2016 Recruiting Profile: Quinn Nordin

2016 Recruiting Profile: Quinn Nordin

Submitted by Brian on July 20th, 2016 at 12:00 PM

Previously: Last year's profiles. S Josh Metellus, S Khaleke Hudson, CB David Long, CBLavert Hill, LB Elysee Mbem-Bosse, LB Devin Bush Jr., LB Devin Gil, LB Josh Uche, DERon Johnson, DT Michael Dwumfour, DT Rashan Gary, DE Carlo Kemp, OL Ben Bredeson, OL Michael Onwenu, OL Stephen Spanellis, TE Nick Eubanks, TE Sean McKeon, TE Devin Asiasi, WR Eddie McDoom, WR Nate Johnson, WR Kekoa Crawford, WR Chris Evans, WR Brad Hawkins, WR Ahmir Mitchell, RB Kingston Davis, RB Kareem Walker, QB Brandon Peters.

       
Rockford, MI – 6'2", 200
       

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Scout 4*, NR overall
#1 K
Rivals 3*, NR overall
#1 K , #22 MI
ESPN 3*, NR overall 
#9 K, #19 MI
24/7 3*, #1456 overall
#1 K, #36 MI
Other Suitors PSU, USC, Baylor, Iowa
YMRMFSPA A Kicker
Previously On MGoBlog Hello post from Ace.
Notes Twitter.

Film

Senior (I think?):

Doin' thangs at PSU camp:

Quinn Nordin is a kicker. He's the best kicker in the country according to three of the four recruiting services. And, uh, he might be. He's a kicker. Michigan brought in a kicker last year and he was so far out of the picture for the placekicking job that he was behind a guy who quit the team as soon as Kenny Allen consolidated his hold on the starting spot. Meanwhile everyone was panicked about how bad the situation was; Allen hit 82% of his attempts. I dunno, and they dunno.

In addition to the usual specialist uncertainty, data is bizarrely thin on the ground for Nordin. Per MGoBlue this was his field goal output a year ago:

• Converted 2-3 field goal attempts with a long of 51 during senior year

I have questions about this. Was his team so bad they never approached field goal range? So good that they never needed to attempt one? Enthralled by that one school in Arkansas that always goes for it on fourth down? So filled with hatred of soccer that any sort of kicking motion resulted in a pie in the face?

Anyway. Nordin's reputation has been built in the same way most kicker prospects get built up: attending various specialist camps run by old kickers. In Nordin's case that camp is former Michigan kicker Brandon Kornblue's. Kornblue also ranks Nordin #1 in the country—and did so when he was a PSU commit Michigan couldn't take because of Andrew David—and provides some detail on his site. While we don't know much yet we do know Nordin has a big, big leg:

He is one of the strongest placekickers in the nation and continues to make gains with his consistency and accuracy. Quinn has trained exclusively with Kornblue Kicking since middle school. He spent four days of private training in January 2015 with Coach Kornblue in Naples, FL. During the training, he drilled a 65 yard FG off the ground (can be seen on our Twitter page). His ability to get great height, ball rotation, and distance on FG’s as a high school junior sparked national recruiting interest. At our Ohio Fab 50 Camp (July 2014), Quinn charted four monster kickoffs (with a 5-10 mph wind): 81/3.91, 75/3.97, 75/3.75, 77/3.8. His worst charted kickoff traveled 64 yards. He also continues to improve as a punter. Best punt at that camp charted 4.66/41 yards.

Chris Partridge's scouting report on MGoBlue sounds like Kirk Herbstreit on NCAA football back in the day, noting Nordin's "powerful leg" and that he can "bring a lot of power to our kicking game." He just used POWER, you guys.

ESPN is the only site that'll bother to scout a kicker, and despite ranking him ninth instead of first they have another one of those profiles that doesn't match the rankings:

…impressive coordination. Can easily hit the ball 75 yards …ball jumps off of his foot, fast leg, and great lift on his FG's. … Ball striking is impressive, repeatable steps on FG's, clean rotation on the ball, good lift on his kicks, strong athlete. …Smooth and repeatable swing up and through the ball. …one of the best kicking prospects in the country.

"Repeatable" is the best thing to hear in these evaluations. Big difference between a camp and a field goal to win in front of 100k, and from this are kicker manias born.

Nordin also has a future as a punter, and possibly an excellent one. Partridge told MGoBlue that Nordin will "be able to help us in all three phases." His high school output was pretty good:

• Punted 10 times as a senior, with seven going for 50+ yards, including a 67-yard career long (52.9 avg.); had six punts downed inside the opponent's 20-yard line
• Punted the ball 26 times for 1,020 yards (39.2 avg.) with a long of 55 as a junior
• Totaled 12 kicks inside the opposition's 20-yard line and had five kicks of 50+ yards junior year

Again we have to ask what was going on with his high school team when he has a total of 13 kicks and punts on the year. I couldn't find any mentions of suspension or injury.

As the Kornblue profile above mentions, Nordin's had a ton of coaching and should be a better bet than most specialists; I wouldn't be surprised if he continued to get intensive training in the offseason. His family seem to be able to afford it and it's pretty clear he's got NFL upside at this point. That's important in college since there's no room for a kicking coach.

Etc.: Uproxx had a profile on him. Because of the high profile nature of Nordin's first commit, which was one of those video things, and the Harbaugh sleepover he had to defend himself and his coach when people interviewed him. A couple insights into the recruiting process, then:

“It’s been a long, long process,” he said. “Coach Harbaugh has never really pressured me. He never put on the pressure, unlike other schools. So it was kind of unique. I kept thinking, ‘Maybe this is right.’ After my official visit, my mom was really big in deciding. She loves him, as you can tell.

Mom's in Michigan's corner:

“People don’t understand how good of a guy he really is,” Nordin said. “He respects everyone. He never talks bad about any school. He just wants the best players on his team and he’s going to do what it takes, within the rules, to get those players. As you can tell, he slept over my house and I’m going to Michigan, so it’s really exciting stuff.”

Heidi Nordin was emotional when she told everyone gathered around her what Harbaugh meant to the family.

“Obviously, you all know coach Harbaugh is an awesome man,” she said with a quiver in her voice. “You have no idea. I know he gets a bad rap, but he is an awesome, awesome man.”

Why a kicker? Is kicker.

Guru Reliability: Low-plus. Is kicker. Is at least consistently evaluated as the top guy available.

Variance: High. Is kicker. Had three FG attempts senior year.

Ceiling: High. Nordin has a monster leg and could be a rare multi-phase difference-maker specialist.

General Excitement Level: Moderate-plus. Kickers are crapshoots but Nordin's at least a weighted die with big-time upside.

Projection: Michigan will probably find a role for Nordin this year. Kenny Allen was very accurate to about 40 yards but didn't attempt much of anything longer than that. Nordin has the leg to give Michigan an option on longer field goals. They may also want him to kick off since Allen figures to get the bulk of the punting and placekicking work.

Once Allen departs after this year he's a heavy favorite to be the placekicker for the next three years. Punting is also a possibility since Michigan doesn't have a scholarship guy unless David makes a successful conversion, and Michigan doesn't appear to be looking for a specialist in this recruiting class.

2016 Recruiting: Brandon Peters

2016 Recruiting: Brandon Peters

Submitted by Brian on July 19th, 2016 at 12:52 PM

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 Onwenu, OL Stephen Spanellis, TE Nick Eubanks, TE Sean McKeon, TE Devin Asiasi, WR Eddie McDoom, WR Nate Johnson, WR Kekoa Crawford, WR Chris Evans, WR Brad Hawkins, WR Ahmir Mitchell, RB Kingston Davis, RB Kareem Walker.

       
Avon, IN – 6'5", 210
       

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Scout 4*, #77 overall
#4 QB
Rivals 4*, #158 overall
#6 Pro QB , #3 IN
ESPN 4*, #60 overall 
#3 Pro QB, #1 IN
24/7 4*, #34 overall
#3 Pro QB, #1 IN
Other Suitors LSU, Neb, UW, VT, Iowa, Indiana
YMRMFSPA Andrew Luck
Previously On MGoBlog Hello post from Ace. Scouting post from yesterday.
Notes Twitter.

Film

Senior:

Scouting video vs Ben Davis:

You may want to watch the above on Youtube itself for more clarity.

Scouting video against Brownsburg:

"[Harbaugh] compared me to Andrew Luck," Peters explained. "It's a similar situation to what he had at Stanford."

This is an opportune time to remind people that "You May Remember Me From Such Players As" is a playing style comparison, not a direct assertion that Brandon Peters is going to be the #1 pick in the NFL draft. I'm not saying that.

I'm not ruling it out either. Peters has a classic NFL frame, a beautiful deep ball, an advanced ability to vary speeds and trajectories, and no quarterback guru. When he's on, as he was in the game against Brownsburg above, he is really on, dropping dimes 50 yards downfield and nestling inch-perfect wheel routes into the hands of his tight end. The play by play guy kept wondering who the five quarterbacks ESPN ranked above him could possibly be, and turned out to be mostly right. By Signing Day Peters had passed all but two of them.

This was part of a universal upward swing in Peters's rep. When he committed to Michigan he was a four-star guy usually found in the 150-200 range. After a senior year spent bombing the Indianapolis era back into subsistence farming he leapt upwards. That year started with the 49-42 barnburner against Ben Davis that Michigan reporters swarmed to see not only Peters but Chris Evans; Ace was amongst the horde:

…money on Friday night, and his performance was made all the more impressive by the lack of Avon's run game and their inability to protect the passer. …pinpoint with almost everything in the short and intermediate range, save a rather strange difficulty getting screen passes on target. His throws had plenty of heat, they hit receivers in stride, and they went to the right guys. …stayed calm in the pocket when defenders were closing in, either stepping up to avoid pressure or bailing out at the last moment to buy time…. His accuracy and understanding of where to put the ball was impressive. …release could be a little more compact.

247 raved in the aftermath:

…has the size … has the athleticism …just a natural. His feel for the game is outstanding. Peters has the arm talent, he is comfortable making plays on the move and he seems to always know where to go with the football. …accurate and threw with the right amount of touch on two of his touchdowns.

Rivals noted his "cool, collected demeanor" and that he "looks the part of a big time college QB." The Indianapolis Star's Kyle Neddenriep exclaimed superlatives:

I’m not sure I’ve covered a better high school quarterback than Avon senior Brandon Peters. …can make it look so easy sometimes… 26-for-44 for 381 yards for four touchdowns on Friday and – I think I can speak for most in attendance – those numbers probably don’t tell the whole story of how dominant he looked at times.

That kicked off a senior season featuring 3103 yards, a 60% completion percentage, 37 touchdowns, and just five interceptions. Three of those interceptions are in the two scouting videos above: a touchdown catch that a DB ripped away from the receiver just in time, a ball that clanked off a receiver's hands, and a blindside hit that deposited the ball directly in the hands of another defensive lineman. Peters threw somewhere between zero and two interceptions that were actually on him last year. That's absurd for anyone, let alone a high school QB.

[After THE JUMP: some dudes just have It.]

2016 Recruiting: Kareem Walker

2016 Recruiting: Kareem Walker

Submitted by Brian on July 15th, 2016 at 3:01 PM

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 Onwenu, OL Stephen Spanellis, TE Nick Eubanks, TE Sean McKeon, TE Devin Asiasi, WR Eddie McDoom, WR Nate Johnson, WR Kekoa Crawford, WR Chris Evans, WR Brad Hawkins, WR Ahmir Mitchell, RB Kingston Davis.

       
Wayne, NJ – 6'1", 210
       

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Scout 5*, #28 overall
#3 RB
Rivals 4*, 181 overall
#6 RB, #5 NJ
ESPN 4*, #45 overall
#4 RB, #2 NJ
24/7 4*, #328 overall
#12 RB, #9 NJ
Other Suitors OSU, FSU, ASU, AUB, Bama
YMRMFSPA Denard Robinson, RB version (but slow!)
Previously On MGoBlog Hello post from Ace. Some scouting from earlier today.
Notes Twitter. Early enrollee. DePaul(Michael Dwumfour).

Film

Junior:

Senior:

There's also a Bergen Catholic-Depaul Catholic game on Youtube in which Walker gets 23 carries. Ace compiled that into an every touch video:

Kareem Walker, The Number One Running Back In The United States, committed to Ohio State at halftime of the national championship game. That was a public relations move that ended up backfiring when Walker re-opened his recruitment due to the audacity of Harbs and eventually flipped to Ohio State's ancient enemy. Then recruiting sites had to go and ruin it by tumbling Walker down their rankings, because recruiting sites don't know a good story when they see one.

Walker's rep took a huge hit right at the end of the cycle, with Rivals dropping him from the cusp of five star status to #181 and 247 dropping him over 200 spots to a fringe four-star guy. He was vulnerable to such a hit for a few reasons. He couldn't participate at the Opening because of a sprained ankle. Walker's Hudl film stops abruptly after his sophomore year, leaving just a couple of highlight reels of the variety that irritatingly slow-mo any missed tackle.

It was in this environment that Rivals yanked his fifth star before the Army game. In San Antonio they wanted him to "prove something" at an exhibition:

Walker recently lost his fifth star and has gone from a decisive, one-cut brute at running back to a bit of an indecisive runner who questions his instincts and dances a bit too much. Ball security is also an issue.

Five-star brute Walker rushed for 1607 yards as a junior. Indecisive dancing Walker rushed for 1517 yards as a senior en route to a state title. Both halves of that assessment are goofy. Walker was never a "brute" in the vein of De'Veon Smith, and at least in that Bergen Catholic game above his ability to ghost through the melee at the line of scrimmage was impressive. One man's indecisiveness is another man's patience.

So. A gimpy Walker playing behind an offensive line trying and failing to deal with the ridiculous 2016 defensive line class didn't do so hot, and a couple of sites were already looking at him with a skeptical eye. Per Walker himself his first day was "slow" because he was unfamiliar with the plays and "going through the motions"; he picked it up later. The first impression lingered, however. Afterwards got absolutely bombed by 247 and Rivals:

  Walker has been indecisive and has not hit the hole with authority. He did not seem to get a good read on the play as it developed and he has lacked explosion the last few days.

needs to hit the opening faster and then fall forward when getting tackled. Sometimes, the Michigan commit hesitates as things develop.

Walker does not have the same running instincts that Miles Sanders, the other running back on Team Armour, shows. Walker continues to run timidly.

Thus the big dips. On the other hand Scout and ESPN were like "whatever, he rules." Scout's Dave Berk did note an "up and down" day, citing a lack of comfort, but blew it off because he'd seen Walker plenty already. Their ranking barely budged.

[After THE JUMP: this one is long enough to have a jump!]

2016 Recruiting: Kingston Davis

2016 Recruiting: Kingston Davis

Submitted by Brian on July 13th, 2016 at 12:50 PM

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 Onwenu, OL Stephen Spanellis, TE Nick Eubanks, TE Sean McKeon, TE Devin Asiasi, WR Eddie McDoom, WR Nate Johnson, WR Kekoa Crawford, WR Chris Evans, WR Brad Hawkins, WR Ahmir Mitchell.

       
Prattville, AL – 6'1", 225
       

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Scout 3*, NR overall
#101 RB
Rivals 3*, NR overall
#2 FB, #17 AL
ESPN 3*, NR overall
#77 RB, #31 AL
24/7 3*, #907 overall
#2 FB, #32 AL
Other Suitors Neb, UF, LSU, UL, MissSt, Miss
YMRMFSPA Sione Houma
Previously On MGoBlog Hello post from Ace.
Notes Twitter. Early enrollee. Prattville (Keith Washington, Bam Richards).

Film

Senior:

Sam Webb was taking in Michigan's satellite camp in Prattville, Alabama, last year when an older gentleman came up to him and started asking about Kingston Davis. "I hear Michigan's recruiting him as a fullback," the man said. Michigan was not recruiting Davis as a fullback. Webb said as much to the man, who then introduced himself as Davis's father. When Sam related this story to me he more or less made it sound like this:

Sam left with his head. Kingston Davis, who is not a fullback, committed shortly thereafter. Kingston Davis knows which recruiting sites had the audacity to declare him a fullback

…"All of (the schools) recruited me at running back. Rivals and 247, I didn't know what happened," Davis said. "They just put me down as a fullback, so everyone started thinking I was a fullback. But that's not my game."

…and he is not pleased. Beware, oh sites that ranked him thusly, for you know not the hour when a moose/human hybrid will find his revenge. You only know he will be carrying a football at the time of your doom.

Anyway. Davis was highly productive at Prattville, setting a school record with 1656 yards in his final season despite Prattville's failure to make the playoffs and going over 100 yards in 17 of his 23 starts. He operated like a high school Brandon Minor as a straight-ahead plowhorse in a spread offense. Five-star Alabama LB commit Lyndell Wilson is a fan after seeing Davis's thighs up close and personal 25 or so times:

"Kingston is an outstanding back and a bruiser. He's explosive for his size and makes big time plays when his team needs him to. … He's very underrated. I don't know much about what he does at camps, but when he puts the pads on and we're playing 11 on 11, he's definitely a beast."

Davis's scouting reports are in line with expectations for a guy who has to strenuously proclaim that he's not a fullback. His attendance at a Rivals camp in Atlanta saw him declared "one of the biggest backs in attendance"—not a surprise—and a guy who had "a ton of success during one-on-ones." That latter is a surprise. Unpadded camps are the worst possible showcase for a guy like Davis.

Tim Sullivan caught him in person, when he was an even bigger load that he seems to be now:

thick trunk and legs … not slow, but the added weight seems to have cost him a half-step of his quickness.… tough load for opposing defenders to bring down. … if a player doesn't hit him low, he's shrugging off the tackle attempt and continuing on his merry way (often into the endzone). He has good balance, and his feet are quicker than you'd expect for a player of his mass - though they can be even better when he's in excellent shape.

ESPN has another of those evaluations more positive than his ranking:

…compact and impressive looking frame. Fullback bulk. …enough speed to break and finish runs, good anticipation in space to feel traffic and change his course to finish. … Will set up blocks … Power style, gap scheme back who runs with good box acceleration. Not a back with high end agility. … true strengths are his size and power. Uses these attributes well working downhill on a consistent basis. Will run high losing some of his power and balance at times. …will punish tacklers consistently. … Understands his strengths and works to use them on each play.

Clint Brewster:

….big bruiser …tough runner that can also make subtle cuts in the open field to extend runs ..Not great maneuverability through the hole or change of direction …good power to run through tackles when he keeps his pad level low. He's a patient but decisive runner with a forward lean and a physical style… productive as a short yardage runner and should be a nice red-zone running back. Should fit will as a power runner in Harbaugh's downhill scheme.

Touch The Banner:

…. runs with his shoulders square to the line at all times and has good body lean. He runs behind his pads and will lower his shoulder to power through tackles from linebackers and defensive backs. He also has a good feel for seeing the hole, sliding laterally to get there, and pressing upfield. Davis also shows a couple nifty spin moves in the hole, rolls out of the grasp of defenders, and even displays an occasional stiff-arm. He falls forward after contact and should gain an extra yard or two while being tackled.

Tyrone Wheatley echoed TTB's evaluation, calling him a "big guy with great vision, great lateral movement and great ball skills" on MGoBlue and telling Webb on WTKA the following:

"This young man is a very, very good runner in terms of vision. His lateral movement is exceptional. Ninety percent of the game is played in traffic and he's able to slide to the next hole. He's sneaky fast. He's a ground-churning, move the chains type of back. A guy we need."

"Able to slide to the next hole" is key when you run a ton of power, because defenses will seek to redirect you with various slants and games and the like; both fullback and tailback have to be aware of the shifting situation in front of their faces and adapt. While Davis is never going to be the kind of guy you want to bounce the ball outside, having the agility and vision to make a course correction is the difference between Kevin Grady and Jerome Bettis. Davis's ability to do that is his main asset outside of the fact that he's borrowing various body parts from dinosaurs.

247 notes that Michigan pursued "bulldozer" Davis with "an aggression reserved for some of the country's top prospects." In this Davis is like tight end Sean McKeon, another guy with bleah rankings who Michigan clearly believes in enough to not only reserve a slot in the class but also an early enrollment spot. As I said in the McKeon profile, while I'd like Michigan to pick up the phone earlier with recruits they aren't going to take, a silver lining to their approach is that when a generic three star does get to Signing Day without incident that's a good indication Michigan likes him a lot better than their ranking.

Davis is the kind of guy who might have been a bigger recruit in 1970, when virtually every program was looking for guys to blow through arm tackles and run over folks when they ran power for the 40th time. While his recruiting rankings are mediocre all around, there was a flurry of interest from other schools even after he committed to Michigan. SEC powers Florida and LSU came in with offer-type substances. LSU's was… interesting:

“They told (my coach) that they wanted to offer me,” said Davis. “(The offer is for) tailback/athlete. Running back… (maybe) slot receiver.”

You'll note that the Gators and Tigers are both manball outfits. Mike Riley's Nebraska is headed that direction and also offered. Davis talked about visiting all these schools but only got out to Nebraska. Davis carries an appeal to a certain type of coach. One of those coaches is Tyrone Wheatley, who morphed from a lightning bolt at Michigan to a pounding NFL running back in one of the most dramatic playing-style makeovers I can remember. When Wheatley appeared on WTKA to discuss Davis and was just as adamant as his new protege that he was a tailback:

"Sometimes people just look on paper and (look at your measurables) and say 'you're a fullback.' Well, I'm not a fullback. If you watched me in college, I never iso blocked anyone. That's a different lifestyle," Wheatley said last week on WTKA-AM in Ann Arbor. "I spent my time avoiding people, not running into them. Kingston's the same way. People would look at his measurables and websites would list him as a fullback. He'd get upset, he'd call me 'coach Wheat, I'm not a fullback. ... I know you're not a fullback, relax.'

Davis has a head coach and running backs coach uniquely disposed to see him as the man with the ball.

Still, Davis's size will make or break his ability to stick at running back, and there are shades of Derrick Green in there. Just shades, mind you. Going into his junior year, Davis weighed in at 228 at a South Carolina camp; at the same time Green was trying to prove he wasn't a DL. However, Sullivan thought he was a big big dude during his senior year:

…we last saw Davis play in the spring, he was planning to shed a few pounds (he was 242 at the time) by the start of his season, but if anything, he looks even bigger now.

He's listed anywhere from 225 to that 242-or-bigger. MGoBlue has him at the lower number, but you take spring roster weights at your peril. Anywhere up to 235 and Davis is good to go as a bashing tailback; once he starts edging above that the ability to get to that second gap in the line gets compromised and the dread specter of fullback rises once more.

Etc.:  Acquired Harbaugh dab. Wolverine artistry skills mediocre at best:

image

Why Sione Houma? This is not necessarily a fullback comparison, as Houma played more and more tailback as the year went on and Michigan discovered he was not only capable of ripping through the line on a dive but juking the occasional DL in the backfield. Houma got up to 243 over the course of his career at Michigan and Davis may end up there given the fact he already hit that number in high school. Also he just looks Houma-sized even now; I wonder if the 225 he's listed at is fact or aspiration.

Derrick Green is another comparable if Davis can't keep his weight down and falls over way too easily for a guy his size. Touch the Banner suggested former Wisconsin tailback PJ Hill, and that's a pretty good one. Hill was only 5'10" but played at 220; he was a clubber with surprisingly deft feet. FWIW, Davis compares himself to Eddie Lacy. Lorenz brings up Chris Floyd.

Guru Reliability: Moderate. Everyone agrees, and Davis was healthy on a high-profile team. I do think that Davis may have gotten short shrift as a couple sites filed him as a fullback and forgot about him, because fullback.

Variance: Low. College size already, not a ton of upside, not much positional projection, comes from a military family.

Ceiling: Moderate. Won't ever be a home run hitter and there's a reason backs like him are a little bit out of style.

General Excitement Level: Moderate. Most likely outcome is that Davis is the thunder in a "thunder and slightly less thunder" RB platoon; there is a slim chance he's Toby Gerhart again.

Projection: 50/50 on a redshirt. Davis has the kind of body that is useful on special teams and running back is a spot where you generally have it or you don't; he's also physically ready to go and enrolled early. He could get some run this year, especially if there are injury issues. Even a redshirt zealot like your author would shrug at Davis playing this year.

In 2017 Smith is gone and a lot of carries will open up; Michigan fans are currently hoping that Ty Isaac is an obvious choice as his successor. Davis will still have an opportunity since with Smith's graduation he's a solid bet to be the best short-yardage back on the roster. He could graduate from that as an upperclassman, but even if he pans out I think he's still platooning with Walker or one of the guys who comes in this year.

Yes, fullback—hybrid fullback—is a possibility. While Davis is dead set against it at the moment, a Houma role might be appealing if he feels that he's the #3 or #4 tailback and is facing a choice between getting 50 extra carries on dives or watching from the bench.

2016 Recruiting: Ahmir Mitchell

2016 Recruiting: Ahmir Mitchell

Submitted by Brian on July 11th, 2016 at 11:46 AM

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 Onwenu, OL Stephen Spanellis, TE Nick Eubanks, TE Sean McKeon, TE Devin Asiasi, WR Eddie McDoom, WR Nate Johnson, WR Kekoa Crawford, WR Chris Evans, WR Brad Hawkins.

       
Egg Harbor, NJ – 6'3", 205
       

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Scout 4*, #131 overall
#21 WR
Rivals 4*, #139 overall
#26 WR, #4 NJ
ESPN 4*, #216 overall 
#33 WR, #7 NJ
24/7 4*, #324 overall
#17 ATH, #8 NJ
Other Suitors OSU, MSU, ND, FSU
YMRMFSPA Greg Mathews or
Jonas Mouton
Previously On MGoBlog Hello post from Ace.
Notes Twitter. Early enrollee.

Film

Junior year:

Senior half-season:

Like Chris Evans, Ahmir Mitchell might not actually be a wide receiver. He is one now and so here he goes, but all you have to do is look at the 2017 safety depth chart—Tyree Kinnel, a Khaleke Hudson who really needs to be taking over for Peppers at SAM, a couple question marks, and tumbleweeds—and then plug available safety-shaped objects in that hole. Meanwhile, Mitchell's stock as a wide receiver has been on a steady slide over the past year and a half. His rankings dropped from top 100, near top 50 in some cases, to outside of the top 100; 247's dramatic revision of his ranking saw him barely hold on to four-star status. 

Mitchell is a safety-shaped object, and an intimidating one. Hypothetically. This post won't talk about that much because nobody evaluated him as a defensive player past brief mentions that his athleticism could lend itself to a switch. Don't rule out linebacker, either.

Let's start with the good bits. Mitchell's a grown-ass man already. His high school coach says he has an "NFL body right now and you can say he comes from special genetics"; Nick Baumgardner noted that Mitchell "looks nothing like a prospect who should still be in high school" after Michigan's trip to IMG this spring. ESPN's evaluation leads with Mitchell's impressive physical package:

Thickly built and sturdy with good height ... Moves and looks like a tall tailback. Displays power as a runner and top end speed is very competitive. May not be a jet or overly fluid speed guy, but he can accelerate on a straight-line.

Mitchell attended various Rivals camps:

every wide receiver at Sunday's camp was tall and fast, but even in a physically impressive crowd like that, Mitchell stood out. With that physique, it should be no surprise that the 6-foot-2, 197-pound Mitchell has a powerful stride and he pops in and out of his breaks. Defensive backs that try to press him are going to lose either the strength or the quickness battle, but Mitchell even exploits off coverage with his ability to create separation in his routes and by using his body to shield defenders from the football.

Reports about Mitchell's speed vary. Some say it's "good for his size". 247:

…very impressive specimen and will arrive ready to play … Runs well for a young man his size (4.67 laser-timed 40-yard dash), Mitchell is a physical football player, catches the ball well and is another that could project at other positions including safety.

Rivals repeatedly praised his ability to move to the moon: "athleticism jumps off the page": "athleticism and potential is off the charts"; "one of the best athletes in the country"; "athleticism, explosiveness, strength and speed make Mitchell one of the top wide receivers in the country"; "very explosive." Meanwhile ESPN praises his "imposing get off," which arises from a combination of strength and speed—Mitchell can blow through most attempts to press him.

When Mitchell was trying to get an OSU offer at one of their camps, Bucknuts pinged someone "inside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center" for their opinion:

"I really like him as a player,” the source said. “He's big, he's strong, and he can move for a guy who's already 215 (pounds). That said, I know we're looking at him and asking if he'll grow out of wide receiver."

His physical ability lends itself to the strongest part of Mitchell's game: YAC. He is equipped with a nasty stiffarm and once he finds himself in space with the ball he's got enough wiggle to turn opposition tackle attempts into arm tackles, which he is strong enough to blow through. Touch The Banner:

…ability to run after the catch is probably his strongest attribute. He frequently uses his long wingspan and a stiff-arm to brush away smaller defenders.

Clint Brewster:

…rugged wide receiver that is at his best running after the catch. like a running back after the catch … [picks] up tough yardage with his strength and explosiveness. He’s got strong hands and the ability to out-muscle defensive backs on jump balls or in close coverage. Mitchell… size, strength, toughness, and quick-twitch make him a coveted player. …thrives catching short passes underneath, as well as smoke-screens.

ESPN calls him a "power runner" and says he "makes most of his big plays … because he is so difficult to tackle in the open field":

he makes things happen with the ball in his hands especially when he can quickly transition after the catch as he is a one-cut, slashing type of runner. He is far more elusive that he is sudden, fluid or laterally agile. He builds to top end speed and when you think he's going to get walked down, he will somehow pull away. He's as fast as he needs to be.

Son of a Coach:

He’s physically ready to play college football right now. … decent change of direction skills, but his straight line speed is the differentiator for him. His ability to accelerate and hit another gear is outstanding. …dynamic after the catch. …strength to run through tackles … really makes him great. He has a good stiff arm that compliments and his size and power. He looks very much like a running back after the catch.

There's not much question that Mitchell is an NFL athlete. There are some scattered concerns that he got too big as a senior and lost the necessary quicks to play wide receiver, but he's listed on Michigan's roster at 205. That should be fine even if he adds the usual 15-30 pounds players usually do once they hit college. Mitchell's game is never going to be separation. If he's going to stick at wide receiver and perform it's going to be as a guy who goes up and gets contested balls.

Reports about his ability to, you know, receive things are varied. Mitchell was a big-deal top 100 prospect to just about everyone when he went to that OSU camp and dropped a bunch of passes:

"The performance at Ohio State really killed him rankings-wise," Farrell said. "That was his first appearance where he was consistently dropping passes. I wasn't at Ohio State but there's video out there, and Josh Helmholdt was there, and he just had a lot of drops. That scared the heck out of some because wide receivers need to catch the ball."

"His hands are not a concern for me. They're really not," Farrell said. "I saw him at the Rivals Camp in New Jersey and he was very good."

While dropping a guy 50 spots based on one camp when he did this

…really stood out during the drill portion of camp, separating himself with explosive speed and he made a bunch of tough one-handed catches. He is a big receiver with a lot of ranginess and he can create space against most defensive backs. Mitchell was a little too quiet during the one-on-one session.

size, explosiveness, competitiveness and reliable hands were on full display on Saturday. Cornerbacks that tried to jam him at the line of scrimmage were quickly dispatched and errant passes were hauled in with ease. There was one pass that Mitchell hauled in with one hand between two defenders. He had to pin it against his body because the defender was holding onto his other arm.

…at various preceding ones is a bit of a hair trigger reaction, Mitchell didn't provide a counterpoint. He came off a reasonably productive junior year (47 catches, 872 yards) with a bunch of hype, and then his stats fell off a cliff. As of mid-November Mitchell had just 13 catches. Per MGoBlue he finished with 30; I'm guessing most of those were within five yards of the LOS. He averaged barely ten yards a catch, and his highlights have a ton of YAC in them. The half-season senior highlights above consist of a lot of handoffs on which he gains five yards and tackles made while he plays corner. While that's not necessarily Mitchell's fault—his QB manages to wobble a two-yard crossing route in that video—recruiting sites can only go on what they see, and they didn't have much data to go on after that camp.

Mitchell's overall polish and routes are also frequently questioned. Brewster notes he's a "raw player" and "still learning from a technical standpoint"; Son of a Coach says he's "not a sharp route runner at this time". After watching his highlights I have to agree. Mitchell appeared to run three routes in high school: bubble screens, crosses, and fades—mostly the former two. The fades that should be his bread and butter don't even see him leap most of the time. He doesn't high-point the ball, and there are only a couple of catches that are contested.

As a result I don't necessarily trust a lot of the praise in Mitchell's scouting reports. Given available evidence much of it reads like "here is a trope about a big receiver". Scout:

… good hands and knows how to use his body to gain position against smaller defensive backs. He comes out of breaks well but needs to be a bit more precise in his route running. He is a tremendous competitor, and it shows when the ball is in the air. He high-points the ball, and doesn't mind going over the middle.

Former ND QB Evan Sharpley praised Mitchell's "exceptional ball skills"; BGI says the same thing. I guess this could be something he showed in camps. There's nothing in any of his highlight tapes to confirm or deny such a thing.

Mitchell enrolled early, but didn't leave much of an impression. When I saw him at Ford Field I thought he looked like a "big time athlete, very unpolished". He dropped a couple of quick passes. Meanwhile Michigan's official twitter feed tweeted out a video in which Mitchell loses a slant route to Reon Dawson because he misses his attempt to paw him away on his cut:

Despite a dearth of options that saw Shane Morris pressed into duty as a slot receiver, Mitchell wasn't targeted much in the spring game. That's not a ton of data, freshmen wide receivers are often behind, etc. Still some data, none of it pointing the right direction.

Compounding some iffy returns from Mitchell's first spring practice is an off-field incident that all the insiders have muttered about but nobody has detailed. Per Scout's Brian Dohn, Mitchell nearly decided to transfer afterwards. Some variety of suspension may be forthcoming. Whatever the issue was it was serious enough to imperil Mitchell's career at Michigan before it even started. That greatly increases the chance he ends up washing out for reasons other than his talent.

Etc.: Wearing #2. I can't decide if this is the best wolverine or the worst wolverine:

image

Major battle in the #WarOnRutgers:

image

Why Greg Mathews or Jonas Mouton? Mathews was a tall, relatively burly mid-four star guy a while back. He was reasonably fast but didn't get a ton of separation; his hands were okay, but not great. He played early largely because Michigan didn't have a lot of other options shaped like him and topped out as a 30-catch receiver as a junior and senior. Mitchell is much more of a wild card than Mathews, who seemed boring and okay from the drop. Mitchell could be anything at all.

Other comparables include Junior Hemingway, a jump-ball maestro who played at 230 pounds one year, and—if Michigan gets very lucky—former Notre Dame receiver Michael Floyd. BGI brought the latter comparison up in their film evaluation, so don't blame me for that one. Floyd ran a 4.4 40 at the NFL combine and Mitchell is unlikely to match that, but speed wasn't really Floyd's game in college.

As a safety, Mitchell's physical package is similar to Jarrod Wilson, who ran probably-generous 4.5s at Michigan's pro day at 6'1", 205… but Mitchell is already that size now. Jonas Mouton is a better fit. He entered a college a 210-pound safety and exited it a 240-pound WLB who alternated terrible plays with excellent ones for the duration of his career.

Guru Reliability: Low. Mitchell's high school is very small and their QB very limited; really no idea what he looks like in a college context. Many scouting reports seem arbitrary.

Variance: Very high. Lack of production, potential position switch, raw even at his main high school position, had early off-field incident of some variety.

Ceiling: High. NFL player lurking in there somewhere.

General Excitement Level: Moderate-minus. Washout potential is high. Pure athlete at the moment.

Projection: I'd redshirt the guy for the same reason we're all mad that neither starting safety redshirted: his ability to contribute this year is minimal and he's got a ton of upside. His early enrollment might complicate that; he would be a frustrating burned redshirt.

Either way this year is likely to be a learning experience for Mitchell at wide receiver, and then they'll poke around with him on defense during the bowl practices. Since I can read a depth chart and am high on the rest of this WR class and Moe Ways, I expect Mitchell to flip to defense at that point. There's another year of apprenticeship in there, and then maybe Mitchell can break through in year three or beyond as either a safety or linebacker.

2016 Recruiting: Chris Evans

2016 Recruiting: Chris Evans

Submitted by Brian on July 8th, 2016 at 11:20 AM

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 Onwenu, OL Stephen Spanellis, TE Nick Eubanks, TE Sean McKeon, TE Devin Asiasi, WR Eddie McDoom, WR Nate Johnson, WR Kekoa Crawford.

       
Indianapolis, IN – 5'11", 186
       

Scout 4*, #190 overall
#11 RB
Rivals 3*, NR overall
#32 ATH, #7 INL
ESPN 3*, NR overall
#69 RB, #8 IN
24/7 4*, #305 overall
#7 APB, #4 IN
Other Suitors OSU, MSU, Indiana, Purdue
YMRMFSPA Dennis Norfleet or
Dymonte Thomas
Previously On MGoBlog Hello post from Ace. Future Blue Originals vs Brandon Peters.
Notes Twitter.

Film

Senior:

Junior:

Ace and Dave got single-game film from that FBO:

Chris Evans is one of the most unpredictable recruits in Michigan's class. One site likes him a lot, another likes him just fine, and a couple are meh. He listed at three different spots by those sites and could be any of four different things in Ann Arbor:

"[I’ll play] either defensive back, slot, running back."

At Ben Davis, Evans was a heavily utilized all-purpose offensive threat who rushed for over 2300 yards and caught 91 passes for over 1000 yards in his final two years, one of which ended in a state championship. His highlights see him line up in the backfield, in the slot, and on the outside. Meanwhile his seven-on-seven team used him as a defensive back frequently:

definitely looked the most natural playing cornerback … started his day by making a big interception down the field and then came back with several pass break-ups. …outstanding top-end speed

entered camp wanting to work on his DB skills and did just that. … improved the most out of every position, playing both CB and FS. His vision of the field continued to get better as he intercepted a great deal of passes during 7v7.

Pick an outcome, any outcome. Yes, that is a reasonable outcome.

While a lot about Evans remains uncertain, one thing that's not is his speed. A 4.4-ish 40 at the Army Combine just after his junior year is legit. Last March Steve Wiltfong noted that Evans has run a "4.4 hand-held every time" he lays down a 40 yard dash. At Best of the Midwest he ran a 4.37 40, and while that's solidly in the realm of combine fiction Evans's track career was impressive. Tracking Football places him in the 87th percentile of RBs based on his lycra exploits, which include a state championship in the 100 meter relay and a narrow defeat in the regular 100 meter state finals. And caveat-ridden, "quicker than fast"-deploying ESPN finally admits a person can run good:

…versatile athlete. … catches the ball without effort. …speed is better than anyone else on the field. … Displays a feel for finding an opening and then accelerating through it. He is slow to the hole and then displays a burst to slide through it. … Exhibits good feet and an ability to avoid direct hits. Can slide laterally and avoid a shot.

When Ace checked out the Avon-Ben Davis game featuring Evans and Brandon Peters last fall, Evans was largely bottled up until a 52-yard screen touchdown that is the last play on the FBO video above, but he did demonstrate that speed:

We got an early glimpse at how fast Evans is when his teammate returned a kickoff to the house (0:30 mark) and Evans, who lined up as the other return man, went from nearly a dead stop ten yards behind the play to a dead sprint, getting out in front to wall off the final defender who could've made a tackle.

Clint Brewster:

excellent downfield speed and is a long strider. …excellent explosive quickness coming out of his breaks. …. mismatch on third down coming out of the backfield matched up against a linebacker. … Nice agility and plus balance. Feet keep moving in tight spaces.

Evans can go. Full stop, no caveat, Chris Evans is going to be one of the fastest players in the Big Ten as soon as this fall.

Evans isn't just fast in a straight line, with many evaluations focusing on his fluidity and change of direction.

ESPN praises him as a "smooth, balanced, athletic player." He showed at Michigan's Indianapolis satellite camp last year and wowed onlookers. Wiltfong:

Evans has speed … but it’s how fluid he is that impresses. The 5-foot-11, 186-pound Evans is so smooth changing direction. … a cut above the rest [in] running back agility drills and in 1-on-1s it was easy for him to abuse the linebackers on the field. He’s sure-handed.

Scout compared him to five-star OSU commit Demario McCall (who you will not like very much over the next few years) because they were similar dudes:

elusive and fluid …juked some guys out of their socks and as usual, caught the football well.

Allen Trieu:

Excellent hands and pass-catching ability. Very comfortable running routes. A smooth kid who glides through traffic. Has good, maybe not elite speed and can make cuts and moves while going full speed. He's elusive and does a great job of finding running lanes.

Wiltfong again, at another camp:

… from the moment drills started he was on another level, showcasing the speed, balance and agility that will eventually make him a sought-after prospect. … Evans could not be checked during the competition portion, as there wasn’t a running back or corner that could match up athletically.

Scout:

Evans showed his quickness, fluidity and pass catching skills at the Core 6 Showcase yesterday.

Those pass catching skills pop up a lot. Evans isn't a running back who has to move to receiver in college because he's small. He's already advanced in that department.

can catch the ball, and not just the easy ones, and has good quickness and route running skills as well.

runs routes and catches the football with his hands like a wide receiver.

seemed to make a catch on every other play. A one-handed grab while staying in bounds on a downfield pass was perhaps the play of the day.

Evans is a guy with nearly 400 rushes who also keeps pace with many D-I high school wide receivers downfield. He'd be brutal to defend in a spread offense. He came to Michigan.

I think Evans ends up playing safety in Ann Arbor. This goes against the grain. While many people mention his potential at DB nobody outright projects him there; ESPN evaluates as a running back and the other sites keep bringing up his hands and routes. This isn't limited to analysts. In early January, Steve Lorenz relayed some information from the staff:

Michigan coaches were happy to hear that Chris Evans will not take any more official visits as they view him as a potential playmaker on the offensive side of the ball. … From what we're told, he could see carries directly out of the backfield or get touches at the slot wide receiver position.

There have been a few major changes since then. NJ WR Brad Hawkins—a player many were projecting to safety—looks unlikely to make it to campus. NJ WR Ahmir Mitchell, another potential safety, nearly transferred. And Don Brown replaced DJ Durkin at defensive coordinator.

The current situation:

  • Michigan has an ungodly pile of tight ends to suck up skill position snaps.
  • They bring back sophomore Grant Perry and brought in 1-3 other players who can play in the slot.
  • The safety depth chart yawns like a crevasse.
  • David Long and Lavert Hill exist.
  • Michigan's new defensive coordinator built the nation's best defense with two converted corners with great range at safety.

Evans has the best chance to be an impact guy at safety. Even if he's the best slot, he's probably the best slot by an inch. He might be the best safety option by a mile. Brown runs a lot of cover two and blitzes a ton; he needs guys who can eat up ground and prevent his aggressive ways from resulting in quick touchdowns. Evans promises to be that kind of guy… eventually.

There are some external indicators that Evans is best suited for the defensive backfield. His camp performances indicated potential:

…began his day playing cornerback where he was able to keep in check the best receivers at the camp with his lateral quickness and ability to turn and run.

Ohio State's late offer was sincere and a tad insulting, as late offers always are; it was as a defensive back. When Evans committed he said Michigan wanted him in the slot or at DB and that he had a preference:

"I want to play defensive back. I think that's the best spot for my future."

Soon after that preference was replaced with the usual "I'll play anywhere" quote, but I think that's illuminating all the same. A few months later he mentioned that Michigan was talking to him about corner and slot, but mostly they just wanted him because he was very fast.

Evans can probably get to a weight where he won't be a liability as a tackler. He's already put on around about 20 pounds…

As a sophomore, Evans weighed just 167 pounds. … “My sophomore year (Lawrence Central’s) Darrin Kirkland hit me and I felt like I’d go back 10 feet,” he said. “This year when we encountered, I didn’t feel like a toy getting thrown around.”

…to get to 185 or 190 depending on who you listen to; Wiltfong believes he can "easily add 20 pounds and be just as dynamic." When Tim Sullivan caught him in person he was impressed with his lower half:

…isn't very big but he's extremely well put together and chiseled. His lower body is very thick and allows him to be quick, fast, sudden, and also quite powerful.

And he seems to have the mental wherewithal that is a main asset for the last line of defense:

"I think I'm a good student of the game so I know where things are supposed to hit and what happens when this happens. I'm a student of the game and I work hard at it and my vision helps me on the field."

See also the upcoming "nah" quote about that OSU offer. He can hack safety, probably, and Michigan needs those. But if you told me he was anything else I'd believe you, too.

Etc: I submit to you the greatest quote in the history of rejecting late recruiting offers:

“It's like there's two girls and one girl is Beyonce, which is Ohio State. I’m like, dang, I want Beyonce because she looks good and has everything, so I want her. However, she is like 'nah' and I’m going to hold back. I don’t know if I want to go out with you right now. I’m like alright cool, then I will just hold back and do whatever I can and just chill. Then Halle Berry comes in and is like, hey Chris, what’s up and I like you. I’m like okay cool, so I am going to go with Halle Berry and have been going out with her since June. However, Beyonce pops back up and is like, hey babe, what’s up and remember me? We can go out if you want to? I’m like I got Halle Berry and I’m happy with her. That is what I want. I tried to get with you, but you didn’t want it, so I chose otherwise. Now that you want to jump back in, I got nothing for you.”

Also this:

"If you're going to write anything on me," says Evans, a star running back at Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis, "you've got to mention all of my offensive linemen, too, by name."

A quick, talented and rather humble young man, Evans knows his potentially bright football future might not be as shiny without the help of his five super-sized Ben Davis pals.

Jalil Brewer, Dylan Runyon, Pompey Coleman, Ahmad Malone and Quinton Tyler.

"That's the best O-line in the state," Evans says with pride.

Was considered a "heavy Michigan State lean" on March 23rd, visited Ann Arbor a week later, and then it was all over but the shouting.

Why Dennis Norfleet or Dymonte Thomas? Norfleet was a very good high school running back with the ability to pop it between the tackles and juke in tight spaces. Michigan moved him to slot receiver, where he was little more than a predictable jet sweep threat, and eventually to cornerback. Evans is considerably bigger than the 5'8" Norfleet but they're ranked around the same place and Michigan hasn't had another spread H-back type guy recently. I have similar fears that if Evans ends up being that slot/RB hybrid guy he'll be similarly lost. I have a hard time envisioning that as a major role under Harbaugh.

Thomas is a reasonable comparison if Evans ends up on defense. Thomas is taller, at 6'2", but even now he's listed on the roster at 195, a number Evans can hit as early as next year. Both dudes are super fast. Thomas was a high school running back first and foremost; he also played OLB. Evans shades more towards the corner side of the hybrid safety continuum, but as a terrific athlete with a lot of positional uncertainty and probable eventual destination as a cover-oriented safety Thomas is a kindred spirit, down to the length of time it'll take before he's ready to go.

Guru Reliability: Low. Big split, Indiana doesn't get a lot of focus, positional uncertainty, no All Star game.

Variance: High. For the same reasons listed above, more or less. Also my bet that he's a safety brings questions about tackling to the forefront.

Ceiling: High-minus. Evans's speed and intelligence could make him into a very good safety, but he's not 6'2" and also a bolt.

General Excitement Level: Moderate-plus. Very fast gentleman with a lot of question marks.

Projection: Redshirt. I expect his position will remain a question mark through most of fall camp and possibly through much of his freshman year; the guess here is that he ends up a DB by spring practice, either safety or corner. If so he'll be thrown into a melee as Michigan loses its top five defensive backs after the season.

He's not likely to win that melee at corner. He's not likely to beat out Tyree Kinnel at safety. That fourth spot, though, is wide open if Khaleke Hudson is indeed the Peppers heir apparent. If it's Evans that's almost certainly going to be painful in the short term. In year three and beyond I'd be pretty comfortable with Evans out there as a super fast safety who can turn and run when the opposition attempts to go over his head.

2016 Recruiting: Kekoa Crawford

2016 Recruiting: Kekoa Crawford

Submitted by Brian on July 5th, 2016 at 12:18 PM

Previously: Last year's profiles. S Josh Metellus, S Khaleke Hudson, CB David Long, CBLavert 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 Onwenu, OL Stephen Spanellis, TE Nick Eubanks, TE Sean McKeon, TE Devin Asiasi, WR Eddie McDoom, WR Nate Johnson.

       
Rancho Santa Margarita, CA – 6'2", 185
       

1553675

Scout 4*, #134 overall
#23 WR
Rivals 4*, #129 overall
#26 WR, #20 CA
ESPN 4*, #179 overall
#22 WR, #20 CA
24/7 4*, #135 overall
#20 WR, #15 CA
Other Suitors UO, USC, ND, OU, Stanford, ASU
YMRMFSPA Jehu Chesson
Previously On MGoBlog Hello post from Ace.
Notes Twitter. Army AA. Nee Dylan Crawford.

Film

Junior:

Senior (starts at 1:00):

Way back in the long-long ago when Brady Hoke was still around, Michigan fans with an obsessive recruiting bent were hoping that Michigan would land a quartet of California stars: KJ Costello, Theo Howard, David Long, and Dylan Crawford. By the standards of recruiting expectations more than a year out from Signing Day, this actually turned out pretty well: Michigan locked down the latter two. Getting there was pretty hairy, with Long committing to Stanford early and Crawford looking like he'd head to Oregon for a couple weeks after the Ducks finally offered.

But before Crawford could pull the trigger on that Duck offer, though, a guy named Eddie McDoom did. Crawford committed to Michigan shortly afterwards; now Michigan has both. Jedd Fisch probably spent most of February with tented fingers, laughing ominously in his underground compound.

Crawford isn't a whole lot different than Johnson and McDoom. Most evaluations cite an advanced understanding of routes, excellent athleticism without crazy top-end speed, and technical adeptness. The term "polished" is frequently deployed. In October Michigan was apparently selling him on their lack of depth at slot receiver, which both McDoom and Johnson are also candidates to play. All three are also candidates on the outside.

Crawford has a few inches on his compatriots and is the most likely to be a full-time outside guy; all three can move inside or out depending on Michigan's need on any particular down.  ESPN:

very competitive speed and slippery elusiveness…  very shifty with wiggle and fluid change-of-direction to use at the top of stems into and out of breaks. … can get on the toes of defenders quickly to eat up cushion … knows how to use his feet, hips and burst to gain separation. …very adept at tracking the deep ball over the shoulder …reasonably wide catch radius …can make people miss, … may not just run by people [in college] like he routinely does at this level. … athletic and precise and has a good feel for the game.

247:

electric in and out of breaks. …quickness to separate …brings a lot to the table after the catch as an elusive player with good moves. …aggressive mentality as a blocker. He really takes pride in picking up a block… great toughness. … Kenny Stills type

Rivals:

…strong route runner where he cuts extraordinarily well and he does a great job setting up cornerbacks. The four-star is also exceptional at catching low passes by getting his hands under the ball and scooping it. Sometimes, he lets the ball get into his body, but most of the time Crawford rips it out of the air.

Scout:

…does everything well. …solid frame and is much stronger than he looks. …nice burst, is a polished route runner and has good top end speed. … natural pass catcher and always uses his hands rather than his body to make a play. He's also a smart kid and knows the game.

Son of a Coach:

very good speed and flashes some extra burst at times that a lot of other players don’t have. …  plays really hard. …  good hands and shows good body control on sideline catches. I would like to see him be more of a player that attacks the ball at its highest point … very good potential as a route runner and does a good job of selling double moves. Because he’s a better athlete than many of the players covering him, he sometimes will rely on just running by them and not running the crispest routes. 

Tim Sullivan:

…a good route-runner with outstanding hands… good short-area quickness …isn't a deep burner… his football savvy, vision, and quickness allow him to make big plays anyway.

Touch The Banner:

…does a good job of bursting off the line of scrimmage….can shake defenders in space. … deft route runner who does a good job of using head movement and jab steps to set up defensive backs. … shows the ability to work across the middle of the field without being affected by impending contact. … does not have many obvious weaknesses in his game.

While last bit is a theme repeated by a few different evaluations, there are some negative reports.

A couple of grumbles about his hands seem to be based on a bad camp or day of practice; more complete evaluations are generally positive. There are a more durable concerns. He didn't blow people away at the Army game. This Rivals evaluation from the game is skeptical about Crawford's ability to be a deep threat:

247 moved him out of their top 100 because he "never really asserted himself" in 7-on-7 and in a separate section actually intended to praise him they noted that he was just "going through the motions" on the first two days of practice. Scout also noted he "wasn't active" in the morning of day one, though they said he did well in the afternoon section. Touch The Banner also notes that Crawford wasn't the most productive receiver on his team; 2017 Oklahoma commit Grant Calcaterra, who Michigan took a poke at early in the cycle, beat him out.

Like Johnson, Crawford's combine testing numbers are pretty righteous. He was one of the top performers at the Opening:

Dylan Crawford was one of 10 participants out of the 166 who tested to qualify for NIKE Football Rating Championship. At 6-1.5, 183 pounds, the athlete clocked a 4.45-40, 4.01 in the shuttle, jumped 37” in the vertical and threw the power ball 42’.

Crawford was just out of a walking boot and ran for the first time in a month when he put that on the board. FWIW, 247 had completely different numbers—worse 40, worse shuttle, better vertical and power ball—but either way, dude was one of the most athletic guys at a gathering of the top recruits in the country. He came in second in combine testing at a loaded Opening regional in Los Angeles as well; he'd win the WR MVP award after bringing in "numerous" deep balls that displayed "his ability to stretch the field." How this jibes with the consistent "he's fast but he's not that fast" above is unknown.

That 6'1.5" is also a positive. It's a rare recruit who ends up listed smaller than he actually is by the recruiting sites. Crawford is one of them. He grew a couple inches after he popped up on everyone's radar.

Crawford's ability as a blocker jumps out on tape. There was a brief mention above; it was echoed in more depth by other analysts. Son Of A Coach:

One of the most tenacious run blockers I’ve seen out of a someone considered a blue chip receiver prospect. He gets after it better than a lot of tight end recruits.

Touch The Banner:

Crawford displays some aggression toward defensive backs in the running game, and he can be a very effective blocker on the edge with crack blocks and stalk blocks.

Rivals took in one of his high school games—which is a rare opportunity to focus on guys when they don't get the ball—and came away similarly impressed:

not only willing to block, but also fiery when it came to the task. He said afterward he realizes receivers have to be well rounded at the next level and he has worked hard at making his presence felt even when the ball isn't in the air.

Our YMRMFSPA has proven that you don't have to be a huge guy to wreck tight ends, and you know that Harbaugh is going to prioritize guys who block with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind. This section also mitigates concerns you might have after those indifferent Army game reports that Crawford doesn't get after it. Crawford might not have put a huge priority on a slightly ridiculous All Star game; when he's put in an actual game he seeks to dominate his opposition.

Etc.:  Per Jedd Fisch, Crawford will go by his middle name at M. MGoBlue is still a little confused about this. Will wear #1. This scouting report from a guy covering the Army game is too ridiculous to put in the body of the post but also too ridiculous to ignore:

“As spicy as they come at the wide receiver position,” Herron said. “A guy who’s not one of these Calvin Johnson-types, he’s not, 230-40 pounds. He’s just over 6-foot, 180 but plays as though he’s the size of Megatron.”

Why Jehu Chesson? Chesson arrived as a wiry track star in need of a lot of polish who lacked recruiting hype. This isn't particularly close to Crawford, but the receiver Chesson turned into—a 6'3", 200-pound outside receiver and defensive back abattoir with the ability to stretch a ten yard pass into 30—is. Chesson has an inch or two on Crawford; Crawford arrives at Michigan much closer to his eventual ceiling.

Less recent comparables include Marcus Knight and Tai Streets, both lanky outside receivers with solid deep speed and reliable hands.

Guru Reliability: Exacting. Lock-step rankings, Army game appearance, heavily scouted high school. Some wobble in the scouting reports but not much really.

Variance: Low. A polished kid with a good frame and excellent off-field stuff.

Ceiling: High-minus. Doesn't appear to be Braylon but could be a solid #1 WR in college if he works out. I do give the sites' (slight) skepticism in this department credence since they saw him a lot and there seems to be broad agreement on this point.

General Excitement Level: High. Johnson/McDoom part III. Less likely to bust than either of those guys because of his size. Still like McDoom a bit better but it's splitting hairs.

Projection: Probably plays on the outside. Probably does not redshirt since Michigan needs to find two new outside receivers next year and there's enough uncertainty about Ways and Harris—more or less the only options with any experience—to play both Crawford and McDoom. I'd prefer at least one of the three WRs already profiled gets a redshirt, but it's hard to pick out who that might be.

Crawford will have a real shot at starting as early as next year; if his blocking translates to college that'll give him a leg up. At the very least he should be rotation piece. Things might get complicated in 2018 if Michigan does lock down Donovan Peoples-Jones and Nico Collins, either or both of whom could be the kind of talent who pushes through returning starters after an apprentice year. Crawford's ability to pop into the slot gives him the flexibility to stay on the field; it's likely that one of these slot/outside types does get pushed out of playing time. No idea who.

2016 Recruiting: Nate Johnson

2016 Recruiting: Nate Johnson

Submitted by Brian on June 30th, 2016 at 11:44 AM

Previously: Last year's profiles. S Josh Metellus, S Khaleke Hudson, CB David Long, CBLavert 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 Onwenu, OL Stephen Spanellis, TE Nick Eubanks, TE Sean McKeon, TE Devin Asiasi, WR Eddie McDoom.

       
Thompson's Station, TN – 5'11", 175
       

natejohnson

Scout 3*, NR overall
#65 WR
Rivals 3*, NR overall
#75 WR, #69 FL
ESPN 3*, NR overall
#180 WR, #31 TN
24/7 4*, #200 overall
#37 WR, #2 TN
Other Suitors ND, PSU, VT, Miami, Tenn, Purdue
YMRMFSPA Jeremy Gallon
Previously On MGoBlog Hello post from Ace.
Notes Twitter. Purdue decommit.

Film

Senior:

For a big chunk of his recruitment, Nate Johnson was a Purdue commit with a typical profile for a Purdue commit: a smattering of Group of Five and FBS offers, rankings deep in the wilderness of the three-star jungle, and little attention from the outside world. These days 247 has by far the most densely-packed thicket of articles I wade through to create these profiles, and after his June 25th commit there was total radio silence until November, when Vanderbilt offered him.

That was just the beginning. 87 catches for 1700 yards, 27 touchdowns, and a key role on a 15-0 state championship team tend to bring folks to wider attention. By December he was on the receiving end of a Gatling gun of offers: Tennessee. Miami. Penn State. Michigan. Virginia Tech. Notre Dame. He'd also picked up one recruiting site that was a strong advocate, 247. A very strong advocate:

…at Vanderbilt's elite camp … he was unreal. The current Vanderbilt players were out at the event and the entire team was going nuts every time Johnson would take a 1on1 rep. He was making DBs fall down, do 360s, just putting on a show. …one of the best route-runners in the country, has great hands, fantastic body control and he has a much bigger catch radius than his 5-11 size would suggest. … reminds me some of Christian Kirk down at Texas A&M.

All righty then. 247 was ahead of the curve here. By the time his first major offers came in they'd already moved him into solid four-star territory at #272, and validated by someone else noticing Johnson was pretty good they continued moving him up until he came to rest at #200.

It's unclear why it took so long for schools to catch on. Johnson's junior year—62 catches, 1300 yards—wasn't as bonkers as 2015 but neither was it easy to overlook. He also won the receiver MVP ("knows how to get open, has reliable hands and made play after play") at an Opening regional where he tested very well:

He has impressed this off-season with his route running, athleticism and strong hands. Johnson scored a 111.39 at the NIKE Opening Regional Camp in Columbus, posting a 4.6 flat in the forty, 4.03 in the shuttle, 39 vertical leap and a 35 foot powerball toss.

That verified 4.6 isn't elite, but it's plenty good enough. Donovan Peoples-Jones ran a 4.45 at the same camp. Meanwhile the shuttle and vertical leap are outstanding. Johnson's also a great triple jumper, and an interesting 247 article focused on some guys with excellent numbers in various leaping track events:

***45-9.25 Triple Jump
With a host of FCS level offers, Johnson has proven that he's capable of much more. His jump numbers are outstanding, he's tested well on The Opening circuit, he's an outstanding route-runner and he was extremely productive as a junior. What's not to like?

He's not the fastest guy ever but his athletic package is certainly four-star worthy. Ditto his production.

Schools eventually came around; ranking services not so much. ESPN is a huge outlier; their fire-and-forget tendencies come to the fore here as Johnson ends up their #180(!) wide receiver. While these evaluations are undated, this one was clearly issued before his senior year and never revisited. It finishes by saying he "will most likely get a look from a power 5 school before the recruiting process is over"; he was a Purdue commit by June 2015. As per usual the brief eval is more positive than that:

He is quick but not overly fast.  … Displays a burst off the LOS and immediately after a catch. … Catches the ball well. Displays a knack for going to the ball. He does not wait, he attacks throws and catches them with confident hands, away from his body.  … able to make defenders miss and gain more yards than other receivers would. Is elusive and has a knack for changing direction with quickness and authority.

The ranking is obviously absurd; the report fits in line with the others.

Meanwhile Scout didn't have an article on him until Michigan picked up interest in him and did not provide any scouting at all, not even the brief summary on most recruits' profiles. Rivals did have one thing on him before Tim Sullivan did his usual post-commit articles where he flags down the coach and a Rivals analyst, that an evaluation after he showed up at a Rivals camp in St Louis:

…continually got open deep down the field. Johnson's greatest attribute is his speed and there's no question that was on full display. He also showed strong, consistent hands and if it weren't for a few off-target passes, he wouldn't have lost more than a couple of reps all day. Johnson's ceiling is limited because of his size (5-11, 174), but his results were impressive.

When Sullivan poked them again after Johnson's Michigan commitmed, Woody Wommack described him as a "great slot receiver":

“He’s a shifty-type guy: I wouldn’t say he’s your pure speed guy, but at the same time, he’s got good football speed. He’s got really good hands, and he’s got a little bit of that elusive wiggle that people like to talk about so much. … generously listed at 5-11, … going to have to add a little bit of weight to absorb some of those hits. … could go in and be super-productive for a few years, especially if he’s paired with the right quarterback.”

His coach was rapturous, as coaches usually are:

"He's a terrific route-runner, number one. He's great in space, knows how to get separation, knows how to get open, knows how to recognize coverages. His hands were the best I've ever coached. His ability to run terrific routes and find the open spot in coverages, and then his ability after the catch is what separates him a little bit."

If this all sounds a lot like the just-profiled Eddie McDoom, yeah it does. Touch The Banner's evaluation is in the same vein:

…runs a variety of routes … gets separation off the line of scrimmage by varying his releases, and he finds soft spots in zone coverage. … He makes leaping catches, diving catches, and catches off of his shoe tops. … does a great job of fighting for extra yardage, breaking tackles, and moving his feet. I also like the way he plays the game – he runs his routes hard, is a willing blocker, and seems like a high-energy kid who plays with enthusiasm. … Johnson needs to get stronger in his upper body…There are times where he struggles to get separation because he gets overpowered at the line of scrimmage

These are both quick guys with good routes and hands who aren't 6'4". McDoom has more track bonafides that back up his football speed; I like his film better; he's a bit bigger; he gave a top 50 guy the business at the UA game. Johnson has a ton more high school production and may have gotten more impressive offers depending on exactly how commitable McDoom's were outside of M and Oregon. McDoom also did not have anyone talk about him as an A+ after-the-catch guy. Clint Brewster thinks Nate Johnson is one of those:

…elite skills after the catch … shiftiness and lateral agility in tight spaces is exceptional. Really good avoiding tackles and getting yards on the quick wide receiver screen. … Golden Tate type receiver that brings toughness and edge … plays bigger than his size. Snatches the ball nicely out in the front and has crisp hands.

Similar players with Johnson shading more towards a bubble screen merchant and slot extraordinaire and McDoom shading more towards a double-move con artist on the outside.

Johnson is another inside/outside guy; while McDoom is set to start on the outside Johnson will kick it off in the slot. Jedd Fisch told MGoBlue that Johnson was "very similar to a Grant Perry in terms of body size, skill set, and production" and that he sees him "playing inside at the outset." For his part, Johnson told 247's Barton Simmons that he doesn't think he'll redshirt and that he would play both F—which I assume is the slot—and Z—which is an outside position. He'll also be in contention for punt returns once Peppers departs.

Johnson seems relatively open to a redshirt in that 247 article but given the things people tend to say about him I suspect he'd secretly—or maybe not so secretly—be upset about not playing next year. 247 repeatedly emphasized a Dantonio-sized aspect of his personality:

Johnson has a well-earned chip on his shoulder. Despite dominating camps and putting up huge numbers on the field, the big offers and, for the most part, the big rankings haven't come his way. For that reason, he's always seemed like a kid that was going to land at the biggest name school that offered him.

This kid has always had a chip on his shoulder. He's ready.

And even Fisch invites you to read between the lines:

He'll come in with no shyness about him whatsoever, and a determination to work hard and be real good.

That chip grew to even vaster proportions when he got got Miss Universed at the Tennessee Mr. Football banquet. He was initially announced as the winner, and then Tennessteve Harvey went "whoops." They turned around and handed it to Tee Higgins. Tee Higgins, a junior. Tee Higgins, a junior wide receiver. I cited Johnson's inner D'antoni in our Signing Day podcast as a reason I was hyped about him, and while I've retreated somewhat from those expectations I still think a guy who made a gorillion catches in high school only to end up a Purdue commit for most of the cycle is a good bet to take his anger out on opponents.

Etc.:  Rooming with Rashan Gary.

Why Jeremy Gallon? Gallon was a pint-sized athlete pegged as a slot receiver by the world who turned out to be equally capable on the outside; his telepathic connection with Devin Gardner led to a record-breaking receiving season. Gallon was also a player one site was really high on despite his size—in his case it was Rivals. Gallon was significantly smaller than Johnson is and spent his high school career at QB, so Johnson has some advantages, especially early.

As Fisch mentions above, Grant Perry is another good comparable as a super-productive high school receiver who projects as a largeish slot and was largely overlooked until late in the process. I try to reserve YMRMFSPAs for players who we've actually seen develop into a finished product; otherwise this comparison probably would be Perry.

Guru Reliability: Low. All over the map. Scout has nothing. ESPN's sole evaluation is over a year old. Rivals and 247 have some stuff; big disagreement on the rankings.

Variance: Moderate-minus. Size and strength could be cause him to lack effectiveness in many situations and limit him to slot business only; still seems pretty likely to be an effective contributor underneath.

Ceiling: Moderate-plus. Not the fastest and not the biggest and is therefore unlikely to be an all-conquering force. Excellent quicks and route running could make him an A+ second or third banana. Like McDoom, a great option to fling at those cover-four safeties that are all the rage.

General Excitement Level: Moderate-plus. I've come down a bit from where I was in the immediate aftermath of Signing Day, when I thought he was the most underrated guy in the class by a mile. I still think it's nuts for a guy with Johnson's production and testing numbers to get overlooked by three of the four services; I still expect him to have a solid career at Michigan. It does seem clear that his upside isn't incredible.

Projection: A redshirt is possible if Johnson shows up and needs some time in the weight room before he can be effective, but as mentioned above I kind of figure he's going to be one of those guys who's itching to get on the field. First year is likely to be reminiscent of Grant Perry's 2015: he gets scattered snaps in the slot and comes on towards the end of the year. Perry's existence will mean he's less prominent than Perry was a year ago, which wasn't particularly prominent.

In year two both outside spots open up. Johnson will be a candidate for them; while he's not an ideal fit physically he's got the route chops and ability to snag deep balls for outside receiver. He'll have a ton of competition from his classmates, Moe Ways, Drake Harris, and hopefully a five star or two in the 2017 class. He's probably 20% to claim a starting spot. Even if he doesn't he should be an increasingly frequent part of the rotation. He's probably hoping that Perry slides outside in year two.

2016 Recruiting: Eddie McDoom

2016 Recruiting: Eddie McDoom

Submitted by Brian on June 29th, 2016 at 12:37 PM

Previously: Last year's profiles. S Josh Metellus, S Khaleke Hudson, CB David Long, CBLavert 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 Onwenu, OL Stephen Spanellis, TE Nick Eubanks, TE Sean McKeon, TE Devin Asiasi.

 

       
Winter Garden, FL – 5'11", 175
       

 

699314387

Scout 3*, NR overall
#65 WR
Rivals 3*, NR overall
#75 WR, #69 FL
ESPN 4*, #184 overall
#23 WR, #35 FL
24/7 3*, #421 overall
#67 WR, #57 FL
Other Suitors UO, UF, OSU, Bama, UK, Texas, Clemson
YMRMFSPA Mario Manningham
Previously On MGoBlog Hello post from Ace.
Notes Twitter. UA game.

Film

Senior:

Let me state first off that this is a gentleman with the last name "McDoom". Therefore as a writer and person who looks at names I have a strong desire for this guy to succeed.

That said, hot damn I love this guy's skills. McDoom looks like a nightmare to cover. He's not that big; he is very fast and very quick. On top of that his route running is lethal. This Vine from the UA game is evidence of such; the video above has about ten minutes more of it:

That guy lookin' like Indiana's secondary is composite top 50 corner Chauncey Gardner.

McDoom's film has a ton of that stuff on it. His movements are abrupt; he times those movements excellently, breaking to his true destination after the defensive back commits his hips elsewhere. In the above clip he sells his route by looking back to the quarterback long enough for the CB to bite. He gets on top of defensive backs in a hurry and then one false step, or even a moment of hesitation, and McDoom is gone. He's not an insane burner, but he's plenty fast enough

...clocked with an official time of 10.85 seconds in the 100-meter dash as a junior. Jabrill Peppers ran a 10.52 as a senior. Jehu Chesson was a 10.7-second 100-meter sprinter. McDoom's 21.72 time in the 200-meter last spring is faster than the 21.98 Peppers ran in his final state title race as a senior.

…to make his route chops count. (Jedd Fisch asserts on MGoBlue that McDoom ran "a 10.5 hundred meter dash, a sub-21 two hundred, a sub-47 four hundred," which I can find zero evidence for anywhere; some of that seems pretty dang implausible.)

Unlike some receiving prospects his highlight film has just about the entire route tree on it. He looks good whether he's hand-fighting through contact and high-pointing a fade, decelerating for a curl, or selling a deeper route before coming back for a tunnel screen. You can't get much of a read on hands from a highlight reel with drops excised; everything else looks pretty good.

ESPN, which named him a late replacement in the UA game, is unsurprisingly the most enthused about McDoom's potential:

…both quick and elusive at the same time with quality acceleration traits. … Displays quality to shake and wiggle and change-of-direction when attacking a defenders alignment. …very decisive route runner both as an inside slot and on the outside one-on-one. Wins with quickness and avoiding getting held up at the line. Can win deep due to technical prowess. … will elevate, extend away from his frame and compete in contested match-ups … sneaky good in his ability to create separation …  polished and versatile target. …already a fairly precise route runner.

You may remember this scouting reports from Mario Manningham, who ruined people with his precision and quickness despite not being huge and not having elite top end speed. (Manningham ran a 4.59 at the NFL combine.) Several end-arounds in McDoom's highlight reel are reminiscent of Manningham at the Citrus Bowl. So too is the shield-and-extend technique McDoom uses to separate on a couple fade routes.

Tim Sullivan had a similar report upon his commitment:

slippery, quick-twitch inside receiver… not a juke-inside-a-phonebooth slot, but has adequate moves to get past one tackler … solid understanding of how to get open against zone and man coverage, and uses his feel for the game to set himself up for that yardage after the catch. …doesn't have elite long speed, but he's plenty fast to stretch the field … At times, he has difficulty making natural catches with his hands, letting the ball get into his body, or double-catching it after initially bobbling.

As did Scout's Greg Biggins after taking him in at the UA game:

…definitely belonged with the best of the best in nearby Orlando. He's a quick-twitch athlete that consistently created separation off the line of scrimmage and kept defenders on their toes. McDoom has battled drops at times in the past, but he was consistent and made the most out of his opportunities. Really did a good job of sticking his foot in the grass and running crisp routes.

And Touch The Banner concurs:

…very agile, speedy, and dangerous in open space. The 4.65 forty does not sound very impressive, but he plays faster than that. The reason he looks faster is because of his acceleration and quick feet, even though his long speed is not out of this world. …very disciplined, crisp route-runner who shows some nuance in running fades, deep curls, dig routes, square outs, posts, etc.

Scout's Corey Bender:

“…McDoom's nimble feet and burst of quickness allows him to create good separation when breaking off the line of scrimmage. He has the speed to get behind defenses.”

247's Clint Brewster:

…really comfortable running all the patterns in the route tree … savvy player with a nice feel for coverage and he knows how to stem his routes and set up opposing cornerbacks to think he’s running a different pattern. There's some nice subtleties to his game that stand out on film. … the route running and innate feel for the position to be productive in college.

247's national analysts weren't rapturous but came around on McDoom after a first day at UA where he "looked good at times and average at others"; day two he "continued to impress with his top-end speed" and day three was "another solid day" thanks to his speed and route-running.

So these evaluations don't seem to match the rankings save ESPN's—must be opposite day. There is one that does, a skeptical take from Rivals analyst Rob Cassidy, who emphasizes McDoom's need to add weight and then says some stuff diametrically opposed to everything above:

“He’ll need to be a better route runner. He’s got some good speed and some good length but I don’t think he’s ever going to lead Michigan in receptions or yards. I think he can definitely contribute in the Big Ten sometime down the road. … good football speed and he looks plenty fast on tape. I don’t know if he’s going to be a guy who stands out as the fastest guy in the Big Ten conference but he’s got enough speed to make things happen in space once he catches the ball.”

That is a three-star evaluation and Rivals offers up a middling three stars. I don't know where Cassidy's bit about McDoom's route running comes from since everyone else is like "A+++++ would watch this man make toast again," but it's a coherent opinion, albeit one that's low on discussion of his skills and high on hand-waving generalities.

McDoom's recruitment was a weird one. He is the third player in this class that UF thought was headed for their class until an abrupt change in his recruitment, although in this case this was Florida apparently backing off. He fielded a bunch of Kentucky crystal balls during the fall, and then Oregon stepped in. Like Nick Eubanks, McDoom has a ton of offers that are difficult to evaluate for sincerity. He got a Bama offer and said they led after a visit; Clemson was his first offer; Ohio State apparently threw their hat in the ring. After his decommit the other three schools he was nominally considering were Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Georgia. Visits are telling, though, and Oregon was his only other official. Oregon is a pretty pretty good WR offer. The rest is unknown.

Michigan's coaches don't care. Both Steve Lorenz and Sam Webb have mentioned that McDoom was at or near the top of Michigan's board at WR; Lorenz has repeatedly stated a belief that it's McDoom who will break through earliest amongst Michigan's six-man recruiting class at WR. This was still the case as of May, after the coaches got a look at Ahmir Mitchell through spring practice:

We’re told that he excels in some of the areas that you can’t really coach or teach and that it may give him a head start compared to the others.

I assume that stuff is his general feel for the game.

At 6' or just a hair under, McDoom could play inside or out; with a number of other slot types in the class he appears destined for the outside. He told MLive he would be starting out at Amara Darboh's "Z" spot. Like a couple other guys in the class I assume that they'll get acclimated to one position early and branch out from there.

 

Etc.:  Whoops!

"I can't have a place that is too cold too 24/7 because I am a Florida boy."

Meanwhile this is so very Harbaugh:

During one of Harbaugh's visits to McDoom at his high school, Michigan's coach arrived just as the receiver was supposed to head to his team's banquet. Harbaugh being Harbaugh, he told McDoom he'd just come with him as a guest. But -- Harbaugh being Harbaugh -- he didn't stop there.

"He spoke to the whole team (afterward), that was pretty awesome," McDoom recalled. "He was telling stories from when he played, telling us about himself a bit. It was just really cool."

ESPN had two entirely different commit posts describing McDoom's game separated by just a few weeks; entertainingly these posts come up with different player comparisons. (Bryce Treggs of Cal and Steven Mitchell of USC, if you're interested and those names mean anything to you.)

Why Mario Manningham? Six foot quicks merchant with B+ long speed and the ability to wreck you with his routes. Manningham was much more hyped as a recruit, a universal top-100 player. McDoom was lost in the shuffle in Florida.

Freddy Canteen is another recent comparable, and one rated more in McDoom's range. Canteen was barely scouted by the time he committed to Michigan because his high school spent his junior year in prep-school limbo. His career has been hampered by both position switches and injury.

Guru Reliability: Moderate. A lot of consensus when it comes to the scouting reports, with Rivals the main outlier. Only ESPN follows through on the positive evaluations with a high ranking.

Variance: Moderate. McDoom's probably going to be a contributor but has a wide range of possible outcomes. Manningham 2.0, or useful but not amazing slot type. Take your pick.

Ceiling:  High. Love his potential as an inside/outside guy who can be that cover-four-wrecking slot you need these days, and then do some Chesson-vs-Hargreaves things on the outside.

General Excitement Level: Very high. Surprise: McDoom is co-Sleeper of the Year with Josh Uche. I thought the second SotY was going to be Nate Johnson, but after going over both of them I'm more enthused about McDoom's ability.

Projection: McDoom is ready to go, give or take 15 pounds, and was really high on the coaches' board as a recruit; he will play. He'll be in apprentice mode as a freshman. In 2017 he'll battle Ways, Harris, Perry and his classmates for the two and a half starting jobs. I think he gets one. I won't be shocked if he doesn't, but the bet is on McDoom.

I expect McDoom to stick as an outside WR. Michigan has a couple other guys who are potential slot receivers in the class and three more years of Grant Perry; McDoom will get every shot to be a deep threat. As he gets more experience under his belt Michigan, he'll play more and more as a slot, especially against the MSUs of the world. The number of safeties who can get drafted into man coverage against him without being left in the dirt is small indeed, but to make that work at maximum efficiency McDoom will have to be an outside WR who occasionally shows up in the slot, possibly with a guy like Bunting or Gentry flanked outside of him.

2016 Recruiting: Devin Asiasi

2016 Recruiting: Devin Asiasi

Submitted by Brian on June 27th, 2016 at 11:33 AM

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 Onwenu, OL Stephen Spanellis, TE Nick Eubanks, TE Sean McKeon.

       
Concord, CA – 6'4", 270
       

Scout 4*, #67 overall
#4 TE
Rivals 4*, #46 overall
#2 TE, #10 CA
ESPN 4*, #44 overall
#3 TE-Y, #5 CA
24/7 4*, #220 overall
#8 TE, #31 CA
Other Suitors USC, UCLA, UW, Bama, ND
YMRMFSPA AJ Williams, Harbaugh Edition
Previously On MGoBlog Hello post from Ace.
Notes Twitter.

Film

Junior film, notable because he plays a reasonable amount of QB in it:

Senior:

This is a useful Sports Stars of Tomorrow profile:

Devin Asiasi is an archetypical "jumbo athlete." He is a huge person who moves uncommonly fast and could fit at either tight end or somewhere along the defensive line. For most of the cycle there was disagreement amongst the services where he would end up, and many articles reported that school X was recruiting Asiasi for defense.

This was to Michigan's advantage. A big reason he's in Ann Arbor is because he wants to play tight end:

“A lot of people are saying defense, but I’m trying to focus on tight end right now,” Asiasi said. “That’s really where my heart is right now. That’s really where I’m trying to focus my game on.”

There are zero programs in the country more convincing when they tell a kid like Asiasi he'll play offense. If there's a program that values this take from his high school coach

"…if there’s a better blocking tight end in the country I’d be really surprised. What he did for us blocking was incredible. He’s the best blocking tight end we’ve ever had. … Then when you throw the ball out to him and you see how big, long, and athletic he is, it’s unmistakable."

…it is Jim Harbaugh's Michigan.

Asiasi is a rare guy these days. In an era when top tight end prospects are 6'6" converted power forwards liable to snap in half if you breathe on 'em, Asiasi delivers a thump. Jay Harbaugh says Asiasi is "tenacious, violent and physically bludgeons his opponents," and this is not mere puffery. Rivals caught him during his junior year, when he was around 250. He had "some fierce blocks" and there was "no doubt he's super powerful now"; he weighed in at a college-ready and even more powerful 270 at the Army game. Scout notes that he's "more than just a big receiver" because he can "block and engage in the physical side of the game" and that he's "as complete a tight end to come from the West in some time."  ESPN:

…excellent bulk. Has a powerful base with room for further development through his upper body. … a big, physical short-to-intermediate underneath target. … good hands with ability to extend for the ball and catch away from his frame…very good body control to be able to adjust to passes off target….very strong [as a blocker], with size, strength, toughness and experience. … good ability to come off with pad level, deliver a pop, roll hips and push defenders off the ball. Physical player that can play with some nastiness.

Son of a Coach:

huge lower half and actually could potentially be in danger of growing out of being a tight end. …very agile for his size, but isn’t an explosive athlete. …. dominant in-line blocker that shows great pop on contact and does well getting to linebackers at the second level. My only small complaint is that he sometimes will only get the pop and not fit his block as well as he should, but he will latch on and drive an opponent into the ground … brings violence when he hits a defender.

Scout named him an "instant impact" freshman:

special talent with a college body right now. … advanced technique as a blocker, has the size to be physical in the run game but the hands and the athleticism to be a factor in the passing game as well. …looks like a future NFL player.

Asiasi is the kind of guy that will allow Harbaugh to line up in a goal line formation on his own 30. He's not just rare because he's a mean TE, he's rare for the same reason Tyrone Wheatley Jr. is: that man should not get to move like that. Tim Drevno knows a tight end when he sees one and told MGoBlue that "we have had a great string of tight ends at Stanford and now here at Michigan and he’s right that at the top"; Touch The Banner compares his athleticism favorably to Jake Butt.

Data on Asiasi's hands is necessarily thin given the nature of his high school's offense—his coach says De La Salle is "90-95% run"—but what exists is mostly encouraging. For one, in the highlight films above he makes a number of tough catches; even on the simple ones he flashes his hands out and secures the ball without bobbles. I just watched Nick Eubanks's tape, and the contrast jumped out. For two, in various camp situations he excelled. Both Rivals and 247 praised him after a massive 7-on-7 tournament in Las Vegas; both placed him on the All-Tournament team because he showed "good mobility and athleticism," "very strong hands," and was "just too strong for defenders and too nimble."

The most extensive reports come from his appearance at the Army game. Scout:

…can absolutely run and catch like a lighter tight end.  He's a smooth pass-catcher with a big catch radius, has soft hands, runs tremendous routes and looks natural playing the position.  … already a good blocker but this game, and today in particular, showed what he can do when used as an offensive weapon.

247:

…did a nice job of getting open and gaining separation against some linebackers and safeties. He also showed soft hands and was a nice weapon in the redzone.

Rivals:

… one of the biggest players on the roster yet he moves remarkably well down field and through his routes. Asiasi has been a favorite for the West quarterbacks throughout the week and that continued Thursday, especially in the red zone.

Scout again:

…impressed all week during Army practices … Weighing in at almost 275 pounds, Asiasi wowed onlookers with how well he moved for such a big target. He has soft hands, is a tremendous blocker and is that rare every down tight end who can be both strong in the run game as well as a threat in the passing game.

Also Scout:

…showed the skills necessary to be a consistent receiving threat at the next level.  He is a natural, and just glides for a guy his size.  He didn’t drop a pass and just oozes big time potential.

There was one guy who was like nah: 247's Barton Simmons. This evaluation is more or less the only negative one I came across in a pile of scouting and likely explains why 247 is the least enthused about Asiasi by some distance:

Devin Asiasi needs to play defensive line. He's a capable tight end but with one drop on what would have been a touchdown reception in the game and a pedestrian week of practice, we think Asiasi would be a dominant defensive lineman but is just a guy at tight end.

Yeah, he biffed a touchdown in the game itself, but per Scout Asiasi dropped just one of a ton of reps during the practice week, and various clipped bits of the scouting reports above reveal that TEs don't block much, if at all, during the Army practices. It's an outlier evaluation. What concerns exist about Asiasi's receiving ability are not about his hands but his size. He's probably fine right now—only the one dude had any concern about his mobility at the Army game—but people don't often stay the same weight once they hit a college S&C program.

So defensive end remains a possibility. Asiasi strongly prefers tight end and will start out there, but you know Harbaugh: he's going to flip guys to the other side of the ball just to check. It's possible Asiasi ends up with a higher ceiling there, especially if his weight goes up instead of down. That is not out of the question. Asiasi tried to cut down before his senior year, which he played at 275:

“It didn’t happen, it didn’t happen,” Asiasi said. “Hopefully I can get back to 260, 265. (But) I don’t think I should focus on getting my weight down I think I should just focus on getting stronger.”

Adam Gorney pointed out that if he ends up adding weight—which almost all recruits under 300 pounds do—tight end might cease to be tenable:

“He’s huge so that’s going to be a concern if he’s going to stay at tight end, he really can’t gain any more weight, he’s maxed out physically, a lot of people are thinking defensive end, I wouldn’t be shocked if that was maybe his future position.”

ESPN evaluated him as a tight end but did mention his two way ability and provide an intriguing comparison: former Minnesota DL Ra'Shede Hageman, who went from high school TE to explosive 300 pound three-tech over the course of his career.

Various folks think his best potential is as a DL; Son of a Coach believes he'll be best as a Wormley type DL who bounces between SDE and three-tech:

He’s got some ability to bend around the edge and can convert speed to power. His first step is very good and he uses his hands well to disengage. His ability to recognize and react to blocks also appears to be advanced for someone his age.

On most teams—cough cough UCLA—DE would be a likely destination no matter what Asiasi was told during his recruitment; at Michigan it's is definitely the backup plan.

Etc.:  Was long thought to be a package deal with Boss Tagaloa but that didn't happen. While packages are often overhyped, in this instance I'm still surprised they ended up different places. First in his family to go to college.

Why AJ Williams, Harbaugh Version? I can't remember the last truly jumbo tight end before Williams. Carr's guys were Tuman/Ecker types, mostly, RR was a spread guy looking for flex sorts, and Hoke's jumbo TE was… AJ Williams. That version of AJ Williams was a consistent disappointment, a poor blocker and nonentity in the passing game; Harbaugh made him a legit good two-way player in just a year. Asiasi has more upside than Williams, who was a 3/4 star borderline guy a lot of people thought would end up playing OT. Asiasi is a better athlete and more natural pass-catcher who will start out almost as good as Williams was as a senior.

The other obvious comparison is Tyrone Wheatley Jr, who we haven't seen play yet but is the same kind of freaky athlete and mauler dude at 270-280 pounds. Having two of these guys on one roster is going to be fun as hell.

Guru Reliability: High. Asiasi was one of the highest profile prospects on the West Coast, he did a bunch of camps, he showed at the Army game, and while there are scattered disagreements and one outlying ranking this is one of those posts I had to chop down from 5k words. Lack of utilization in the passing game is the only major caveat.

Variance: Low. I mean, yeah, some concern that he didn't get the ball a ton but he looks very natural on film and did every camp imaginable to prove to folks he was a TE. If he is not a TE for some reason he was just as touted as a DL. If he doesn't end up a starter at some point I'll eat a lemon. (Barring injury.)

Ceiling: Very high. Asiasi's combination of face-smashing blocking, excellent hands, and plus athleticism is hard to find.

General Excitement Level: Vast. I remember on signing day when Michigan got Asiasi it was kind of like "cool, bonus, but let's talk more about Rashan Gary." I thought that myself, and then I don't think we talked about Asiasi much in the aftermath. In general it feels like the Michigan fan base is overlooking this dude, his fit with the Harbauffense, and the evil things Michigan will be able to do with him.

Projection: A lot of reports out there that he won't redshirt. That makes sense given the player; it might not make quite as much sense given the depth chart. Oh well: he's playing. He should get a reasonable number of inline TE snaps behind Wheatley and I bet one dollar both of them are in short yardage and goal line packages.

Going forward it's hard to project he'll be a starter for a while with Wheatley and Bunting around, but what's a starter, really, when we're talking about a Harbauffense? TE will be like this year's defensive line: a ton of rotation, fresh legs, and talent coming out the winged helmet's earholes. Asiasi will be a major part of that from year two on.