As expected, Michigan got their second receiver for the 2012 class today when Ladue (MO) Horton Watkins WR Jehu Chesson committed to the Wolverines, according to multiple outlets. Michigan was in desperate need of two receivers in this recruiting class, and with the addition of Chesson and Amara Darboh, Brady Hoke and Co. can focus on landing some big-name targets at other positions. Here's the skinny on Chesson.
The four services agree that Chesson is 6'3" and around 180 pounds—he's a little skinny but has a very solid frame for a wideout. As for Chesson's skills, they're mostly in agreement as well, pegging him as a middle-of-the-road three-star. ESPN and 247Sports are a little higher on Chesson than Rivals and Scout, listing him around the 50th-best WR in the class instead of down below 80. Considering the other receivers this staff has pursued, it's safe to say they consider Chesson to be a sleeper.
Tall, lanky receiver who can go up and get the ball. Snatches it easily out of the air, but lets too many underneath passes get into his body. Great natural athlete with good leaping ability and straight line speed, but is not an elusive guy after the catch. Must add some bulk and strength, but is tough and willing to go over the middle and make catches.
The added bulk and strength stuff is standard fare for a high school recruit, especially one with Chesson's lanky frame. "Great natural athlete" is always nice to see. Here's what ESPN—who rated him the highest of the four services—has to say ($):
Comes off the ball with explosion and a nice stride. Gets into routes quickly and can eat up cushion with an imposing charge upfield. He has some value as a vertical target due to his frame/speed combination, but we are not convinced he is a great speed guy rather a competitive one. He can really elevate and adjust to the jump ball. Positions himself nicely and will high point the ball with good extension. Has flashed the ability to make the spectacular grab look easy and can make the acrobatic grab in a crowd. He consistently catches the ball well and wastes little time getting upfield to make things happen. Can adjust and pluck on the move on poorly thrown balls. He is pretty sharp as a route runner underneath ... Chesson is not quite as crisp at the intermediate levels ... He has the skill set and fluidity to be sharper. After the catch Chesson shows strength and some wiggle to not only make you miss, but also stiff arm and lower his shoulder to power through would be tacklers. He is not a huge homerun threat in space, but given his size he is pretty nifty and can gain valuable YAC and move the chains.
It's interesting that ESPN questions his speed considering his track exploits, more on which later, but the rest of this is quite promising. There seems to be general agreement that he's got good hands, needs a little work on technique, and is more of jump-ball threat than a guy who's going to break a big play on a short pass. As for that track stuff, here's a nice tidbit from a recent article by Tim Sullivan ($):
The physical abilities are certainly there. The 6-3, 185-pound Chesson has the size to outmatch defensive backs, though he will add weight and strength before contributing at the college level. He also possesses great speed as a high school receiver. He was the state champion in the 300 meter hurdles as a junior, and has run a time of 37.44 seconds - good for No. 34 in the country among high schoolers in 2011.
"I think the thing at our level that he does is before you even line up, he creates some matchup problems because of his height and length," Tarpey said. "He's got real long arms, he does a great job of catching the ball away from his body. I think that's a nice thing so teams planning for us definitely had to account for him."
Despite flying low on the recruiting radar, Chesson has had good showings at summer camps in Coral Gables, Gainesville, and St. Louis. Here's Rivals national analyst Keith Niebuhr after seeing Chesson perform at the Nike camp in Miami ($):
STRENGTHS: Chesson made a splash Sunday in Coral Gables by running crisp routes and catching seemingly every pass thrown in his vicinity. He's tall and lean, was quicker than most receivers on hand, and got in and out of his breaks quite well. A hurdler in high school, his leaping ability showed up often during position drills. WEAKNESSES: Because Chesson is a bit wiry, getting stronger is a must so college corners can't push him around at the line of scrimmage.
So, it seems we've got a tall wide receiver with good-to-great speed and solid hands who needs some work on strength and fundamentals. Chesson sounds like a player who could really excel with some good coaching and conditioning. To be honest—and I say this without trying to sound like I'm wildly biased towards Michigan, as I haven't been afraid to be critical of recruits in the past—I'm having a hard time figuring out why he's rated so low when reading these evaluations.
Chesson's offer list, outside of Michigan, falls in line with his recruiting rankings. The other two finalists for his services were Iowa and Northwestern, and he also held offers from Akron, Bowling Green, Cincinnati, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Oklahoma State, and Purdue, according to Rivals. Scout also lists a UCLA offer and interest from Florida. Oklahoma State and Iowa have had a lot of success with receiver recruiting, so it's nice to see those teams on his offer list, but Michigan obviously stands out as his best offer.
In his junior season, Chesson caught 53 passes for 605 yards and 11 touchdowns. I can't seem to track down any senior year stats, but I'll update this if I can find them.
FAKE 40 TIME
Rivals lists Chesson as running a 4.5, and he claims he ran a 4.54 while camping at Florida ($). Considering his ability on the track, I'll give that a two FAKEs out of five.
Junior year highlights (if you're at work, might want to turn your sound off):
Chesson is a tough recruit to figure out, and I haven't had the benefit of seeing him play live. He looks promising on film, he's got great size (with the expectation that he adds some weight), he's fast, and he can catch—to me, he seems like at least a high three-star or four-star recruit. His rankings and offer list, however, say otherwise, and it's not as if he's never set foot at a camp or played in an area where there's no media exposure.
I'm going to go ahead and presume, with a more polished receiver in Darboh also arriving in 2012, that Chesson takes a redshirt year. As a redshirt freshman, he'll then be battling for playing time with Jeremy Gallon, Jeremy Jackson, Drew Dileo, Jerald Robinson, and Darboh (along with the freshmen in the class of 2013). Only Gallon has really proven that he can be a starter, and he's a better fit in the slot, so it's certainly conceivable that Chesson starts contributing in just a couple years.
That all depends on his development, and it's tough to project a player based on highlight reels. I could see Chesson becoming a great deep threat, and I hate to make such a lofty comparison, but the closest player in terms of style that I can think of is Braylon Edwards after watching his film. At the same time, Chesson obviously needs development, and with Michigan in on some talented receivers in the class of 2013 he could get buried on the depth chart if that doesn't happen quickly. This statement is full of duh, but really anything is possible here. I will go so far as to say I expect him to see the field at receiver if for no other reason than that he possesses a skill set unlike anyone on the roster and the team is so thin at receiver after next season.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan is now down to four remaining open spots in the 2012 class, and things are starting to come into focus for those final spots. It's very clear that Michigan is looking to add at least one offensive lineman and one cornerback—and it's possible at both those positions that they'll take two players if the opportunity arises—and they'll likely take a tight end as well. The last spot will likely be a 'best player available' situation out of the recruits at O-line and DB unless a running back jumps into the mix.
As for who those players will be, that's an entirely different matter. The Wolverines are after several high-profile offensive linemen, including Josh Garnett, Jordan Diamond, Alex Kozan, Evan Boehm, Zach Banner, and Jeremiah Poutasi. It seemingly changes by the day which one or two of those prospects Michigan has the best shot at, so venturing a guess at this point is likely an exercise in futility. As for corner, Michigan is in good shape with Yuri Wright and appear to have a decent shot at flipping Armani Reeves from Penn State if he decommits. Options appear limited at tight end, but chances look to be solid with Sam Grant, high school teammate of Kyle Kalis. At running back, Bri'onte Dunn is no longer an option, nor is Greg Garmon or Wes Brown, but the coaching staff is taking a strong look at former Notre Dame commit David Perkins, a four-star whom most teams are recruiting as a linebacker. As always, there's a chance the coaches unearth an as-of-yet undiscussed recruit to fill the final spot or two—we'll just have to see. At the very least, the need at receiver has been filled.