"Northwestern fans can be both heartened and disheartened by the loss to Minnesota just like how nineteenth-century resurrectionists were heartened when they pried a heart from a freshly-buried corpse and then disheartened it when they sold it to a disreputable anatomist."
"The experience he has from last year is starting to show," Jazz forward Gordon Hayward said. "He’s making shots, and he made some gutsy plays against Portland. He’s got a confidence about him that he can get the job done."
Conference play has come, and Big Ten teams can safely retreat to their thunderdomes to clobber each other in peace, insulated from the braying mockery of the national media. There is still upheaval. Michigan has fallen apart. Dave Brandon and Brady Hoke have been confined to the Touliers Palace.
Michigan added to its already-impressive offensive line haul for 2012 today, picking up TN OL Blake Bars.
3*, #38 OT
4*, 5.8, #34 OT
3*, 79, #56 OT
3*, 86, NR OT
As you can see, the sites are basically in agreement about Blake: he's outside the top couple tiers nationally among offensive line recruits, but it still a solid player. Oddly, Rivals - usually the stingiest site as far as giving out stars - is the only one to give him the fourth star. He started in Scout's top 300, but has since moved out of it.
The sites are unanimous on Blake's height: he's 6-5. There is a bit of disagreement over how much he weighs, with ESPN saying he's all the way down at 260, 24/7 Sports just 5 pounds heavier, and the other two sites going up to 275.
Bars demonstrates good tough run blocking skills, showing the ability to dominate at his present level of competition. Has the height and athleticism for the offensive tackle position at the BCS level of play; will need to add bulk to his frame over time... Although we see the need for refinement in all areas of pass protection this guy possesses the long arms and nimble feet which should be assets; flashes the ability to handle edge quickness. We like the nasty finishing attitude this athlete plays with; it's what we look for when evaluating offensive linemen.
They seem to be pretty intent on labeling him a tackle, though I had previously assumed (based on the other players Michigan is recruiting, along with his height) that he would probably move inside for college. Long arms tend to negate a lack of ideal height, in certain instances.
He's probably a little behind the curve in terms of technique as well, since he wasn't even a high school starter until last fall. However, his father is a former Notre Dame linebacker, and his older brother Brad plays for Penn State, so he does come from a football family. He talked a little bit about technique with the local paper:
“(Coach Mawae) has been helping us with our footwork,” Bars said. “He’ll come into the weight room and show us technique and introduce new drills to us that I know are going to make us a lot better. It’s such a great opportunity. Kevin is the man, pretty much.”
That's not exactly revealing about Blake's current skill set, but it does speak to a desire for improvement. His strength also seems to draw praise here and there, so when he adds another 30+ pounds of muscle onto his frame, he could be a very powerful player to go along with that nasty attitude.
There's precious little info out there on Blake, but it seems that the evaluations that do exist are more optimistic on his abilities than the 3-star ratings would seem to indicate. As we'll see in a moment, his offer list tells the same story.
Bars's offer list is quite a bit more impressive than you'd expect from a guy who's a generic 3-star to most of the recruiting sites. Clemson, Florida, LSU, Penn State, and South Carolina all have recent success either on the field or in recruiting (or both), and had shot this kid an offer.
In less-impressive offers, Arkansas State joins Boston College, Kentucky, Louisville, Middle Tennessee, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Purdue, Vanderbilt, Virginia, and Wake Forest. There are a couple pretty good programs in there, so his whole resume is nothing to sneeze at. He had interest but no offer from his father's alma mater, Notre Dame.
Blake is an offensive lineman, and therefore doesn't have stats. Montgomery Bell Academy went 9-3 last season, his first as a starter.
FAKE 40 TIME
None of the recruiting sites have listed a 40 time for Blake, so I get to give out my default five FAKEs out of five.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Blake is a prospect that seems to have plenty of upside, but at this time, he's far from a finished product. Seeing as how he's just finished his junior year of high school, that's no surprise. Still, it takes a redshirt year as a true freshman from "extremely likely" to "certain."
Following that redshirt year, he may still have a bit of growing to do. Adding 30-40 pounds or more is a tough thing to do while maintaining flexibility and agility. As a redshirt sophomore then, will be the first time he has the potential to really contribute. Fortunately for him, that season also sees the departure of a few linemen ahead of him.
As an upperclassman, he should get into the starting lineup, and his versatility (he doesn't seem like a left tackle, but almost any other OL position seems possible) will help him see the field.
He looks like the type of guy who will become a solid starter, but maybe not an All-Big Ten caliber guy, unless his physical development is truly impressive. His upside seems to be high, so if he can reach his ceiling, it could mean very good things for his future.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
The commitment of Bars could mean a couple things: 1) he's higher in the coaching staff's eyes than we previously believed, 2) the staff doesn't feel good about their chances with some other top prospects, 3) the door is closed for other medium-range prospects, or 4) there are plans to tae more offensive lineman than we realized. The truth is probably some combination of those factors. No matter what the reasoning is, I'm guessing the coaching staff is done pursuing offensive linemen aside from Kyle Kalis, Jordan Diamond, and other elite-level linemen (i.e. Andrus Peat).
That means that, other than those guys, we shouldn't expect any offensive line commits any time soon, unless the staff uncovers a sleeper that they really like. Look for them to focus on defensive tackle and wideout, and once they fill those needs, they'll be able to focus on top prospects, regardless of position. Quarterback and running back are other, lesser needs for the class.
I hope that your assessment of Hoke's preferences is accurate, esp. since he's coached DL so extensively. Others here would probably think I'm crazy, but with DR, DG, Morris, and Bellomy (IMHO a real sleeper) already in the fold, I don't think the need for a QB in 2012 is as pressing as at other positions.
Congratulations, and welcome, Mr. Bars! We are very excited to have you on board. I have a feeling that your O-line class will be remembered for a long time around these parts... work hard and prove me right!