i refuse to even consider this a possibility
The 2017 recruiting board was updated heading into the weekend. Meanwhile, I'm taking off for vacation tomorrow and will be out until next Wednesday. Naturally, today's send-off roundup is one of the longest of the year.
D-Tackle Out Of Nowhere
— Chad Simmons (@ChadSimmons_) June 18, 2016
There was very good reason nobody saw Aubrey Solomon's commitment coming. Solomon didn't even initially plan on being in Ann Arbor last weekend; he was supposed to be on an unofficial visit to Alabama. He told Sam Webb that once he got to Michigan and found out he had an offer, things moved quickly from there:
“I came into Michigan not knowing that I had an offer,” Solomon said. “Once I found that out it really changed everything. Then seeing what they could do for me in the future, like 10-20 years after football, I just fell in love with it. It wasn't just football, it was ‘what would I do for the rest of my life after football?’"
Solomon credited Chris Partridge and Jim Harbaugh for convincing him Michigan was the place to be.
The commitment of Solomon's 2018 teammate, Otis Reese, came as far less of a shock; Reese had previously named Michigan as his leader and he has ties to the area—his older brother is a redshirt freshman receiver at Central Michigan. Reese described the scene when he and Solomon committed to Webb:
"(Solomon) was feeling it but he kind of shocked me,” said Reese. “I didn't know he was going to commit."
"Coach Harbaugh was on the phone with my mom and we were talking about my commitment. Aubrey got on the phone talking to his mom and he said he wanted to commit. It was just like the whole room was lit… full happy emotions. They were jumping around. Actually my receiver coach (who brought them up on the visit) and Coach Harbaugh traded shirts. Coach Harbaugh still has (Lee County) shirt on, and my coach has his on. It was just a happy moment and it was a blessing."
Michigan nearly added another commitment on the weekend. Three-star CT OT Andrew Stueber impressed the coaches at camp enough to pull in an offer, and in the aftermath Steuber told 247's Steve Wiltfong that Michigan is "the one to beat" in his recruitment. Based on what Sam tweeted over the weekend, it sounds like Steuber will join the class as soon as he can get his mom to campus.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
Previously: Last year's profiles. S Josh Metellus, S Khaleke Hudson, CB David Long, CB Lavert Hill, LB Elysee Mbem-Bosse, LB Devin Bush Jr., LB Devin Gil, LB Josh Uche, DE Ron Johnson, DT Michael Dwumfour, DT Rashan Gary, DE Carlo Kemp, OL Ben Bredeson, OL Michael Owenu, OL Stephen Spanellis.
|Plantation, FL – 6'5", 215|
3*, NR overall
4*, NR overall
#9 TE, #34 FL
4*, #258 overall
#2 TE-H, #46 FL
4*, #270 overall
#11 TE, #36 FL
|Other Suitors||UF, Bama, LSU, UO, USC, Texas, SoCar|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace.|
Nick Eubanks had the most alpaca-out-of-nowhere commitment since Carlos Brown. The first word that most Michigan fans heard about him was the fact that he'd scheduled a mid-week official visit mere days before it was supposed to take place; the day after that trip he committed over offers from a bevy of SEC powers and USC.
Whenever you're talking about a guy who's not a super blue chip you have to evaluate how committable those offers are. In Eubanks's case those offers were almost certainly OFFERS; Eubanks took an official to Alabama and had scheduled trips to Florida and USC before Harbaugh short-circuited things. Florida sites were calling him the Gators' top target at the position and more or less assuming he was in their class, a la Josh Uche. (In their defense, he said UF led in late November.) Bama may not have taken him; the rest of his list almost certainly would have.
That's because Eubanks has huge upside as a receiving tight end. Michigan 247 named him the guy with the highest upside in the class—although I assume that comes with an "other than Gary" disclaimer—because he has "NFL size and length" matched with "natural movements and athleticism." Others are on board:
…everything that colleges are looking for in a modern-day tight end. He's a big, smooth athlete who can really run and rack up yardage after the catch. Eubanks is a legit 6-foot-6 and should really fill out nicely over his college years.
…instant mismatch for Plantation (Fla.) American Heritage. His catch radius is incredible and he's a nightmare to cover in space.
One of the freakiest tight ends in the 2016 class … has been timed as fast as 4.6 seconds in the 40-yard dash
…nearly unlimited upside at the tight end position. He's 6'6"/230 and can leap like a basketball player. He has a frame that can build healthy weight.
“The kid’s a freak,” said Cape Coral Island Coast coach Wayne Blair …. "was just jumping over people” against Daytona Beach “He’s what everybody’s looking for in that flex, hybrid tight end,” Blair said. “And he’s still relatively new to football.”
He can leap like a basketball player because he was focused on that sport for most of his life. (Perhaps not a coincidence: his brother is named Kobe.) And everyone knows that short and fast power forwards make pretty good flex tight ends, eventually.
His upside is such that even too-cool-for-school ESPN offers up a report that's detectably positive:
… nice combination of height, length and athleticism. … excellent straight-line speed for size. … top-end speed to threaten the intermediate to deep part of the field and present a vertical threat. … needs to continue to develop as route runner. … Good hands with ability to extend for the ball. Displays very good body control to adjust to passes thrown off target. With height and leaping ability can be threat downfield in jump-ball situations. … still needs to develop physically and improve as a blocker … combination of height, leaping ability and speed can make him a tough match-up.
There's only one "can" in there. I think I deleted a couple "flashes," but this is a prospect who seems to have piqued the interest of a laconic group of gentlemen.
A huge upside prospect with only decent rankings is generally a project and Eubanks is no exception. On film he looks like another one of the hilariously jumbo WRs that populate high school teams. Projecting those guys to college always comes with a hefty bit of guessing. Any time you have to slap 50 pounds on a dude, things can go wrong. Generally slow things.
Meanwhile he's not exactly a mauler or a route artisan. Many reports invite you to read between the lines:
He can continue to work on his consistency catching the football, but is much improved in that department from the last time I laid eyes on him. Eubanks put forth the effort and really spent time on his blocking over the offseason, but is more of a threat in the pass game at this stage in his career.
…moves relatively well for his massive size (6-6, 208). He's established himself as a threat in the passing game, but will need to develop as a blocker before he arrives on a college campus.
…raw but he continues to develop rapidly. He's a basketball player that is still finding his way on the football field but his upside is as high as any tight end in the class.
…great frame and the ability to play on the line or to be flexed out. Has great length, he knows how to extend for the football, and he can use that to his advantage. He will fill out, add weight, and get stronger. Solid blocker, but can get better at the point of attack. More comfortable now flexed as a big wide receiver going out for passes.
While his highlights have a couple of decleaters amongst the various catches, there's nothing resembling technique in any of those blocks. He stands straight up, hits a guy half his size pretty hard, and goes Cato June on 'em. The most you can say about those blocks is that they display a want-to that Devin Funchess never really had. He does deposit a couple of defensive backs several yards downfield on screens.
Meanwhile reports on Eubanks's hands are mixed. It seems like he has good days and bad. There's the good report from ESPN above. 247 reported that he "needs to improve his catching ability and concentration" at the Opening regional he attended; Scout's eval declares his hands to be "solid" but lists "hands and concentration" as an area for improvement; Rivals said he had "consistent hands".
FWIW, his highlight film above has several incidents in which he lets the ball get into his body. Since he was a tight end without a ton of catches that film is probably 80%+ of the catches he made last year; I tend to side with the skeptics. Eubanks looks like a guy who's good at getting rebounds up high and pretty rough when the ball is in the dead center of his catching radius. I've just looked at a bunch of WR/TE Hudl video as these pieces come together gradually and it's clear Eubanks needs work in this department.
On the good side of the ledger, Eubanks just tweeted out an up-to-date weight of 235 pounds a few days ago. That puts him a year away from reasonable tight end size instead of the two a 215-pound guy (like, say, Ian Bunting) generally is. Also, Jay Harbaugh's evaluation of him mentions his ability in the classroom:
Nick is a great young man, exceptional student and outstanding athlete. He is easy-going and fun to be around but when Nick hits the field he is a very tenacious competitor….elite speed and length as a receiver that will allow him to stretch the field in a way that defenses in this conference aren’t accustomed to seeing on a regular basis.
Day-to-day intelligence isn't necessarily football intelligence but it's a good start; it's worth noting that when he took his official he toured the engineering school. There are a few indicators he's going to be able to hack a Harbaugh offense, especially after a few years.
And it will be a few years. Eubanks will take some time and could be just about anything once he comes out the other end.
Etc.: At one point Alabama was his leader, at which point a 247 article said he's "a perfect fit for any team that likes to get the ball into the tight end's hands"… ie, not Alabama.
Why Devin Funchess? Eubanks is the same kind of raw athletic clay Funchess was, and is ranked in about the same area—he's maybe a little bit better regarded overall, but that's splitting hairs. Funchess, of course, was a tremendous receiver immediately but hated blocking; Michigan gave up on the tight end experiment and finally moved him out to WR as an upperclassman. Funchess had occasional struggles with his hands, something the Eubanks scouting reports do mention.
Eubanks is already reporting a weight equivalent to Funchess in the NFL and is not likely to end up a wide receiver for Harbaugh reasons. (One: he needs tight ends. Two: it's hard to imagine a Harbaugh-coached player going through the motions as transparently as Funchess did in his final season.) His end result could be the kind of tight end we saw from Funchess early in his career, except with blocking.
If you want an actual tight end, Jake Butt is the closest approximation in recent Michigan history if Eubanks's hands are actually top-notch.
Guru Reliability: High-minus. Little bit of a split in the rankings and some disagreement on his hands, though that may be an artifact of his apparent improvement over the past year. Otherwise the services agree on who he is. Healthy, relatively high-profile guy.
Variance: High. Boom or bust guy. Could end up a drop-prone guy who can't block a soul.
Ceiling: Very high. Could be 250-pound Devin Funchess with a mean streak.
General Excitement Level: High. If Eubanks does bust it's a shrug-worthy event for Michigan, which will have tight ends coming out their ears either way. If he hits, look out. Does have a backup plan at WR since Michigan hasn't taken an enormous dude in a minute—at least not one that's probably sticking on offense.
Projection: Redshirt. Michigan has a bucket of tight ends already and two classmates of Eubanks are drawing buzz that they'll get on the field. Post-redshirt it's a crowded depth chart indeed.
Eubanks's career could follow the path that Ian Bunting's is: a redshirt freshman year with scattered catches followed by a more serious apprentice season as a sophomore and a bunch of catches as one of the top tight ends as an upperclassman. Or he could evaporate, or he could be Jake Butt except fast.
While teammate Aubrey Solomon's commitment came as a pleasant surprise, four-star Leesburg (GA) Lee County S/OLB Otis Reese had already declared Michigan his leader heading into this weekend before pulling the trigger yesterday. Reese put Michigan on top as soon as he added an offer in April; two subsequent first-hand interactions with the coaches, first at the Leesburg satellite camp and then at this weekend's Under The Lights camp, proved enough to earn his commitment:
"I think this was a pretty easy decision for me," he said after pledging to the staff. "The coaches here have treated me like family since they offered and spending time with them when they came to our school gave me a great foundation to build off of with them. Once I got here and experienced things a little bit more, I wanted to make it official."
Reese is the fourth commit in the 2018 class, joining Springfield (OH) teammates Leonard Taylor and Antwuan Johnson and fellow Georgian Jalil Irvin.
|4* S||NR S||NR S||
4*, 92, #11 S,
4*, #11 S,
Only 247 has released ordered 2018 rankings, and they have Reese sitting just outside their top 100. At worst, Scout has him in the same range—they've given early four- or five-star ratings to 122 prospects in the class. Rivals didn't include Reese in their initial, unordered top 100, which came out in mid-April.
Reese is listed by all four sites at 6'2" and 190-195 pounds. While he's regarded as a safety prospect, he's got the frame to play outside linebacker, and according to 247's Steve Lorenz Michigan plans to use him in the same role (well, defensive role) Jabrill Peppers will play this fall:
While he's currently listed as a safety in our database, we're told that Michigan actually likes him at the SAM linebacker spot and that both Don Brown and Chris Partridge love his game. Remember, Michigan held a satellite camp at Leesburg early on in the month, so they were able to get a great look at Reese and reportedly loved what they saw out of him.
As you'll see on his film, Reese already plays a similar role in high school; he spends a lot of time playing in the box or over the slot.
Most of what's out there on Reese comes from Scout's Southeast analyst Chad Simmons. Reese's Scout profile features an extensive sophomore evaluation:
EvaluationSOPHOMORE EVAL: Reese is a physical football player. He played varsity as a freshman and has improved regularly since. His size has stood out from the beginning, and by the time he reaches college, he may be playing inside the box on a regular basis as a linebacker. He is a real field general and he is used in coverage, in run support, and he blitzes off the edge as well. He is a little tight in the hips and he can improve in coverage. At his best when coming down hill in attack mode. He can close well and he makes solid tackles.
- Blitzing Ability
- Closing Speed
- Tackling Ability
Areas to Improve
- Backpedal Quickness
- Hip Flexibility
That sounds like a player tailor-made for the SAM in Don Brown's defense. Simmons added some more details following Reese's commitment:
What Reese is, is a versatile football player. You will see him in coverage one play, then he is lined up in the box chasing a running back down backside, and on the next play he is blitzing the quarterback. He is a football player who has been on the Scout radar since his freshman season. He has a great frame, and he is still growing, so projecting where he ends up playing at Michigan could go back and forth between safety and linebacker. He has a nose for the football. He is exceptional in blitz packages and he loves to come downhill and play physical. He looks most natural when moving north-south and when playing inside the box. In coverage, he is solid, but that is an area he can improve on. Reese can improve his feet, hips and reaction to receivers when asked to cover. He has a great body, great frame and the best football is ahead of him. He loves to compete, he loves to learn, and he is going to play hard on the field.
In addition to sounding like a Don Brown SAM, he sounds like a Harbaugh guy.
Back in February, 247's Kipp Adams identified Reese as one of the top underclassmen in Georgia, and included a freshman and sophomore stat lines that show Reese's versatility:
The next big prospect out of Lee County is 2018 hybrid safety Otis Reese. Reese, at 6-2, 195, reports offers from Troy, Central Michigan, and Louisville, with interest from Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee. He had 55 tackles, four sacks, five tackles for loss, 10 quarterback hurries and four pass breakups as a freshman, and 52 tackles, six sacks, and seven tackles for loss during his sophomore season. Over the next two years, Reese should grow into a stout strong safety who can enforce the middle of the field.
That's impressive all-around production for an underclassman.
Reese holds offers from Central Michigan, Louisville, LSU, Troy, and UCLA. He camped at Alabama and Georgia but hasn't landed offers from them yet; several other top programs, including Auburn, Clemson, and Ohio State, showed interest. Michigan got a big leg up in his recruitment by being the first major program to offer him.
FAKE 40 TIME
Freshman highlights and single-game reels can be found on his Hudl page.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
At the moment, it looks like Reese will have a clear path to the field at SAM as soon as he steps on campus. Jabrill Peppers will almost certainly be off to the NFL by the time Reese arrives in 2018, and if Khaleke Hudson is needed at strong safety—which looks to be the case—then there isn't another player on the roster who fits the role as well as Reese. Of course, Michigan hasn't come close to wrapping up the 2017 class; safety commit J'Marick Woods has a similar build and the coaches are expected to take a couple more safety-types. It's hard to imagine Reese won't have some competition by the time he gets to Ann Arbor.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
It has four players in it, and will presumably add many more. Here's the class, which is now fourth on the 247 Composite team rankings, as it currently stands:
[Photo: Chris Nee/247]
Before showing up to Ann Arbor for Michigan's big camp weekend, four-star Leesburg (GA) Lee County DT Aubrey Solomon was considered a Georgia lean with strong mutual interest in the likes of Alabama, Auburn, Florida, and Ole Miss. Solomon's commitment today, unlike that of 2018 teammate Otis Reese, came out of the blue. Just look at his Twitter feed, which is SEC upon SEC upon SEC until this.
On my way to ichigan ...
— Aubrey Solomon (@AubreySolomon91) June 17, 2016
This coaching staff is rather good at recruiting. Yes, they got a head start with the Leesburg satellite camp, but this still came as a huge surprise.
Solomon helps fill a significant need at defensive tackle; he's the second DT in the 2017 class, joining in-state three-star Phil Paea, and the 15th total commit.
4*, #9 DT,
4*, #4 DT,
4*, 84, #6 DT,
4*, 91, #14 DT,
4*, #6 DT,
While all four services have Solomon solidly in the four-star range, there's a bit of a split. ESPN is particularly bullish—as is Rivals when you go by position rankings—while Scout and especially 247 aren't quite as high on him.
He is unquestionably large. Scout, ESPN, and 247 all list him at 6'3" and 300-305 pounds. Rivals has what looks like an outdated listing of 6'4", 287.
There's not quite as much scouting as I expected out there for a recruit with Solomon's rankings and offer sheet. What's out there, however, is impessive.
Solomon first emerged on the radar as a freshman who very much did not look like a freshman at the 2014 RCS Atlanta camp. Rivals's Josh Helmholdt named him one of the top underclassmen in attendance:
The 6-foot-3, 279-pound Solomon immediately caught our attention at the beginning of camp from a physical standpoint. There was a shock when he said he was still 15 years old and just a freshman. His play in one-on-ones created further intrigue as he had no trouble battling with the top interior offensive linemen from a strength standpoint. There are some technical issues to shore up, but nothing that cannot be fixed and plenty of physical gifts that cannot be taught.
247's Chris Nee scouted Solomon the following February at the Valdosta MVP Camp, and from his vantage point it sounds like Solomon made strides with his technique in the interim:
DT Aubrey Solomon - A 2017 defensive tackle from Leesburg (Ga.) Lee County who was very impressive on the day. He could have easily taken home defensive line MVP honors as well. A big, physical defender in the middle. Solomon exhibited the ability to play with leverage, drive his blocker off the spot, and finish the play. He has good quickness for a big man and was very active with his hands at keeping blockers off-balance. He reports multiple early offers.
Scout's Chad Simmons saw him at the same event and was similarly impressed:
Great frame at 6-3, 305 pounds and he does a great job of using his size and power to press offensive linemen and close the distance. Has the lateral quickness to play down the line verses high level competition.
Rivals's Woody Wommack saw Solomon in a game setting last fall, and while he got tempo'd a bit he still managed to show his potential:
Class of 2017 Rivals100 defensive tackle Aubrey Solomon looks like the real deal and was very impressive in Friday's game, even though his team took the loss. Solomon is a legit 6-foot-4 and 300 pounds with very little bad weight, and he was in the backfield all night. Ultimately, Colquitt's no-huddle offense seemed to wear him down as the night went along, but his conditioning should only improve as his career moves along. Solomon, who favors Georgia, Florida and Auburn early on in his recruitment, will be one of the most sought-after defensive linemen in his class.
ESPN's evaluation focuses quite a bit on technique, repeatedly noting that Soloman has to develop consistency—like many of their reports, "can" "shows" and "flashes" all show up often. While the hedging takes away some of the impact, ESPN ranks him higher than anyone else, and there's a lot to like if he puts it all together:
Can fire off and capable at times of disrupting with quick penetration. Can be stout as well when he wins with quickness and leverage, flashing ability to explode out and uncoil at contact. Pads can quickly rise at times and when do can give ground and needs to work on taking on the double team. Does good job of bringing his hands, but needs to improve upper body strength and do better job of extending and creating separation and work to get off blocks quicker at times.
Can quickly get off the ball and get up-field and disrupt, flashing an effective club and swim. Shows flashes of attacking half-man and working a rip, but can look to lean on the swim move and if doesn't win with initial move can get stalled and needs to continue to develop pass rush arsenal. Has power to drive blockers back and collapse the pocket with bull rush when stays lows, but needs to work to clear and finish. Has tools to be disruptive interior rusher, but needs to continue to refine and be more consistent.
They conclude he can be a "very good, if not excellent Power-5 DT," most likely as a three-tech who needs a little time to develop.
Scout's free evaluation is one of the better ones I've read on a defensive tackle; it puts the technique issues in the context of his overall physical ability:
EvaluationAn athletic defensive lineman who knows how to get off the ball. He is most effective with his quickness. He has good anticipation and he reacts quickly in the trenches. Really gets up the field. Can make plays in the backfield. Gets consistent penetration. Can use his hands, but needs to improve that, and his moves to counter offensive linemen. When he struggles, he tends to play high, so he can work on bettering his pad level. Just a quick defensive lineman who can make plays. Plays hard and plays fast for a guy his size.
- Lateral Range
- Quickness off Ball
Areas to Improve
- Pad Level
That's a 305-pound high school defensive tackle with "lateral range" and "suddenness" as strengths. I very much like the sound of that.
Solomon holds offers from Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi State, UNC, Ohio State, Ole Miss, South Carolina, and USC. I probably don't need to tell you that is an excellent list.
Rivals completely destroyed the functionality of their database so I don't have as much here as usual. Lee County also features fellow new Michigan commit Otis Reese.
None that I could find.
FAKE 40 TIME
Solomon's Scout profile lists a verified 40 time of 5.47, which gets zero FAKEs. With DTs, short-range quickness and agility is much more important than running 40 yards fast in a straight line. In that regard, Solomon looks quite good.
Sophomore highlights and single-game reels can be found on his Hudl page.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Michigan will have to replace Ryan Glasgow, Chris Wormley (expected to play 3-tech this year), and possibly even Mo Hurst after this season, which will provide ample opportunity for freshmen to find a way onto the field. Solomon has that potential if he's technically sound enough; if he's not, he should quickly find his way into the rotation after a redshirt year, and he's got the look of a multi-year starter with NFL potential.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan can probably use another DT or two in the class in addition to Solomon and Paea, but Solomon's commitment makes that need far less dire. The 2017 class is now up to 15 commits, and that number is expected to get into the mid-to-upper 20s by Signing Day. Positions of need include offensive linemen of all sorts, WR, TE, SDE, CB, and S.
I'll leave this here:
— Alejandro Zúñiga (@ByAZuniga) June 18, 2016
Here's the class as it currently stands:
Always good to get a guy from Batman HS. [Keith Neibuhr/247]
247's Steve Lorenz reports Michigan, currently hosting a huge group of prospects for their camp, has picked up commitments from a pair of Georgia teammates:
— Steve Lorenz (@TremendousUM) June 18, 2016
Both play for Leesburg (GA) Lee County, where Michigan co-hosted a satellite camp with Georgia earlier this spring. Aubrey Solomon is ranked as the #6 DT and #94 overall prospect in the country.
Otis Reese, who Lorenz reports is being recruited as a SAM in Don Brown's defense, is an early four-star ranked by 247 as the #117 overall prospect in the 2018 class.
I'll have Soloman's full commitment post up as soon as I can get it together. Reese's will go up tomorrow.
Desmond Morgan significantly outplayed his recruiting ranking. [Fuller]
The good news: the defensive side of the 2011 hybrid RichRod/Hoke recruiting class turned out much better than the offensive side.
The bad news: that's a pretty low bar to clear.
This exercise will get a lot more fun next year, I promise.
Defensive Line: Roh 2.0 And A LB/TE/DE
In-state four-star DE Brennen Beyer was billed as a slightly less-hyped Craig Roh, which turned out to be a spot-on comparison in more ways than one. Like Roh, Beyer played early and often, appearing in 11 games as a true freshman on his way to 49 career appearances and 27 starts. Like Roh, Beyer bounced between defensive end and outside linebacker throughout his career. Like Roh, Beyer was a solid player who didn't post big numbers. If there's been a tighter YMRMFSPA fit, it's not by much.
The other two players listed as defensive linemen had uninspiring profiles and careers to match. Generic three-star DE Keith Heitzman's limited upside was apparent. Brian's projection:
May emerge into a depth defender in a few years.
After a redshirt, Heitzman was a low-impact rotation DE for a couple years, totaling 15 tackles before moving to tight end in 2014. He caught two passes that year, then Jim Harbaugh came in and told the fifth-year seniors they'd have to earn their spots; Heitzman wasn't a fan and grad-transferred to Ohio, where he posted decent numbers (22 receptions, 3 TDs) in his final season.
Columbus native Chris Rock (NTCR) saw his recruiting stock fall dramatically as a senior after he was initially billed as one of Ohio's top prospects. Rock left the program in the spring of 2012 before ever playing a down. In an usual move, he enrolled at Ohio State and walked on to the program after sitting out a year. He didn't see the field much in Columbus, either.
The star of the defensive class ended up being an unheralded recruit out of powerhouse Cleveland Glenville. The recruiting sites ranked Frank Clark as a middling three-star at tight end (Scout), outside linebacker (Rivals), and defensive end (ESPN). His profile features a rather fun series of headlines from the end of his recruitment:
Awesome sequence of articles from Rivals:
- Glenville LB close to being a Spartan? (money quote: "As many Spartan fans know, head coach Mark Dantonio does not push or pressure kids to make a commitment on their official visit.")
Save that face, yo.
Clark, of course, blew away those expectations in becoming Michigan's best defensive end. His college career ended in an awful way, with Clark getting kicked off the team for an ugly domestic violence incident. In spite of that, he went in the second round to Seattle and had an excellent rookie season.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the post.]
Previously: Last year's profiles. S Josh Metellus, S Khaleke Hudson, CB David Long, CB Lavert Hill, LB Elysee Mbem-Bosse, LB Devin Bush Jr., LB Devin Gil, LB Josh Uche, DE Ron Johnson, DT Michael Dwumfour, DT Rashan Gary, DE Carlo Kemp, OL Ben Bredeson, OL Michael Owenu.
|Baltimore, MD – 6'5", 330|
|Scout||3*, NR overall
|Rivals||3*, NR overall
#36 OT, #16 MD
|ESPN||3*, NR overall
#60 OT, #27 MD
|24/7||3*, #999 overall
#50 OG, #26 MD
|Other Suitors||UVA, MD, ARK, MSU, VT, Tenn|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace.|
|Notes||Twitter. Gilman (Henry Poggi). UVA decommit.|
His Hudl film won't embed but is here if you're curious.
Dear reader, I have to admit that after three of the last four profiles covered two camp-friendly, massively-scouted offensive linemen and Rashan Freakin' Gary it is a considerable relief to arrive at a generic three-star. Stephen Spanellis's scouting reports are mostly "is large man, next," and this is fine. I do not have to first paste 5000 words into a template and then hew that down to ~1800. I can take 1800 and produce somewhat less than that. This is a long and solipsistic way of saying Spanellis is a bit of a project.
One thing that won't require work: his size. Spanellis is a biglarge hugedude. ESPN, which you may remember said Michael Ownenu had "nice" size as if he was not a super-dense space cyborg, is willing to confirm this:
…excellent overall size at this stage for a projected interior player. Possesses a good combination of height and bulk, but needs to watch how he adds size as frame at this point looks close to its ceiling
Tim Drevno focuses on that for his MGoBlue evaluation:
Stephen is a big, big man; he wears a size 18 shoe. … the type of guy who can really move people off the ball. He has great arm length, plays with good initial quickness, and can finish blocks.
“He’s a huge kid, 6-5, 330 right now,” Gilman assistant coach Henry Russell said. “He’s in excellent shape for that size and he’s extremely strong. Strongest player on our team. He has an unbelievable work ethic. First one in the weight room, last one to leave."
Spanellis's recruitment confirms this: these days an Arkansas offer more or less confirms you're one of the 20 biggest OL in any particular recruiting class. Check.
Assets other than his ability to provide shade are somewhat limited right now. Every once in a while you get an assertion that Spanellis could be a tackle in college, but the majority of reports say he'd get eaten up on the edge and can only play on the interior. Scout's evaluation of his game can't go a sentence without throwing in a "but":
…aggressive and finishes blocks, but he needs to improve his footwork so he can stay on a block better. He comes out of his stance quickly, but he needs to lighten his feet and drive his legs more in run blocking. He uses his strength and initial punch in pass blocking but needs to improve lateral quickness.
Aggression, power, size, and tenacity are assets—hey not bad!—and explosion, feet, and pass protection are areas to improve—uh. Clint Brewster's evaluation is a version of the above that's a bit nicer:
…excels in the straight-ahead run game as a mauler type of offensive lineman that Michigan looks for. He's physical upon contact and uses his body to overpower defensive lineman and drive them into the ground. Spanellis has some fluid movements to be able to turn his body on down blocks and cut off defenders.
ESPN's report does sound like their ranking for once, down to a serious lack of editing:
Displays good, but not quite the type of strength you may expect from size …doesn't display a powerful punch … doesn't display ideal lateral mobility to mirror. … Can use body and size to engulf and wall off defenders at times. Could struggle to adjust to moving targets, but displays good ability to locate and use angles to get a hit on second level targets. … a mid-to-lower Power-5 or Group of 5 [prospect].
"…does a decent job of bending and maintaining leverage on run plays. He finishes plays, driving people into the ground. He does a good job of working combo blocks up to the second level. … heavy feet and a thick lower body. He’s not a player who will hold up well against edge rushers, and he needs significant work in pass protection. He will need to work on his stance and footwork.
Spanellis's run blocking comes in for praise on the regular and is almost always followed by a "but" as the analyst describes heavy feet and iffy pass protection. Right now he's a big straight-ahead guy without much versatility; he's going to need some serious Drevno time before he's ready to see the field.
Spanellis should have the mental makeup to succeed. The UVA commit when he had other, more pig-shaped options indicates a guy who's interested in academics and from time to time you'll see an analyst note his football IQ. Adam Friedman:
"…shines as a run blocker, that’s really his game. He understands blocking schemes and who needs to get to the second level, where the double team is. He holds the point of attack very well. …very smart. He understands some of the things that you need to look for as an offensive lineman. He understands protection schemes.”
Being able to hack it in a classroom is a skill at least somewhat correlated with the ability to make split second decisions, and Spanellis appears to already be translating that kind of thing to the field. Knowing what to do against a blizzard of different fronts, slants, stunts, and other stupid defense tricks is more than half the battle for a lineman.
Spanellis might have more upside than it sounds above if he ends up at 300 and can suddenly move pretty well, or it was his footwork that was the main issue; either way it's pretty obvious he's got a long way to go compared to the other two OL in the class.
Why Ben Braden? Braden was also a simply enormous OL prospect who some people thought could play tackle despite some questions about his feet and general mobility. Like Spanellis, he was a middling three star. Braden started out at tackle, actually starting there as a redshirt freshman, before his pass protection issues forced him inside. He matured into a solid Big Ten guard over the course of last season and has a senior year yet to go.
Braden is a couple inches taller than Spanellis, which is to Spanellis's advantage. Braden's had problems with lunging for much of his career; Spanellis is more compact and should have fewer issues in that department. Spanellis should be able to match Braden's football IQ; he is a high-academic kid.
Guru Reliability: High. Gilman is a heavily scouted school and Spanellis was healthy. Not much disagreement in rankings or reports.
Variance: High. Very big guy with a long way to go.
Ceiling: Moderate. Doesn't seem like he'll ever be the kind of OL who's able to zone particularly well, which puts a cap on his upside. Does promise to be a big pile-mover, and Harbaugh Harbaugh Harbaugh.
General Excitement Level: Moderate. Seems like a smart dude and Drevno's polished up a lot of guys like him until they're very shiny.
Projection: Redshirt. He'll be a long shot in 2017 for the three open spots, and then a long shot in 2018 for the one or two that will open up then. By the time he's a redshirt junior he should be rounding into whatever his finished product is going to look like. Assuming that Bredeson ends up staying outside he'll have a decent shot of being a two-year starter at guard.
Wilkes Visits, Adds Offer
Five-star 2017 Indiana wing Kris Wilkes visited Ann Arbor on Sunday. As expected, Michigan put forth an offer, though Wilkes has yet to offer up any quotes about it beyond a quick post-offer tweet. Most of the top Big Ten programs are after Wilkes, as are the likes of Butler, Kansas, UCLA, and Xavier. Kentucky, which hasn't offered him, currently leads his Crystal Ball.
Michigan's best bet in 2017 continues to be three-star in-state wing Jamal Cain. Last week, Scout's Brian Snow posted that Xavier is now "basically out" for Cain after adding 2017 wing Jared Ridder, who's also a 3/4 type; that leaves Michigan as the odds-on favorite.
Four-star OH wing Kyle Young, who also holds a Michigan offer, included the Wolverines in his top ten and told 247 he'll be on campus for M's team camp this month. Young is coming off a visit to Ohio State, which is considered the early favorite for him.
UMHoops's Sean Moran reports Michigan has been getting involved with top-100 2017 IL PG Nojel Eastern:
“After the first EYBL sessions a lot more schools have been involved,” said Eastern. “The head coaches text me more and I get more calls. New schools, Michigan, a lot of them call my mom, but the one that calls me is Michigan.”
Michigan needs a point guard this cycle and Eastern is one of the more intriguing prospects at the position: he's listed at 6'6", 200 pounds. If the coaches can get him on campus, an offer is likely to follow—MSU, OSU, Purdue, and Illinois are already among the schools to offer him.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
We're in this thing. Proudbox is carrying HTTV in its initial… uh… box, if you haven't already ordered a copy. In addition to HTTV the thing comes with a pile of other unique Michigan items, including a Harbaugh bobblehead that tweets trash talk at SEC coaches*. They're working with the university itself so each box comes with one piece of officially licensed merch and various other goodies like stuff from Shinola, Zingermans baked goods, special publications from The Michigan Daily, Michigan Marching Band music or "something really amazing," like a Jim Harbaugh bobblehead that tweets trash talk at SEC coaches***.
They've got an introductory deal for MGoBlog persons, and five percent of the proceeds go to the U or various charities like Mott. Check them out.
*[it does not do this**]
**[but maybe it does!]
***[again, it does not do this****]
****[unless it does!]
— Mike Kaye (@mike_e_kaye) June 15, 2016
Jarrod Wilson doing well. He was an undrafted free agent since he was so boring at Michigan, but it seems like he might make the Jaguars:
In just two minicamp practices, Wilson has collected two interceptions. While he is playing against third-string talent, it is hard to ignore his clear playmaking ability.
“It’s amazing, he’s very sharp," defensive coordinator Todd Wash said on Wednesday. "He comes in, he learns the package really well, and he puts himself in position to make a lot of plays out of the middle field. It’s good to see. Up until today he was what we called our 'ball aware player' who was leading the team so far here. We’re excited about his progress so far.”
…veteran free safety and high-profile free agent addition, Tashaun Gipson, sees a little bit of himself in the rookie.
"I've been truly impressed with Jarrod," Gipson said. "He's truly one of those guys, he reminds me of myself, I made most of my noise around this time [as a rookie] heading into training camp. Like him I was undrafted."
Those two interceptions are half of his career total at Michigan, where he would not have been described as a "playmaker"; he was more an underappreciated security blanket. Maybe that was more an artifact of his deployment than his skills.
Harbaugh in Tennessee. His camp stop in Murfreesboro draws a long, good article from SEC Country because it's more interesting than looking at an empty field. I like Harbaugh talking like he's in Fargo:
Harbaugh then asks, “Is there anywhere else you’d rather be?”
Players (halfheartedly): “No.”
Harbaugh: “Anywhere at all?”
The players grunt.
Harbaugh: “Heck no! Ya like football!”
At some point a little kid watching from the sidelines gets bonked:
A tiny grade schooler on the other side of the fence is struck in the mouth with a wayward pigskin. “Oooooh,” say the people nearby.
The child, outfitted in a No. 4 Michigan jersey, is crumpled on the ground as his parents tend to him. No crying. Just shock.
Harbaugh notices the commotion.
“Everything OK?” He yells from the practice field.
The child is still lying face down on the ground. Several adults give thumbs up.
Good start for that kid. Demonstrating toughness. Later, Harbaugh catches up with him:
Before Harbaugh can escape (he’s not trying too hard), the parents of a little boy approach him. Their kid is the one who got clocked by an errant football earlier in the night.
“That was you?” Harbaugh asks, bending down to get on the kid’s level.
The kid nods. The coach imparts his wisdom.
“That would’ve killed a lesser man,” Harbaugh said. “A lesser man would’ve been dead.”
Whole thing is recommended.
Say what? Athlon's All Big Ten team goes four deep and looks pretty reasonable to me with a couple exceptions. One is the inclusion of Bryan Mone, who probably isn't even going to start over Ryan Glasgow. Glasgow isn't included despite the fact that he should be second-team at worst. Ryan Glasgow is good, and nobody seems to want to acknowledge this.
I went in to WTKA today to talk about the USA soccer match to night and along the way we got to talking about Glasgow because Sam posted what he's hearing about the configuration of the defensive line*; he had the temerity to list Glasgow as a starter. This caused a lot of people to groan about how that must mean Mone isn't going to live up to the hype. I read this thread. It was boggling. Nobody appreciates Ryan Glasgow. Read the dang UFRs!
*[Which is that the starters will be read Gary/Glasgow/Wormley/Charlton and backed up by Marshall/Mone/Hurst/Winovich.]
The second thing:
I literally went "bwa hwa wha?!" when I saw Nicholson, who couldn't stay in the starting lineup of an abject MSU secondary last year. People improve, etc.; having Nicholson that high on your list is asking for a truly spectacular one-year turnaround.
BTW, Michigan guys on the list:
- First team: Jehu Chesson, Jake Butt, Mason Cole, Jabrill Peppers, Jourdan Lewis, Chris Wormley.
- Second team: Taco Charlton, Erik Magnuson, Amara Darboh
- Fourth team: Kyle Kalis, Bryan Mone, Peppers(PR), Lewis(KR).
Magnuson and Kalis are a bit high and leaving off Glasgow is goofy, but it's reasonable. I'd bet that Michigan's QB is better than Tommy Armstrong and Wes Lunt but since you don't have any idea who that's going to be it's hard to put them on a list. I applaud their bravery in leaving De'Veon Smith entirely off a list of Big Ten RBs that goes eight deep.
This guy again. OSU WR coach Zach Smith is really mad at Nebraska for some reason. It's a thing. This manifests publicly on Smith's twitter account, which is kind of like Harbaugh's if Harbaugh had the intellect of a cabbage:
The scare quotes around "claim" really make this one. Quotes in previous sentence not scare quotes but actual quotes since they were used to quote the tweet. Anyway.
Lotta starts coming back. Michigan has one of the most experienced OLs in the country:
That and a cup of acid thrown at a district attorney's face gets you legendary Batman villain Two-Face, but it's better than the alternative.
The usual spate of post-commitment scouting reports have come in since Luiji Vilain announced for Michigan on Sunday, and lo, they are good. The Wolverine's Brandon Justice talked to an opposing high school coach who made a lofty comparison—Jevon Kearse—and had difficulty finding an issue with Vilain's game:
"Without any disrespect to other teams we play, he's the first name that pops up that comes to my mind when I think about defensive ends we'll play," he said. "I wouldn't say he has any flaws - just some size and strength to add, and Michigan will take care of that. I think he's right where they want him to be. I think he's big enough where he can make an impact right away, like a third-down specialist. He's just too athletic to keep off the field."
247's Clint Brewster posted a film breakdown slideshow featuring a strength of Vilain's that I didn't highlight much in the Hello post:
Villain's play recognition is another important aspect of his game that stands out on tape. He never drops his head and his awareness for run/pass diagnosis are impressive. At defensive end you have to be a quick-thinker and react to plays in an instant. Vilain's awareness allows him to come up with many bat-downs on tape and he's able to diagnose the read-option and come up with stops in the backfield. His ability to diagnose keeps him a step ahead on plays where there's mis-direction in the backfield.
Discipline on the edge is paramount against today's college offenses; Vilain appears to have it.
Scout's lengthy, free scouting report ends thusly:
Vilain will compete from day one at Michigan and he's going to be hard to keep off the field.
Ultimately, I expect him to be a multi-year starter, all-conference performer and play on Sundays.
That would be acceptable.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]