“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.”
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.
As Ace noted, the key with Wormley is "potential." The kid has the frame to become a well-built, prototypical SDE, and with our D-Line coaches, he can be molded to become a terror on the edge. Strobel is more college-ready, and I wouldn't be suprised to see him contribute a bit next year, but the ceiling is way, way higher with Wormley. Fans just got to be patient with Wormley, and he'll become a good one for us.
I was expecting much worse after reading the post. He's got great size and when he stays low, which he did several times, he really exploded into the backfield. Thus, he's more than capable, just needs some more coaching. I'd be surprised if he doesn't become a good player at Michigan, especially with our three DL coaches.
I love this kid. I really like how he already instinctively gets his hands up to knock down/tip those passes. With his talent and our coaches, I think he'll be an elite, Beast-Mode DT, suplexing all opposing quarterbacks and running backs.
- Sometimes you're Alan Brach and sometimes, unfortunately, you're Anthony Morelli
I tried to highlight that in the video and forgot to mention it when writing up the report—Chris does a really nice job of getting his hands up when he sees the QB start his throwing motion. Nearly forced a pick on one play and was inches away from a couple more batted passes. Thanks for pointing that out, BursleysFinest.
After watching that highlight video I agree that he is going to need a year or two to work on technique. He has great size and potential as noted, but his pad level was not good at all in the majority of those plays. Plus, it seems like while he is in the right place to make a play, he kind of slows down and waits to see what is going to happen, instead of taking authority and crushing the guy. Maybe that is the coaching (flowing down the line) or his technique, I don't know enough about DL play, but that is a little concerning. Personally I would rather see him be over aggressive against a guy running at the sideline than not be; since he is a DL and not a LB or DB.
Overall though, I think Wormley will be a good player for Michigan, but Hoke and Co. have some coaching up to do first. Strobel and Godin seem / sound to be more ready to contribute earlier than Wormley though. Wormley's size and strength already make me excited to see what our DL will be in the future.
“What the mind can conceive, the mind can achieve and those who stay will be champions.” - Bo
We do not want him, kid has zero loyalty...... I am a former classmate of the guy and when asked for a reason why he left he said, "I can't handle us losing against our rivals anymore." Then he transfers to Central, St. Francis's arch rival....
Who does St. Eds have in the playoffs this Saturday?
Who does St. Eds have in the playoffs this Saturday?
You could always come down early and watch the Michigan game in Cleveland. If you did, I'd suggest the Fox & Hound, Mayfield Rd at SOM (Rte 91) in Mayfield, Ohio (east side of Cleveland). The UM Alumni Association of Cleveland has a room in the back devoted to the Michigan game every week.
I'm hoping that Solon gets to meet Eds this year so I can see Kalis one more time while in high school. I saw them last year, but I didn't know anything about Kalis then -- just that Eds had a boatload of goons on the line who really should have been in the Big Ten already, not beating up our suddenly leetle kids.
He gets his big paw extended and knocks the ball, it comes out a moment later.
I'm sure it's overestimation bias on my part, but this kid looks fantastic. Exactly what you want in an elite HS prospect: unblockable against good competition at the high school level. He has the strength and power to do whatever he wants. The kids trying to block him are merely a nuisance. I actually think he did a nice job of recognizing plays - he gets his hands up very quickly on (quick) pass plays, and he gets to the RB as soon as you can reasonably expect him to after the play develops. Anyone can get fooled on a zone read, that's why it's such a successful play. As for playing low - he's much taller than everybody else. Maybe that's a too-simplistic view, but it's hard for a 6'5" guy to get down on a 5'10" guy. The tackles he'll be facing in D1 won't have that issue. And I've read the "plays too high" thing so often in recruiting it's commonplace - probably for the very reason that elite recruits are bigger than everyone else, so it's hard to stay low. And why do that if you're killing everyone anyway?
Hemboldt has him as a 3*, right? He's probably reaching for reasons for that assessment. It's certainly not due to his motor, which I believe was Hemholdt's original reasoning.
That kid has dominant 5Tech written all over him, very glad he's part of this class. Can't wait to see him play, whether next year or the year after.
I don't understand how one can look at this film and then dismiss questions about his motor. Whether it's his effort or conditioning, something isn't quite up to snuff. He doesn't look that aggressive, either.
The kid has good size and good speed for someone that size, but he's got a lot of weaknessses, too. Maybe Jerry Montgomery can teach him not to play pattycake quite so much.
to stay in Michigan, and in particular, SE Michigan, then my best recomendation would be the Brother Rice (2013 LB Jon Reschke) vs Harrison (Ojemudia, Funchess, and Burbridge) game in Farmington Hills on Saturday night at 7. Also, on Friday night at 7, James Ross and St. Mary's travel to Redford to take on Thurston.
Looking to next week, De La Salle and Cass Tech are setting themselves up for a regional title matchup. Just a few of my local suggestions, since you asked.
Shooting for the Harrison/Brother Rice game on Saturday—that's definitely the best matchup in the area, and I haven't seen Reschke play yet, either. I've already seen Ross play twice, so I think I've said about as much as I can about him. Instead, I might drop by my old high school and check out Drake Johnson and Pioneer against Temperance Bedford—Johnson was visiting for the Purdue game and I'm curious to see if he's a legitimate option at running back for this class, plus I live all of five minutes away. Lookin' like a double feature this week.