combined with his height limits him to a nickelback and underneath corner. That assessment was echoed by Sam Webb($) when he saw Hollowell at the Army combine:
This aggressive youngster is at his best when he can get his hands on receivers. … At this stage of development he isn’t as adept at playing off of receivers as he is up on them. A few times he stayed in his back pedal too long, giving the receivers too much of an advantage. By the time he decided to turn and run the receiver had achieved far too much separation for him to make up. As a mid 4.5 to 4.6 guy he won’t make a living hawking guys down from behind. That said, when he could get up on guys and bump them a bit, he had no problem staying with virtually everyone he covered.
"He's a good pressure cornerback," coach Thomas Wilcher said. "He has good feet and hands, and he jams the receiver."
Touch The Banner also knocks Hollowell's lack of "elite athleticism and speed" but likes his hands and adjustments when the ball is in the air. The chorus is in harmony.
Etc.:Photo gallery. Rivals checked him out as a junior($) they said he does "a good job of turning and running with receivers down the field, and appears to be an aggressive tackler." Another Wilcher quote: "He's aggressive, tough. He's smart, good head on his shoulders."
Why Brandon Harrison? Like Hollowell, Harrison was a super-quick, tougher-than-you-think 5'8" guy who lived on the 3-4 star borderline as a recruit. If you ignore the Army combine numbers in favor of the scouting assessments, Hollowell is also that guy.
Why not Cissoko? Hope about his situation, mostly. There are small cornerbacks and then there are the Cissokos and Harrisons and Hollowells of the world. By the time Cissoko saw the field it was clear that whatever his recruiting rankings were they were too high—put him up against a 6'3" guy and he might as well not be on the field. Harrison, on the other hand, had the luxury of playing inside as a nickelback. This largely protected him from downfield doom against the Michael Floyds of the world.
With three other cornerbacks in his recruiting class, two in front of him, and a couple more guys coming in next year Michigan should be able to protect Hollowell from a Cissoko-like fate. Michigan has also moved back to a 4-3 under with a dedicated nickelback for spread teams and passing downs—they've revived the Brandon Harrison spot just in time for this YMRMFSPA.
Guru Reliability: High-ish. Heavily scouted player who attended a bunch of camps and was healthy. Only "-ish" because of a significant spread in rankings.
General Excitement Level: Meh. I can't get over Hollowell's obvious physical limitations and the parade of Cass Tech guys who need a ton of coaching before they can be effective in college, if they ever get there. He's got a role, but it will be a limited one achieved only after a few years in the program.
Projection: Almost certain to redshirt and will probably sit on the bench for another couple years as Avery and Countess and maybe a couple other guys suck up the available snaps at corner. As a significantly more polished but probably no taller upperclassmen his best bet is to replace fellow Cass alum Thomas Gordon as the nickelback three years from now.
Yeah, this seems about right. FWIW, though, I think Brandon Harrison was pretty goll durn fast. But both are 5'8"-ish, seem headed for the slot corner, etc. That's probably the best Michigan comparison.
FWIW, I got some nasty e-mails about my Hollowell comments (in which I generally said "meh," not "HE SUCKS!!!). So if you say something bad about Hollowell, be prepared for a hailstorm of criticism from his family and friends. They think he'll be AWESOME.
There are small cornerbacks and then there are the Cissokos and Harrisons and Hollowells of the world. By the time Cissoko saw the field it was clear that whatever his recruiting rankings were they were too high—put him up against a 6'3" guy and he might as well not be on the field. Harrison, on the other hand, had the luxury of playing inside as a nickelback. This largely protected him from downfield doom against the Michael Floyds of the world.
Brandon Harrison was effective at nickel. It was Safety Disaster '05 that forced us to burn his redshirt, and Safety Disaster '08 that forced him into a deep safety role, which he wasn't any good at.
Had he been on the team in 2009, I suppose Kovacs wouldn't have gotten his chance, at least not that year. The Kovacsian safety role in the 3-3-5 and the nickel role are not all that different I believe (both are 2/3 box safety, 1/3 coverage linebacker), except that in the 3-3-5 that DB is on the field all the time whereas he's a passing down sub for the SLB in a 4/3 over. Someone want to correct me?
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While I agree with almost everything said, this is one of the more negative recruiting profiles I can remember seeing on here.
Sadly, it is very difficult to compete as a DB if you are under 5'10", minimum. Even at that height, you have to hope that you are playing opposite a prototypical 6"1' CB, AND that you are not faving a team with 2-3 tall receivers.
Why do corners tend to be so much smaller than WRs? I know Hollowell is unusually small for a corner, but it seems like corners tend to be smaller than WRs in general.
Is it the trade-off between size and speed? That as a defender, it's more important for a corner to be quicker in order to stay with a route-running WR than it is for the corner to be of the same size as a WR?
Or am I imagining it, and CBs and WRs tend to be of similar size, generally?
The general reasoning is that shorter players with a lower center of gravity and shorter limbs can change direction, turn and run, etc. more quickly than taller guys. Receivers have the advantage of being able to know where they're going, run straight downfield, or make one cut on a route. Cornerbacks have to start off facing the line of scrimmage, backpedal, open up their hips, plant and come back to the play, avoid blocks, etc.
You're not imagining it. It is an actual trend, but there's some logic behind it.