2014 Recruiting: Jared Wangler

2014 Recruiting: Jared Wangler

Submitted by Brian on May 9th, 2014 at 11:19 AM

Previously: Last year's profiles, CB Brandon Watson, CB Jabrill Peppers.

Warren, MI – 6'1", 225


Scout 3*, NR overall
#53 OLB
Rivals 3*, NR overall
NR OLB, #17 MI
ESPN 3*, NR overall
#71 OLB, #13 MI
24/7 3*, NR overall
#34 S, #6 MI
Other Suitors PSU (decommit), MSU, LSU
YMRMFSPA Jordan Kovacs, except a linebacker
Previously On MGoBlog Hello post from Ace.
Notes Warren DLS(Shane Morris). Son of John Wangler, brother of Jack.


Midseason senior highlights:


Whiplash time in this series as we swing from the highest-rated Michigan recruit in the history of recruits being ranked to one of the few guys in the class who qualifies for sleeper of the year consideration. (Note: the criteria here has expanded to allow one four-star rating from the four services, because there are very few candidates these days if you restrict yourself to pure three-stars.) OLB Jared Wangler is of course the son of John Wangler and brother of walk-on WR Jack, so when Michigan came calling it took him about a week to dump his Penn State commitment and sign on.

Despite the low rankings, Wangler has a few different indicators in his favor. A Penn State offer is nice; Wangler also had an MSU offer and an apparently legit offer from LSU. While that latter was undoubtedly influenced by Les Miles's relationship with the elder Wangler, it seemed to be a real thing($). Wangler was also selected to the UA game, though he missed it after shoulder surgery.

If those things are odd for a guy it appears no one even considered for a fourth star, well... yeah. There is something of a disconnect between those rankings and his scouting reports, too. ESPN's main downside is a need to add bulk, and opposite that you have these diverse and sundry positives($):

Demonstrates very good range to the sideline. Takes proper angles when in long pursuit showing the ability to open the hips to turn and run. ... Reacts quickly to the run and pass demonstrating the agility and balance needed to move through traffic and play downhill to the football. ... tough customer with solid wrap tackling skills and is a finisher who doesn't allow leaky yards after contact. ... relentless desire to chase down the football ...

We see very good underneath zone coverage skills. Displays the athleticism needed to cross over for depth with eyes on the quarterback and shows good short-to-medium route awareness along with high point interception skills. The ability to make tight turns along with his playing speed suggests man coverage potential. ... athleticism should prove very effective as an outside linebacker at the BCS level of competition.

So naturally they followed that report up by ranking Wangler several spots behind a dude going to Georgia State and a 5'10" dude with crazy eyes headed to Colorado. He did edge bros headed to Chattanooga and Albany, though. So he's got that going for him.

Allen Trieu has a similar take, calling Wangler a "very good athlete" and noting his ability to cover over the slot:

... often asked to play over the slot and drop into coverage. ... He does a nice job of taking on blockers and when he arrives at the ball carrier, he's a strong tackler who can deliver a strike. He's a smart, instinctive kid who keeps himself in good position, doesn't lose contain and does a good job of diagnosing plays quickly and using his ability to run to get to the ball carrier.

Trieu listed "athleticism," "hitting ability," and "pass coverage skills" as strengths in his Scout profile with "shedding ability" as an area for improvement--was really hoping for size there--and echoing his coverage praise:

Is able to play over the slot and does a nice job in coverage, both in man to man and dropping into zones. Has good closing speed to the football and is a good striker who explodes into his tackles. Having just transitioned into playing in the box, he simply has to continue to get stronger and work on getting off blocks.

247's Clint Brewster joins the "this guy can really cover" chorus:

...smart, tough, and plays with good technique at the outside linebacker position. He excels in the open field and does an outstanding job in coverage. .... Wangler has an instinctive and quick first step and made a lot of plays behind the line of scrimmage. Wangler’s talent level doesn’t really pop out at you but he is solid in just about every area of the position. ...fluid and fast enough that he's often asked to line up over the slot and handle quick coverage responsibilities.

And his dad is not an unbiased observer but what the hell let's get his two cents:

"He's around the ball, has great ball skills. He'll hit you, and always when he hit, you knew you were hit. But he can move, too. The good thing everyone likes is he's 215 pounds, and he can get up to 230 easy because of his frame. He can cover, too, because he's a converted safety. He can take the slot guys, has the versatility to come off the end and blitz, take on a fullback or a guard and make a play."

So what's the deal with the rankings? The catch here appears to be the "if you can't say something nice..." nature of the recruiting industrial complex. When Wangler hit camps he'd usually get a brief mention along the lines of "good in coverage against running backs" or "underrated athleticism" before folks moved along to other prospects that jumped off the field more. Brewster touches on Wangler's general lack of wow factor in the "improvements" section of his eval:

Wangler isn’t the most talented player out there but makes up with for it being solid in most areas of the position. He has average size with pretty good athleticism but not great overall speed.

In a generally positive live evaluation, Rivals's Tim Sullivan noted his "impressive athleticism" one paragraph before stating that Wangler will never be the biggest or fastest linebacker on the field. His scouting is full of this kind of schizophrenia. Josh Helmholdt mentioned his "great speed to go with his coverage skills," for instance. Even his coach has a bit of hesitation to him sometimes:

"He'll come up and hit you. He's got good enough agility to make some plays in the open field."

It kind of feels like analysts say these things in the same way they say Nik Stauskas is not just a shooter, you know?

Wangler is a high school safety Michigan plans on moving down to linebacker; I bet one dollar that Michigan envisions him as one of those hybrid space players. Michigan's move to an over defense clarifies a lot of weird things we heard about his recruitment, like the thing he kept saying about how the coaches saw him as a SAM or a WILL.

Those are two entirely different positions in the under. They're still pretty different in the over, but it seems clear the meaning there was "if we become an over defense you are a SAM; if we stick with the under you are a WILL. " This is a fit that Magnus foresaw:

For him to fit at SAM, I think he would have to play in a 4-3 Over defense, where he could cover the tight end and play in the C gap. As for the WILL position, I think Wangler has the mental aptitude but not the speed; he diagnoses the plays quickly, but I think he'll be too slow to slice into the backfield or beat Big Ten running backs to the hole.

So for now he is a SAM, one who can hopefully cover a tight end and defeat his blocks. Sullivan caught him in person a couple times and believes this is the plan:

...has a linebacker's mentality at the safety position. Although he's the size of a safety at this point, he has the frame to grow into linebacker at the next level - which Michigan coaches expect him to do.

FWIW, he told Rivals in January he was up to 225, which means he could hit fall camp at 230 or even 235, which is already in the plausible range for playing time. Michigan should not need him, but that does not stop them from playing guys all that often.

Etc.: Daily profile. Interview with the D Zone.

Why Jordan Kovacs? Kovacs was always the world's best tiny linebacker even if he was pressed into duty deeper due to his ability to actually do the things a safety is supposed to do. Wangler appears to fill the tough tacklin', awareness havin', tight end lockin' role that Kovacs generally did.

Wangler's obviously bigger and will move closer to the line of scrimmage; he probably cannot be as utterly reliable as Michigan's best safety blanket in a decade and a half, but kid is from a football family, and is a legacy like Kovacs.

Other option here is Michigan's best and really only space linebacker in the past decade or so: Stevie Brown. Brown came with top-100 guru rankings and high praise for his athleticism that was not of the Not Just A Shooter variety, though, and struggled for most of his career to apply that athleticism in a positive way. Kovacs is closer.

Guru Reliability: High-ish. Was relatively prominent for a couple years, attended a number of camps, and there is approximate consensus. Did not get to show his wares at the UA game, though, and his offers dispute he rankings.

Variance: Moderate. Position switch doesn't really bother me since it is a move down, and it seems like he's already approaching a plausible playing weight. But it is a position move and he is a tweener.

Ceiling: Moderate-plus. He can be an effective presence in the slot and a glue guy between front seven and secondary. Probably not going to blow you away with his rippling awesomeness.

General Excitement Level: Moderate-plus. I like adding LB/S tweeners in this era of college football who can shift between hunting slot receivers and still put a shoulder to a tailback and make him stop. Wangler's got a number of reasons to think he'll outperform his middling rankings, as well.

Projection: It doesn't seem like there's a reason to play any freshman linebacker this year what with Michigan possessing a solid, veteran two-deep that has a couple of special teams options further down the depth chart in McCray and Gant... but a couple probably will. It doesn't seem like Wangler will be one of them, what with Ferns enrolling early and Michigan pretty well stocked on slot options what with Countess and the previous guy in this series.

After a probable redshirt, James Ross will have one more year before a free-for-all for the starting SAM job develops between Wangler, Allen Gant, and possibly Chase Winovich or Mike McCray, depending on how those guys develop. Dymonte Thomas may even be a candidate there if he does not win a safety job, at least in nickel packages. Wangler has an excellent shot of at least finding a role then, as it's doubtful Winovich or McCray will be able to approximate Wangler's cover skills. Gant, another converted safety, will provide a challenge.

Even so Wangler should have a three-year run as some sort of contributor and seems to have a good chance to start as a heady effort guy who is built to eliminate tight ends and tailbacks against teams who spread the field.

2014 Recruiting: Jabrill Peppers

2014 Recruiting: Jabrill Peppers

Submitted by Brian on April 30th, 2014 at 3:12 PM

Previously: Last year's profiles, CB Brandon Watson.

Paramus, NJ – 6'1", 210


Scout 5*, #3 overall
#1 CB, #1 NJ
Rivals 5*, #3 overall
#1 CB, #1 NJ
ESPN 5*, #2 overall
#1 CB, #1 NJ
24/7 5*, #4 overall
#1 CB, #1 NJ
Other Suitors Alabama, OSU, ND, Florida, LSU, everyone else
YMRMFSPA Charles Woodson
Previously On MGoBlog Hello post from Ace. One Frame At A Time on the run. Picture Pages on the run. Comparing Peppers to hyped dudes past.
Notes Paramus Catholic (Juwann Bushell-Beatty)


Junior year:

Senior year:

And you're probably familiar with this one:

Do I actually need to write this one? Surely you are full to the brim with Jabrill Peppers information. Eighteen years ago he sliced open his father's head with a sword and leapt forth, fully formed, ready to wreak havoc upon Persians and Carthaginians alike. After shoving the Indian subcontinent into an aesthetically pleasing location he wandered the world, dispensing sage advice to operators of wheeled vehicles of all descriptions everywhere. He decided to go to Michigan to win the Heisman as a defensive back and did so twice in the future forever and ever amen.

The end. Hooray.

If you are not sated yet, here's all this other stuff. Let's start with the various "room for improvement" sections found in scouting reports. Clint Brewster:

Improvements: It is very hard to find a flaw or a glaring area for improvement in Peppers game.

Brian Dohn:

What Needs Work

I’m sure when Roger Bannister broke the 4-minute mile, there must have been one bad step during it, so it leaves room for Peppers, the No. 4 prospect in the nation, with things to improve upon.

Does anyone have an actual criticism? Second chance time, Mr. Dohn.

The only thing with Peppers is sometimes he is so aggressive and wants to make a play so badly, he will bust an assignment in the passing game or guess which hole to fill in the running game rather than just wait for the play to develop and do his one-eleventh.

All right, then. These are the… uh… multiple and serious negatives of Jabrill Peppers. Offsetting these are some meager positives that may one day see him squeeze onto a Division I football field.

  • Brewster, 247: "Peppers is a rare athlete with potential to be great at the next level. He is one of the most talented players I have ever seen at the high school level. At 6-foot-1, and 205-pounds, Peppers has college ready size to go with un-matched speed and explosiveness."
  • Dohn, Scout: "Peppers has it all. The speed, acceleration, change of direction, ability to turn his hips and cover down or across the field, leadership, competitiveness, physicality, strength and a high football IQ."
  • Adam Friedman, Rivals: "Peppers' incredible natural athleticism combined with his big frame and tireless work ethic has helped him become a true lockdown cornerback. "
  • Scott Kennedy, Scout: "…could play four to five different positions and excel at them.  He is a strong running back.  He is as fluid as a good corner.  He hits like a linebacker.  He could play safety.  You could honestly take him and put him in an outside linebacker position and he would flourish.  He is going to return kicks.  He is going to return punts.  He catches anything that is near him.  He is spectacular."
  • Tom Luginbill, ESPN: "…in the past nine classes we are not quite sure we have seen a skilled athlete on defense like Peppers. He is as naturally gifted and explosive of an athlete as we can recall and he could play five positions."
  • ESPN evaluation: "Has sudden movements but can also accelerate at a premium level with great top-end speed. … Will arrive with or shortly after the ball before the receiver can react. Naturally gets his head around to locate the ball and competes for it like a WR when it's in the air. Shows really good tracking and ball skills and a natural awareness around the football in all three phases of the game. … Shines in tight coverage … Takes sharp angles, closes strong with great burst and will wrap and pop as a tackler. … game changer."
  • Tim Sullivan, Rivals: "While he's not his listed 6-1 (more like a shade under 6-0), Peppers' weight won't be in question. He is already built like an NFL defensive back, and hits with the force you'd expect. Throughout the week in practice, he could barely prevent himself from laying a big hit in the run game or against a wide receiver while playing coverage … also every bit the explosive athlete we expected him to be. "
  • USC coach: "Holy s---, that's him? I've only seen two players in high school with a body like that and both of them are named Peterson [Adrian and Patrick]."

"Is that all?" you scowl whilst raising a glass of cognac to your lips. "I had heard he was rather something." You're such an elitist.

Anyway, everyone who has seen Peppers has come away fanning themselves and trying to jam more stars into the guy's profile. There is no dissention here, except as to where he will play.

Two of the above evaluations mention he could play four or five positions (RB, WR, CB, S, and maybe OLB is how that breaks down), and several articles bat that possibility about. 247's JC Shurburtt asserts that he's a surer thing on offense because there's no denying his ability there ("electric and dynamic") and he may outgrow the corner spot if he's not enough of a freak athlete to outgrow the corner spot and still play corner. On the other hand, Rivals suggests he's more of a sure thing on D, and everyone ranks him there.


This was not at cornerback

So then where does he end up? We've already had a rather long comedy breakdown of something Peppers did on offense on this site. Meanwhile, poke an analyst in the right mood, as Sam Webb did, and you'll find yourself asking a follow-up question like so:

You mentioned he could play five positions at the next level.  At what position do you think he would have the greatest impact?

And the floodgates veritably open with comparisons to other players. Most are corners, but some don't make any sense so the ones that do make sense are split between CB, S, and offense: Take your pick from:

  • Joe Haden, CB, Florida/Cleveland Browns. This was Rivals' rather bizarre shot at a comparison, one that starts out with "physically, Haden and Peppers aren't very similar." They do assert that Haden and Peppers are both "strong, physical cornerbacks" who will come up against the run. Haden was a HS QB, just about exclusively.
  • Greg Reid, CB, FSU/St Louis Rams. Reid is apparently the nouveau Antione Winfield since he is 5'8" but Peppers's UA coach brought him up as a comparison point because he levels people: "He reminded me of Greg Reid. I’ve never seen a corner come down that fast underneath -- that aggressive. He is a corner that I think can hit like a linebacker. He wants to hit. He doesn’t want to stray from a hit. To be that muscular he has great fundamentals. I think he’s probably the most physical corner we have here.” This gentlemen then said he was going to be a safety/rover/hybrid guy after comparing him to a 5'8" corner.
  • Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU/Arizona. The most sensible CB comparison comes from Peppers himself, who notes their almost identical size. 247's Clint Brewster also cites Peterson in his evaluations.
  • Reggie Bush, RB, USC/Lions. Since no one ventured a specific player who made sense when talking about Peppers's vast offensive potential, this one's mine. When searching for an offensive comparison, Scout's Scott Kennedy started talking about De'Anthony Thomas, a 165-pound dude when he entered college. Bush is now listed at 203 on his NFL bio and has the same height as Peppers; Peppers can make a legit claim to his explosiveness. Peppers projects as a RB/WR space hybrid type guy more than a Green-style pounder.
  • Eric Berry, S, Tennessee/Chiefs. Kennedy did bring up an interesting name whilst fighting himself about where to play Peppers: Berry, a box safety/hybrid space player/all-around-pain: "I think his impact on the game [would be maximized by] letting him roam around a little bit and freelance and let him play – an Eric Berry style of safety where they would walk him up. I mean, Eric Berry had 15 tackles for loss.  He is that kind of a player.  Eric Berry, I thought, was maybe the best player in college football a couple of years ago.”

Meanwhile, the guy you may have heard of mentioned above in You May Remember Me From Such Players as spans all of these things: a corner, return guy, and occasional wide receiver at Michigan, Charles Woodson spent time at corner, safety, and nickel in the NFL, excelling at all three. As the NFL game became more spread out, Woodson flipped inside to provide the triple threat skills the ideal HSP manages: blitz, cover, and support the run. A former Stanford player lays out Peppers' ability in that department:

Peppers shows on video to be a very tough player and a violent tackler. If he does, as most expect, end up on the defensive side of the ball, his reaction skills could place him in the role of a top-end cornerback. However, his willingness and ability to strike and his blitzing competence could make Peppers an excellent safety, given that he is already around six feet tall and 200 pounds, or a corner who could master the nickelback role when necessary. He closes well on run plays and does so with a purpose, making him an all-around football player well worthy of his gaudy offer list.

Erase the first word in that evaluation and it may as well read "Woodson."

    Now… take a look at the Michigan roster and think back to what they were doing with the defense in spring: one high safety, cornerbacks in your grill, one definitively box safety plunging down to the line to disrupt things. Generally it is harder to make the big game-changing impact from a safety spot, but if you've got the skillset it is possible—Berry was the fifth pick in the draft—and Peppers seems to have it.

What about next year? Expect a bit of a slow start if Peppers does slot in at corner. Paramus used Peppers mostly as a safety, so the finer points of tight coverage are things he'll have to develop. His UA position coach:

“Maybe he needs to work on just the biggest fundamentals of a cornerback,” Cox said. “We all know he’s aggressive now so it’s now work on reading the routes a little quicker, reading the quarterback drops, understanding the pass drops a little better.

“He’s more run oriented. You can tell he wants to play run, run, run -- sit back a little more and work on your passing routes, work on the quarterback drops and your receiver breaks.”

 Peppers self-scout:

"I definitely want to improve on my hip flexibility," Peppers said. "I know that I've been ranked and seen as the top cornerback in the country, but people don't realize that it's actually a pretty new position for me. I don't have a lot of experience there. Given that, I know I need to continue to learn about the position and learn how to understand it. Once I really understand and grasp it and am able to combine it with my athletic ability, the sky will be the limit for me at the position."

Perhaps this would be arrogant, except literally everyone else who has described Peppers's potential has echoed it. So it's just normal.

Don't expect him to take too long, though. Unlike Brandon Watson he's had to do a variety of things in a variety of ways. As a bonus, various coaches say he picks things up quickly. His high school coach:

“He's playing safety for us and our defense is really a complicated type defense. We don’t sit in one thing. We combo cover. He’s used as a robber, he blitzes, he makes calls on the field himself, the check coverages. We tried to broaden his football horizon and say you know what, you’re one of the top-rated kids in the country, you’re going to learn the game big time and we’re going to put a lot on you.”

If Michigan does chuck him in at safety he could win the starting job opposite Wilson quickly. Probably not opener quickly; Big Ten play is a possibility.

I was in Camp Boundary Corner before doing this evaluation and now I'm torn between that and Safety Of Doom who moves down to play nickel/SAM against spread teams, sort of like Stevie Brown except riding an avalanche of dinosaurs. I won't regard any move as a bad sign, but rather an an attempt to get him on the field.

Etc.: Had a difficult upbringing. Surprise! He's a track star. I forgot to mention The Pattern, didn't I?

"I treat Jabrill like he's one of our coaches," Partridge says. "I'll tell him things that I would never tell other players. I treat him like one of the coaches because he can handle it, he gets it."

"Jabrill Peppers endless love tribute." Why he chose Michigan in his own words.

Why Charles Woodson? You're damn right I'm breaking out the big one. If not for Peppers, then for who?

And it is a super-tight comparison anyway. Peppers and Woodson are both burly boundary corner types with the physicality to get in the box and put a guy on the ground. Peppers was the top cornerback in the country; Woodson was also but just wasn't rated like it. Dynamic skills extend to offense, where return jobs and opportunities to moonlight as a slot receiver beckon. Same size, same skillset, same everything.

Guru Reliability: High. All say the same thing, was scouted top to bottom for years, all star game appearance.

Variance: Low. Already physically ready. Some question about experience at the cornerback spot but CB is a location about athleticism above all. Has 87 backup options if CB doesn't work out.

Ceiling: Can't hold us.

General Excitement Level: Yowza.

Projection: Michigan's jam-packed corner situation makes things a little questionable in year one. Is he displacing one of Taylor/Countess/Lewis? Well… maybe. None of those guys bring the size Peppers does to the table and that boundary corner spot is just begging for a guy who has the size and athleticism he does. But that'll happen gradually, as has been the case for all Michigan cornerback standouts past: about half a year working his way into the lineup before a mid-season promotion to the starting job.

Taylor departs after this year so the boundary spot should be his for the next two or three years, probably two.

The other option is for Peppers to be a heavily box-oriented safety and hybrid space player. It is not a terrible idea what with Michigan in possession of Lewis and Stribling for the next three years plus Countess for the next two; guys like Peppers can have the same level of impact elite corners do and the potential upgrade at SS looks like a bigger one than the potential upgrade at CB.

And what about the other side of the ball? He'll be given every opportunity to take kickoff and punts from day one; Norfleet is going to have to hold him off. Working him into the offense is probably something for 2015 and beyond. Once that milestone is hit, though, you'd have to be nuts not to at least explore the possibility.

2014 Recruiting: Brandon Watson

2014 Recruiting: Brandon Watson

Submitted by Brian on April 16th, 2014 at 3:36 PM

Previously: Last year's profiles.

Elkton, MD – 5'11" 185

[Bryan Fuller]

Scout 3*, NR overall
#41 CB
Rivals 3*, NR overall
#60 CB, #20 MD
ESPN 3*, NR overall
#52 CB, #22 MD
24/7 3*, NR overall
#64 CB, #20 MD
Other Suitors BC, UConn, Rutgers, Maryland, Tenn(?), USC(?)
YMRMFSPA poor man's DeMarcus Milliner
Previously On MGoBlog Hello post from Ace
Notes Eastern Christian (Freddy Canteen)


Given the choice between kicking off this series with the most celebrated recruit in the history of Michigan football—seriously, Michigan has never recruited a player as highly ranked as Jabrill Peppers in the ten or so years people have been celebrating recruits—and one of the few players eligible for sleeper status, let's go with the sleeper.

He is Brandon Watson, and he's not only overshadowed by Jabrill Peppers but his own danged teammate pressing to start despite being fresh off the turnip truck. But even though Watson is a holy lock to redshirt, his recruitment does have implications for Michigan's 2014 season.

That's because Watson is a man-to-man pressing machine. Give him your suit and it will come back so flat it looks two dimensional. Give him a wide receiver and he will jam him into the sidelines, possibly no matter what the call is.

You get the impression he and Brady Hoke could play a hilarious joke on the media one day where they switch places and nobody notices. Here's Watson dropping Hoke's second or third favorite word three times in a brief window:

At Michigan camp, I showed off my physicality," he said. "I was a bigger corner than most of the guys there. I was teachable I think. I think I did everything to the best of my abilities, and coach noticed and liked it.

"I'm physical at the line. If the quarterback's looking for a route that's deep, and the receiver can't get off the line, that's definitely noticeable. I think I'm just real physical, but I'm fast so I can keep up with people as well."

Watson will pull off the Brady Hoke half of the switcheroo perfectly. The hard part is the other bit.

Thanks to the unusual nature of Eastern Christian Academy, Watson's junior year consisted of three games before the local authorities pulled the rug out. As a result the meticulously assembled junior film that is the backbone of internet clips does not exist. The pickings are slim. The clip above is a minute long and consists of clips from a single game in which he's not even thrown at.

Even so it does confirm that ECA lined Watson up one inch from the receiver's nose consistently and dared the opponent to do anything about it. Usually they did not. It is probably not a coincidence that the clip looks like an even more aggressive version of Michigan's spring game.

While the abbreviated 2012 ECA season limited scouting opportunities for Watson, ECA did hit up a few 7 on 7 events and most recruiting services did stop by an ECA game in 2013 to fill in data they did not have.

Watson's best moment was a 7-on-7 dubbed SWAG in which he was a main reason his team reached the title game. Rivals named him the best player in attendance:


Whenever the football was in the vicinity of Watson, it was either getting intercepted or it was going to be an incompletion. … dominant in coverage. He consistently got a good punch at the line of scrimmage in man coverage, and when playing off he closed quickly on the football. As receivers attempted double moves, Watson ran with the opposition step for step, showing great change of direction. The most impressive part of Watson's day was successfully defending a number of jump balls in the end zone against taller receivers.

247 placed him second behind future Penn State commit Chris Godwin, but even so they say he won his matchup against the previously "borderline unstoppable" Godwin:

2) CB Brandon Watson – Elkton (Md.) Eastern Christian 
The 6-foot-0, 187-pounds cornerback rarely got beat and won the matchup against Godwin in the semi-finals. He displayed terrific ball skills, great speed and excellent footwork.

Watson also drew mention from Rivals in a 7-on-7 as a rising sophomore:

[Touted guy opposite Watson gave] Watson his opportunity to make a statement, and he did just that by recording several interceptions on the day, including two in one game.

When sites got around to see him play actual football, they sounded impressed. 247 caught ECA versus Maplewood (TN), which ended in a 60-20 ECA blowout. Watson had a spectacular over-the-shoulder-and-then-break-11-tackles pick six called back on a "questionable" pass interference call and generally shut off whoever he lined up against. A catch was detected, though not of the receiving variety:

Watson played bump man coverage all night and was physical on the line of scrimmage. His receiver did not have a catch all game. Watson showed good speed and quickness, as well as a fluid hip-turn. He has been coached well. Watson has a nice break on the ball and showed good reactive quickness. He has a nice build and looked to have excellent strength. Watson’s only concern is his height, standing about 5-foot-10.

"But he was six foot not two blockquotes ago!" you angrily exclaim. I know, man. I know. We'll get through it.

Scout, the source of the quick clips above, saw ECA versus the seemingly-misspelled Champagnat Catholic in their season opener:

physical and was able to flip his hips and run with the receivers. He was comfortable playing press coverage, and he rarely let the receiver release and get into his route with any kind of rhythm. He also had a very good interception (not on tape) in which he closed very quickly on a ball thrown 20 yards down the field over the middle.

…definitely a kid who looks better in a game than in 7-on-7 contests. He was sensational, and by the end of the game it wasn’t even a question of whether Champagnat would challenge him. Receivers had no shot against him.

Elided, unfortunately, was the note that Champagnat (is it a champagne with gnats in it? Or a gnat addled with champagne, making a scene?) didn't have much of a passing game, as high school teams are wont to not have.

ESPN mentions his "good height and size" and praises him for being a "long, rangy defender"—"WELL, WHICH IS IT?" you thunder from a pulpit of stone and lightning—and generally praises his play:

Shows a long stride with good speed. Flashes recovery quickness to close separation.… Can turn and run with receiver but does show some tightness in the hips when having to make a sudden change of direction if in off man coverage. Will generally maintain balance and mirror receivers with his length from a trail position. … Displays the ability to match up and mirror receivers out on an island.

Sounds pretty good, and then…

Will most likely see recruitment from mid level BCS programs.

You really just cannot tell how much ESPN likes a guy not at the very top of their rankings by their scouting report.


2014 Elkton (Md.) ECA CB Brandon Watson -- Watson was by far the most physical corner at the camp Tuesday and brings physical tools to the table that most high school defensive backs just aren’t privy to. 6-foot-1, 190-pounds, it’s hard to believe Watson only had four offers to his name heading into Michigan’s camp, but with several pass break-ups made throughout the day, the Wolverines threw their name into the hat. Watson showed nice discipline against the wide receivers, timing his break in order to avoid a penalty and never being burned deep in press coverage, adding speed to his above average size.

This concludes scouting done by unbiased sources. The rest comes from ECA's coach, Dwayne Thomas, who gets in our The Pattern quote of the day, one that includes Canteen:

“They’re kids that you’re never going to read about in the paper in a negative way.  They’re kids that are not going to miss class.  Kids that are not going to be a disruption to any program.  Kids that are extremely positive and extremely focused on being the best that they could possibly be in every aspect of their life.  Kids that I would let date my daughter if she was of age.  So you’re getting high quality individuals with extremely extremely high work ethic.”

That's a full Date My Daughter coach quote.

On the field, Thomas echoes the bits about bumping and physicality and whatnot:

“…. extremely extremely gifted athlete who can run and is physical. He can run with the quickest receivers and can be physical and bump it up with the big receivers."

Another Thomas quote:

Brandon has this unique combination of speed, strength and hip flexibility that will allow him to be physical with the big receivers, and he’s agile enough to run and defend the smaller receivers as well.”

Since Watson enrolled early, we have another slab of data to look at… or at least we would if anyone talked about him. Watson mostly popped up in spring to talk about Canteen.

"He's a confident player, but that's good," Watson says. "The only time he trash talks, though, is when we're playing (video games)."

He spent the spring mostly playing nickel behind Countess, and was quiet during the game-type substance. 247's Steve Lorenz has said Watson had moved to safety a few times, but in the spring game the non-Jarrod Wilson role was fought over by the Hill/Thomas/Clark trio; that nickelback spot is kind of between the two. Positional clarity is going to be a ways off for Watson.

Anything that takes him away from his jam is going to require an adjustment period. At no point in his recruitment did the word "zone" surface. He'll probably have to learn what to do when you're more than a millimeter from the wide receiver.

Etc.: Thomas has a bit of Fred Jackson in him:

Sam Webb:  Is there a player in college or the pros that you can kind of compare him to?

Dwayne Thomas:  “Brandon would be a cross between Deion Sanders type that can run with any receiver.  But he is a physical guy like some of the physical corners that have played on the NFL and the college levels.

Deion Sanders, but physical!

Why a poor man's DeMarcus Milliner? I have to depart not only Michigan but the Big Ten for the most press-mad corner Michigan has encountered in recent times.

Milliner is the 6'2" five-star spider-beast who hurled Roy Roundtree into the first row during the Alabama game that started 2012 with a thud. He was a top ten pick several months later, and then turned out to be six-foot-even in the NFL. Watson is probably 6'0" like Milliner was 6'2", and he will try to duplicate the things Milliner did… probably with less success.

Guru Reliability: Low. Limited exposure due to junior year scheduling snafu, and while there are a couple 7 on 7s it doesn't appear like he was at Nike camps or the like.

Variance: Moderate. Played the position he projects to, got a lot of coaching, healthy. High floor. Ceiling, though…

Ceiling: Moderate. Did not wow anyone with that size and speed; big differrence between 6'1" and 5'10" here that seems to be on the shorter side.

General Excitement Level: Moderate. Watson should at least be a capable player. Stardom doesn't seem super likely due to profile and lack of spring buzz.

Projection: With both starters and both backups from last year returning, Peppers incoming, and guys like Delonte Hollowell around, Watson should be the lockiest lock on the roster to redshirt. The only way he plays is if he gets drafted onto special teams, and that seems wasteful even for this redshirt-averse staff.

It doesn't get much easier in the near future. Michigan loses only Taylor and Hollowell from the secondary after this year, and even two years down the road Watson is likely trying to pass Jourdan Lewis, Channing Stribling, or Peppers to get significant playing time. This is of course possible; more likely is Watson putting in his special teams time until he can emerge as an upperclassman.

Watson is plausible, if not ideal, at safety and may get looks there if Michigan finds itself a bit short in the future.