Creeper Van Originals: Sylvania Southview vs. Maumee
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.