“I’m way more comfortable,” Gardner said. “Last year was my first year starting, and it was rough, a lot of ups and downs, a lot of adversity. A lot of adversity I fought through, and I feel like I did a really good job of never giving up, never giving up on myself and my teammates. I feel my teammates recognized that, and my coaches recognized that, and I feel like that will help me.”
Nephew of former MSU running back Javon. Dad played at Iowa.
When your last name is Ringer and you live in the middle of Ohio, football is your destiny. Kaleb Ringer's dad played for Iowa. His uncle is near-great MSU tailback alum Javon. His two older brothers were high school stars who play for small colleges, and his youngest brother is a rising middle-schooler who will play for Northmont when the time comes.
Ringer is the real deal...could be that Ohio has the top LB in the country 3 years in a row (assuming DePriest keeps that title on Scout). Yes, he could be that good if he keeps progressing.
…that spread to Duane Long ("Hashmark to hashmark it is hard to not pick Ringer. He is physical and a physical specimen.") and even the recruiting sites early on. His coach expected he'd be a nationally-pursued guy:
"We've had a lot of good linebackers and he's potentially going to be the best one," Schneider said. "(OL) Zebrie (Sanders) was a big recruit and went to Florida State, and nationally he's the biggest guy I've had here. Kaleb I'm sure will be the same way. People are talking about him and he's got a couple offers so far. When September 1 hits, I expect a lot more to pop up."
When Ringer committed in mid-April, only Scout had gotten a set of rankings out. He was a four-star and the #8 MLB. His lineage came with capital-e Expectations.
For a variety of reasons, those expectations soon faded into a profile of a three-star linebacker who's around the 25th-best inside linebacker in the country and not amongst the top twenty kids in Ohio. There are many reasons for this, the most obvious of which is his size. He's listed at 6-foot-even or 6'1" everywhere, just an inch taller than was being claimed for him when he was in ninth grade. He's stayed about the same weight, too, and for a guy with a reputation as a between-the-tackles thumper that might be a problem.
While there is some disagreement about his ability to cover and get sideline-to-sideline, "thumper" appears to be the leading archetype. Touch The Banner:
He's a thick kid who can drive runners back into the hole and stop their forward momentum. He stays low and drives through ballcarriers. He also seems to do a pretty good job of wading through the trash to find the ball. However, the criticism I've heard most often - and something I agree with - is that he lacks a great deal of speed and athleticism in the open field. Ringer is not a naturally gifted, fluid athlete. He's your quintessential thumper. Typically, a kid his size would end up at WILL, but I'm not sure he has the athleticism to do what a weakside linebacker would need to do.
Ringer is a tough customer, displaying very good playing strength as a run stopper. Has the size and athleticism for the inside linebacker position at the major level of competition. The strong wrap tackling skills we see should prove beneficial as a special team's coverage player. … We see good lateral movement to the edges however his playing speed in long pursuit gets challenged. When this prospect does step up his playing strength is obvious; does a nice job working through traffic, demonstrating the ability to maintain backside leverage. … We see a player with some playing speed limitations however one who plays with the motor and intensity necessary to make game changing plays.
He may not wow you with the eye test, but put on the film and he's all over the field making plays. He's very solidly built, has a nose for the football and has legitimate sideline to sideline speed. He's also physical and can take on blocks. I have to see more of him in coverage, but he's a kid who could end up leading a team in tackles for several years in college.
He shows tenacity in everything he does, and pursues and tackles downhill. He bolsters his run-stopping skills with the agility, quickness, and ability to drop back in coverage. He needs to add muscle mass, but, when he does, look out. He will be a good. The first thing you notice when watching Ringer in action is his ability to make plays. He shows gritty toughness with a hitter’s mentality from the middle linebacker spot. Kaleb is not afraid to mix it up. He does a great job of filling gaps and stopping the run. His ability to run from sideline to sideline and to do so with good angles makes him even more of a defensive weapon.
Why Scout dropped him from the #8 to the #35 inside linebacker is a mystery given that evaluation.
Rivals was all over the place in the three articles that scout him in any serious fashion. A Nike camp evaluation($) declared his "serious cover skills" and "hustle through the agility drills" were the most impressive aspects of his game while a take from Mike Farrell($) at the same camp says he's "a bit stiff at times, but has quick-twitch ability, can turn and run, and is very physical." An earlier game evaluation($) from Greg Ladky lists "lateral movement" as his main weakness. Rivals will sit in a corner arguing with itself for the duration.
Given the rankings I'm inclined to believe the less-optimistic aspects of the scouting reports above. Ringer did suffer through an injury-plagued senior year that may be partially responsible for his drop on Scout, but the other sites ranked him about where he ended up from the start.
But we've got more than that to go on after Ringer enrolled early and participated in spring practice. Hoke:
“He had a great spring. He had over a 3.0 (GPA). He did a great job from the academic side of it. He did a nice job of learning the defense. He was awesome. I think he can be in the mix (for playing time).”
Kaleb Ringer had an impressive track-and-tackle on Hayes in the open field off a dumpoff. Next play he whiffed a tackle on Toussaint (I think it was him).
By showing up, getting good grades, and finding himself immediately in the second-ish unit he's cleared some hurdles between high school kids and playing time. It also gave some of the people who tell me things a chance to repeat the fact that Hoke and Mark Smith really like the kid, probably because of the gritty tough hardnosed bit.
He loved Ohio State, but on his fourth visit to Columbus, then-defensive coordinator Luke Fickell told Ringer that Ohio State hadn't offered him yet, "but it had nothing to do with football."
This pissed Ringer off and may have accelerated his decision to commit to OSU's main rival. If the issue was academic, it was taken care of quickly enough for Ringer to enroll early and notch a 3.0 in his first semester. If it was something else, it wasn't significant enough to put off a Michigan program that seems to be avoiding even slight character issues. Maybe Luke Fickell hates ringer tees.
Why Sam Sword? Sword was a quintessential two-down middle linebacker who was mean in the hole and not so great in coverage. He's listed at 6'1", 244 on his NFL profile, which is around the size Ringer should end up after the requisite time in the weight room. The concern is that the Swords of the world are dinosaurs in an environment of slot this and spread that.
If Sword's before your time, more recent linebackers Ringer might remind you of include Johnny Thompson and current MLB starter Kenny Demens, though I think Demens is surprisingly good in coverage for a guy who looks like a cube of muscle. It doesn't seem like that's expected out of Ringer.
Guru Reliability: Moderate. Ringer apparently ceased going to camps after a Nike one between his sophomore and junior years and then got injured for most of his senior season. However, he was a guy on everyone's radar early and it's not like Ringer's offers defy his rankings.
Variance: Moderate. Injury makes him more of a wild card, but not a true boom-or-bust guy like Taco Charlton.
Ceiling: Low. Lack of growth leads you to believe he may be close to topped out physically and he doesn't have the pedigree of the other guys in the class. Seems like he's a two-down guy.
General Excitement Level: Low. As always, sorry but some guys have to get that designation. The only not-touted linebacker in a four-LB class—the one who seems like he's fighting with Joe Bolden—is that guy.
Projection: Early enrollment and status as a linebackery tackling guy could see him forego a redshirt to play a bunch of special teams despite the linebacker depth chart being three-deep at both spots he could reasonably play. If he's not needed on special teams, a redshirt is very likely.
From there, it's the same story detailed in the articles on Ross and Royce-Jenkins Stone: the two ILB spots are going to be a war for the foreseeable future, one Joe Bolden has a pile of tanks ready for. Ringer is unlikely to be the strongest candidate at WLB, so Ringer will either have to hope Bolden isn't as good as everyone thinks he is or can't stay healthy if he's going to get serious playing time.
Kaleb's write up, good tackler and nose for the ball (smart football player-type stuff) with less than ideal speed reminded me a bit of Desmond Morgan, and he got some good PT last year. I hope his early enrollment helps him out. Seems like a good kid.
And if cousin Javon is so ticked about him going to Michigan, why didn't he express any emotion about sparty failing to show him any interest? Uhhh, hello??? Didn't go to State because they weren't a suitor...or at least, they weren't listed as one above. SHEESH!
Well, the Mgoblue roster lists him at 225, and that was last updated on the first day of spring practice, before Ringer did much of any lifting here at Michigan. So, it's possible he's added weight since then, and could be in the 230-235 range during the season.
If you go back and read Brian's recruiting post for Jake Ryan he was actually pretty excited about his highlight film and you can see why. He sheds blocks with ease and really thumps some guys. And Brian's excitement for Morgan was also "irrationally high" because he could lay some serious wood. You don't see that with Ringer's film. He's pretty obviously an FBS talent, but he doesn't wow you with any one part of his game. He can get caught up in the wash, his instincts are just about average, and he doesn't have the athleticism to make up for it.
I got my panties in a bunch when his excitement level for James Ross was only moderate plus, but I think this one is just right. He's going to be fighting with a returning starter, 2 touted players in the same class, and a fairly touted one the class below him for 2 WILL and MIKE spots. Seems tough.
Having a player like Sam Sword in the middle (flanked by fleeter foot types like Dhani and Ian Gold) allowed us to effectively stonewall physical running teams like Wisconsin, so maybe the coaches are looking for a little diversity in the LB corps.
While Ringer has overall low utility as a mixed mode cover guy based on his incoming scouting reports, your point about Wisconsin is excellent.
If Ringer is the kind of guy who gets a lot of playing time against run heavy teams like Wisconsin, Air Force, etc and does well, we'll be happy. A big part of that run game is wearing down the defense, so if you're rotating Ringer and another MLB it's a good deal.
The kid has had a few health problems. But given both his rankings (top 20 at his position) and his attitude (early enrollee), there's every reason to think he'll become, if not a star, a solid contributor. We'll be using more than three LBs every week. And if the Iowa D wanted him badly -- and they did -- that's a really good sign.
Ringer sounds like the quintessential thumper who you don't want out there against Denard but would be great against the Wiscy and MSU's of the world. Even if he just plays special teams for a couple of years, to have this depth at LB is great.
The guy has proven LB skills and instincts, and that is the big thing for me. He may lack the amazing athletism, but if he is a quick reader, he can make his mark at UM. I like how Hoke seems to be shifting away from the defensive recruits taken purely on physical potential (Ezeh, Furman, etc). You can take projects like that occasionally. But the the recruiting base must be comprised guys who look good in high school at their projected college position. Ringer fits that bill.
was "Kenny Demens" as well, though I still don't think of Demens as a "pass defender" type guy. I also picture Ringer becomming that one 3rd or fourth round draft pick that suprises everyone but ends up starting for 3-5 years as a run stuffing MILB in the 3-4. So Andra Davis.
"Pat Fitzgerald is coming on shortly. He seems like a guy who knows his way around an oatbag."