Jefferson Hills (PA) Thomas Jefferson linebacker Chase Winovich got his first offer from Pitt, and his home-state school appeared to hold the early edge in his recruitment ($):
Thomas Jefferson has sent four players to Pitt since the recruiting class of 2007, and Winovich knows about that pipeline. In fact, it's not hard for him to imagine himself joining it.
"I see the talent they have produced; my neighbors are the Nix brothers, and I watched them and the DeCicco's play at Pitt," he said. "Personally, I love Pitt. I love the coaching staff, I love Pittsburgh, I'm a hometown guy. I want to keep my options open but I can't really find too many flaws in Pitt. I'm looking at them a lot."
Childhood favorite Ohio State offered in early April and immediately vaulted to the top of his list ($):
"This really changes things for me, and I have to say it's a dream come true since I'm an Ohio State fan," he admitted. "I'm not ready to commit right now to anyone, but Ohio State is in my top-three. I can't deny that I love it, and it's going to be tough to find a school that will top Ohio State."
"Pittsburgh was the first school to offer me and they're right in my backyard, so they're a favorite of mine," Winovich added. "I'm still looking for that third school and I'm not shutting anybody out right now."
A short time later, Michigan came through with an offer, and after two visits to Ann Arbor—the second for the Spring Game—the Wolverines made a serious move of their own ($):
“Michigan is definitely in my top three,” he said. “The only reason they really weren’t before was because they (hadn’t) offered. It would have been them above Ohio State, but obviously they hadn’t offered me at that point. It hurt that they didn’t offer before Ohio State got involved, but I’m just happy they’re in now and they’re definitely in my top three. I’m excited about them.”
At various points over the last month—heck, the last week—insiders from all three schools have been confident that Winovich was leaning towards their program, despite him never publicly naming a leader. Today the speculation ended as Winovich announced his commitment to Michigan, according to multiple outlets.
|3*, #28 OLB||3*, #29 OLB||3*, 78, #30 OLB||3*, 87, #49 OLB||
3*, #41 OLB,
The scouting services are almost eerily in lockstep when it comes to Winovich; 247 is a slightly low outlier, and otherwise Winovich is placed just inside the top 30 outside linebackers in the class. Going by position rankings, Winovich is four spots away from a fourth star on Scout and ESPN, nine spots away on Rivals, and 21 on 247.
The services have a general consensus on Winovich's measurables, pegging him at 6'4" and around 215 pounds; his own highlight tape lists an updated weight of 218 as of last month. The Wolverines recruited Winovich as a strongside linebacker, and that frame fits the mold for the position.
In-person scouting of Winovich is pretty scant at this point; if he hit the camp circuit before his junior season, nobody wrote about it, and in the lone camp he's been to this spring—the Rivals Camp Series event in Pittsburgh—he and fellow commit Michael Ferns were overshadowed by less-heralded prospects ($):
The biggest names at the linebacker position coming into the Pittsburgh Rivals Camp were four-star Michael Ferns and three-star Chase Winovich. While both prospects had solid performances, they were outdone by lesser-known linebackers during Sunday's competition.
Neither future Wolverine made the top ten defensive performers list, so no further details are provided on what constituted a "solid" showing.
ESPN sees Winovich as an outside linebacker all the way, praising his "long, sturdy frame," sideline-to-sideline range, and tackling ability. They also like his instincts...
Quick off the mark showing outstanding downhill ability vs. the inside run. Maintains good leverage on the ball and isn't fooled by misdirection. Although he needs to become a more physical take-on guy, his quick hands allow him to shed and get off blocks. Demonstrates the quickness, balance and agility needed to avoid blockers and make plays in tight spaces. Moves through traffic very well, showing excellent sideline-to-sideline range. Has the playing speed needed to chase down ball carriers when in long pursuit.
...and ability to drop into coverage or come on the blitz in third-down situations:
Shows the ability to open his hips, turn and run. Demonstrates good underneath route awareness with a closing break on underneath throws and screens. Will need to gain experience as a coverage defender. His ability to run and make tight turns indicates potential as a man coverage defender. Displays very good blitz timing with a burst to the quarterback. Developing a repertoire of moves is a must.
Areas for improvement are the usual: add muscle, refine technique. After an almost entirely positive rundown of Winovich's game, ESPN says he has "very good potential" ... as a special teams player, though they do note the possibility of early situational playing time.
247's Clint Brewster took a look at Winovich's junior film and came away very impressed, listing only bulk and pad level—natch—as areas for improvement; the rest sounds quite good ($):
[H]as an instinctive first step and blows plays up before they even happen. Winovich plays with outstanding aggression and is very explosive. He has excellent speed and can make plays from sideline to sideline. Winovich has enough speed to chase down running backs far down field. He does a nice job of using his hands to shed blockers and scraping to get to the ball carrier. Winovich is really long at 6-foot-4 and can really get in between passing lanes. He is excellent when dropping into coverage. Winovich can be a force coming off the edge as an outside linebacker and can really close on the quarterback. He is very good at finishing off his opponent when he tackles. Winovich has great form tackling.
Caveats about scouting based only on film go here—they're called "highlights" for a reason—but after looking at individual game cut-ups from Winovich's Hudl page, I see a lot of the same positives that Brewster does.
The coaches have made it clear to Winovich that they like him on the strong side, going so far as to show his film side-by-side with Michigan's current standout at the position ($):
“Coach Hoke wasn’t there (last time),” Winovich said noting the difference between visits. “The environment was a lot different. All the players were there this time, I got to sit in with the coaches and really discuss everything about me and my future there, and they seemed more excited about me this time around. Kurt Mattes the film guy there he put together a (video) at the request of Coach Mattison. It’s this film of me one play and then Jake Ryan the next play, and then it goes back and forth every other play. It showed how comparable we are. (Ryan) would do one play and then it’d be the exact same play or scenario (with me) on the other side. It was really cool seeing the comparison.”
Winovich has a very similar frame to Ryan—who was listed at 6'3", 220 lbs. as a recruit—and displays a lot of the same athletic traits, especially in his ability to explode off the snap. Whether he can maintain that athleticism while adding 25-or-so pounds (Ryan is now listed at 241), not to mention develop Ryan's maniacal playmaking ability, is a question that won't be answered until he's on campus for a couple years.
As for the "would you let him date your daughter?" test, here's an excerpt from a Chantel Jennings article($) on Chase's relationship with his older brother, Peter, who played for Bowling Green from 2004-2008:
But there were similarities for many years. Peter took up baseball, so Chase did, too. Peter took up basketball, so Chase did, too.
But Chase went on to become student body president. Peter never did that. And Chase decided to start taking piano lessons last year. Peter never did that, either.
“As much as I like him following in my footsteps, he has definitely always done his own thing,” Peter said. “With football I think there was a lot of pressure on Chase … and he has been able to do it and do even more in his own way, so that has been awesome.”
Winovich's offer sheet included Arkansas, Florida State, Michigan State, Mizzou, Northwestern, Ohio State, Pitt, Stanford, Syracuse, Tennessee, Virginia, Virginia Tech, and West Virginia. That's a pretty impressive list for a consensus three-star; it will be interesting to see if Winovich moves up the recruiting rankings during his senior season, as college coaches seem to be seeing something that the recruiting services aren't at this point.
Thomas Jefferson High School boasts five WPIAL (Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League) Class AAA titles, including three straight from 2006-08, as well as state championships in 2004, 2007, and 2008. The Jaguars have produced six recruits rated three-stars or higher in the Rivals era; four of those players went to Pitt, including four-star prospect and current Oakland Raiders guard Lucas Nix.
Via Scout ($):
This past season, Winovich helped his team to a 11-1 record, another conference title and an appearance in the WPIAL Class AAA semifinals. He earned first-team all-conference honors, finished with 69 tackles, three forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries.
FAKE 40 TIME
247 lists a 40 time of 4.65, which appears pretty reasonable when you watch Winovich's film—he's got great straight-line speed for a linebacker prospect. I'll give it two FAKEs out of five.
Winovich's first step, play diagnosis, movement in traffic, and tackling ability all stand out on tape; you can see that linear speed at the :29 mark when he chases down a perfectly set-up slip screen from behind to save a touchdown.
Again, you can see much more of Winovich on his Hudl page.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Winovich is destined for the strongside linebacker spot; when he gets to campus, the only returning players at the position will be a senior Jake Ryan and a redshirt freshman or sophomore Mike McCray. While Winovich appears likely to need a redshirt year to add weight and learn Greg Mattison's defense, he should be in the mix for playing time as early as his redshirt freshman season, and at the very least should contribute on special teams.
I've had Michael Ferns projected as a strongside 'backer in this space before, but my guess is he'll come to campus as an inside linebacker with Winovich in the fold; Ferns has the versatility to play inside or outside, while Winovich is more of a pure outside type.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan now has 11 commits in the class of 2014 and should be finished recruiting linebackers with Ferns and Winovich in the fold. The Wolverines currently have room to take ~15 players in the class, though that number should swell to around 20 when all is said and done. The main targets moving forward are SDE Da'Shawn Hand, 3-tech/SDE Malik McDowell, slot receiver Artavis Scott, and a trio of highly-ranked defensive backs: CA ATH Juju Smith, CA CB Adoree' Jackson, and IL CB Parrker Westphal, with the latter the most likely to end up in the class. They'll also likely take one more offensive lineman, though the top candidate for that spot is less clear—IL OL Jamarco Jones is the highest-rated target and has Michigan among his favorites, but Ohio State is presumed to hold the edge in his recruitment.