2017 Recruiting: Brad Robbins

2017 Recruiting: Brad Robbins Comment Count

Brian August 21st, 2017 at 2:07 PM

Previously: Last year's profiles. S J'Marick Woods, S Jaylen Kelly-Powell, S Brad Hawkins, CB Ambry Thomas, CB Benjamin St-Juste, LB Drew Singleton, LB Jordan Anthony, LB Josh Ross, DE Kwity Paye, DE Luiji Vilain, DE Corey Malone-Hatcher, DE Deron Irving-Bey, DT Donovan Jeter, DT Phil Paea, DT James Hudson, DT Aubrey Solomon, C Cesar Ruiz, OT JaRaymond Hall, OT Joel Honigford, OT Andrew Stueber, OT Chuck Filiaga, WR Oliver Martin, WR Nico Collins, WR Tarik Black, WR Donovan Peoples-Jones, FB Ben Mason, RB O'Maury Samuels, RB Kurt Taylor, QB Dylan McCaffrey.

Westerville, OH – 6'2", 180

4163391_0df01fa5d912413c9e7b834be40cdc14

Kornblue #1 P
Kohl's #4 P
Prokicker #3 P
ESPN 3*, NR overall
#14 P, #38 OH
Other Suitors Nevada, Illinois, Navy
YMRMFSPA Punters
Previously On MGoBlog Nothing. I mean… he's a punter who committed on Signing Day.
Notes Twitter.

Film

90-yard TD? Yessir:

[Editor's note: since the major sites abdicate on kickers and there's now a diversity of specialist rankings we're using them above. Robbins was not ranked in any way by Scout or Rivals and was in the 3000s on 24/7. ESPN does not have a scouting report for him but I'm including their ranking anyway because I don't want to reformat the table.]

Brad Robbins is a punter, and he was acquired in the best way to acquire a punter: without anyone else on scholarship, after it was clear that Michigan would have a spare slot. Michigan offered at the 11th hour and flipped him from a Nevada commit, and now they've got a high-upside punter.

the "touchback" guy must be fun at parties

Probably, anyway. Specialist rankings are notoriously useless. The recent emergence of a cottage industry of specialist, er, specialists is welcome; those are still subject to things like showing up at camps. Even with that caveat Robbins seems worth the slot. Kornblue:

…top nationally ranked punter for the class of 2017… performance included punts of 5.06/46 yards & 5.04/54 yards. …At our Ohio Fab 50 Camp (July 2016), we charted Bradley on 10 punts. Best charted punt was 4.94/47 yards. 8/10 were 4.2+ hangtime. He averaged 4.37/41 yards (0-5 mph crosswind).

Earning our highest ranking includes strength, consistency, operation time, athleticism, and character. Brad has all these traits. His operation times and consistency improved after recent private training in Florida, where we shortened his steps and adjusted to more of a two-step approach.

41 yards an attempt doesn't sound too exciting but it appears that Robbins took that private training and used it to reach the proverbial next level. He had a late, post-senior season breakout:

[Robbins] burst onto the scene from his impressive performances on the camp circuit, especially in front of kicking guru, Brandon Kornblue at his camp in Florida in late December.

From there, his recruitment quickly took off.

“I walked up to (Kornblue's) camp and he had no idea who I was and by lunch time he was asking who the heck I was,” Robbins told The Michigan Insider. “At the end of this camp, he had me ranked second on his website and two days later, the special teams coach at Nevada gave me a call and a week later offered me a scholarship. I went out for a visit and loved the way they recruited me, so I committed to them.”

I know recruiting specialists is another world but that's late and odd even for them. It does explain why he's basically unranked on the mainstream sites. The niche kicking sites did pick up on it, with Kornblue elevating him to #1 and a couple others delivering wow experience scouting reports. Kohl's kicking:

…dominant showing at the 2017 Senior Showcase. He averaged over 5.0 seconds on his charts at camp and hit several 5.2+ second punts during the drill work and competitions. … He is D1 ready right now. Robbins had an impressive camp at the 2016 Eastern Winter Showcase. He won the punt competition and the punt charting at camp. Robbins has solid technical refinement and great power. He is explosive in his hips, the ball jumps off his foot and his repeatability in his catch/hold is probably his most impressive trait that he has.

The first video above is from their camp and features a nonstop parade of booming punts with an appreciative audience.

The Kicking Coach:

No brainer Division 1 scholarship punter. Tall and fast. Excellent mechanics and consistency. Has leg strength to hit 5.3 second hang times. Brad has charted multiple consecutive punts of over 5 seconds. He will likely compete for starting job immediately. Kicks off well. Mechanics need work. But he can already reach 70+ yards with good hang times.

Brandon Justice:

"He's, uh, really good."

Kornblue:

"I think he is definitely up for the job and has the talent to do it and be not only a four-year starter but possibly one of the best ever."

There's always the question of objectivity since these specialist camps are a paid venture—special teams coaches gotta eat too—but the mainstream sites abdicating they're the best we've got. Robbins will hit a lot of boomers; whether he's merely good or great will depend on his consistency and touch.

Etc.: Hey man if you thought a recruiting profile extensively referencing "Smooth" was bad, it can always be worse:  

A visit to Illinois is in the works. If that happens, cue up "Closing Time" for the Illini.

Why Punters? He's gonna punt, I reckon. 

Guru Reliability: Zero as far as the regular sites go. Moderate for the specialist sites, because they seem to be going mostly or entirely off of camps with less sample size than you might like.

Variance: Low. Scholarship punters are consistently very good for Michigan.

Ceiling: High. Late-cycle version of this guy was hitting some serious boomers and getting rapt praise.

General Excitement Level: Moderate. Not Australian. I can get hype about an Australian punter only.

Projection: Will fight with Will Hart for the starting job and likely acquire it this fall. Scholarship punters don't often get beat out. Recent Harbaugh comments also support Robbins; those are more fully addressed in the season preview.

Comments

2017 Recruiting: Dylan McCaffrey

2017 Recruiting: Dylan McCaffrey Comment Count

Brian August 15th, 2017 at 3:09 PM

Previously: Last year's profiles. S J'Marick Woods, S Jaylen Kelly-Powell, S Brad Hawkins, CB Ambry Thomas, CB Benjamin St-Juste, LB Drew Singleton, LB Jordan Anthony, LB Josh Ross, DE Kwity Paye, DE Luiji Vilain, DE Corey Malone-Hatcher, DE Deron Irving-Bey, DT Donovan Jeter, DT Phil Paea, DT James Hudson, DT Aubrey Solomon, C Cesar Ruiz, OT JaRaymond Hall, OT Joel Honigford, OT Andrew Stueber, OT Chuck Filiaga, WR Oliver Martin, WR Nico Collins, WR Tarik Black, WR Donovan Peoples-Jones, FB Ben Mason, RB O'Maury Samuels, RB Kurt Taylor.

Littleton, CO – 6'5", 210

Screen-Shot-2017-02-01-at-12.28.26-PM-e1485997658631

Scout 4*, #134 overall
#5 PROQB
Rivals 4*, #131 overall
#7 PROQB, #1 CO
ESPN 4*, #117 overall
#6 PROQB, #1 CO
24/7 4*, #204 overall
#6 PROQB, #3 CO
Other Suitors UCLA, LSU, Neb, Washington, Stanford
YMRMFSPA Also Andrew Luck because he's Brandon Peters 2
Previously On MGoBlog Hello post from Ace.
Notes Twitter. Related to some guys.

Film

Junior:

Brief senior reel:

Yes, that McCaffrey. This one, Dylan McCaffrey, is a quarterback with a prototypical frame and a long way to go to maximize it. In most other ways he's as far along as anyone else in his class.

He sounds like a McCaffrey, basically. He's taken full advantage of his athletic legacy and arrives in college a technically advanced player. ESPN notes that he plays in a "multiple I-formation" offense with a lot of play action and timing routes—i.e., a high school manball offense. While this may be a bit exaggerated based on his highlights, there are some snaps from under center. He's "the rare QB who can go under center and take a drop," per Scout, and he performs in that context:

prototypical size … very lanky. … very polished player. …nice feel for where to go with the ball pre-snap. … Play-pass ball handling and quickness in his set-up is as good as any in the class. …calm, shows balance and good movement skills in the pocket to work through reads and deliver the football. Very heady and does a great job with feet and eyes under duress. … Anticipation and ability to throw guys open is very impressive. …very impressive tools and footwork … adequate-to-good arm strength and when sound with his footwork can make just about every throw. Compensates with timing and pacing with his feet, drops and delivery. …still blooming and has a high ceiling … will get stronger and thus be able to make deeper throws at the next level.

McCaffrey draw praise for his polish and general McCaffrey-ness in just about every evaluation. Clint Brewster:

…really sees the entire field. McCaffrey makes decisions that put his team in position to win. He is a smart player and really dissects coverage well, with precision accuracy and decisiveness. He makes a ton of advanced level throws and reads on film and can really pick you apart with his arm. His mobility is just the icing on the cake.

McCaffrey's mechanics in the pocket are very polished, especially for a player with his type of upside and mobility. His pocket presence and footwork really set him apart from others in the class.

Greg Biggins:

tremendous upside. … 6-5 but can move around in the pocket and has no problem escaping pressure and either making a throw down the field or running … can throw with heat or with touch, is accurate to all three levels of the field and shows poise and a calmness in the pocket beyond his years. … extremely bright quarterback with a high football IQ. … checks off every box you could want in a next-level quarterback. He has not only the physical tools but more importantly, the makeup required to lead a big-time program.

There are some disagreements about his physical abilities right now. McCaffrey does not have a Mallett/Morris cannon. Arm strength takes range from the generally positive ("velocity is already above average; McCaffrey can zip passes into tight windows with confidence") to the middling ("good arm, not a great arm"; "won't necessarily wow anyone with elite arm strength").

McCaffrey's motion produces similar disagreements. Drevno asserts that he "loves the way he throws the ball … he's got a quick release"; ND's 24/7 site praised his "clean, compact motion" and footwork. On the other hand, when 24/7 started moving him down from his near five-star status after the Elite 11 Barton Simmons said he "has a glaring technical flaw he needs to clean up," without any explanation as to what exactly that was. Rivals mostly talked about his option game in a post where they explained a move down; the scouting report sounds like a different player entirely:

McCaffrey was impressive in operating the option read in the game we attended earlier this season, tucking the ball when he could and making plays with his feet, but he struggled a bit throwing down field. He certainly has the athleticism and awareness that makes him a terrific game manager at this stage in his development, but he should probably be lower in the rankings until he proves he can be a top-flight passer.

Their take was very much an outlier, though Brandon Brown did note his "passing motion can look slow and deliberate."

This space is usually dubious about "intangibles" since they're typically nonsense feelingsball, but we'll make an exception for quarterback recruits since there are some actual attributes that get shoved in there. QBs can get shook in a way that doesn't really happen to running backs or wide receivers or anyone else who doesn't have to stand still and hope that a 270-pound man isn't about to barrel into his back. The ability to keep calm and carry on reading defenses, especially on the road, is a real skill. I'll also admit that I believe that QB leadership can have a tangible on-field impact. So too the invisible stuff that happens before the snap. Organization is a real QB skill.

So. One thing that the above scouting reports touch on are those intangibles, which McCaffrey appears to have in spades. Scout gave him a 10 in that department:

…pure pocket passer with good athleticism and a great feel for the game …very good footwork and poise. He's a natural leader with the arm strength needed to make all the throws and is able to escape pressure and make a play with his legs.

Tyler Donohue had an extensive McCaffrey breakdown with a detailed section on the brain stuff McCaffrey has going for him:

Family lineage and elevated football intelligence make Dylan McCaffrey one of the country's most compelling quarterback prospects. … Impressive mental aptitude in terms of digesting a complicated playbook; excelled in this facet at the Elite 11 Finals. A competitive athlete who commands his offensive huddle with authority. Selected by Elite 11 counselors as finalist with the strongest leadership attributes. Mental intangibles and potential for physical growth create high-ceiling projection. …presents the playbook diligence and mental fortitude coaches covet. His personality, athleticism and smarts suggest he'll be ready to follow family footsteps toward stardom when opportunities arrive in Ann Arbor.

And his high school coach provided some details on the way McCaffrey's abilities were already paying off for his team:

“…he got us into the right play so much with kills and alerts at the line of scrimmage, that really allowed us to be in the right play against the defense we wanted to run it against."

An early ESPN article on their then-junior 300 emphasized this aspect of his game as well:

"…this kid will be offered by every program that is taking the pro-style, multiple approach that requires a great deal of the quarterback at the line of scrimmage and to run the offense -- both in the run and pass game."

Simmons summed it up well: "the way he processes what's in front of him is elite."

A couple of those scouting reports mention McCaffrey's ability to move, which is significant. Rivals actually had him listed as a dual-threat QB for most of the cycle, and in crunch time last season his team started relying on his legs more than any other in their possession. His high school coach

“Especially in the playoffs, we relied a little bit more on his legs: he ended up being our leading rusher. He was able to get us 3-5 first downs a game with his legs in addition to what he could do with his arm."

In addition to completing two-thirds of his passes for nearly ten yards a pop, McCaffrey rushed for around 600 yards with ten touchdowns and even caught three passes. Other scouting reports that touched on his athleticism call him "very athletic," "mobile but a pure pocket passer," and the like.

Harbaugh himself said he's "very athletic and he's going to be able to move." With Brandon Peters possessing approximately the same level of mobility, Michigan's going to be able to design their offense with a half-dozen or so QB carries in mind no matter who emerges in a post-Speight world.

Speaking of, if all of this sounds barely distinguishable from Peters, yep. 24/7 called him another version of Peters, one "maybe even more talented," when he committed. A different analyst followed that up when they saw him at the Elite 11:

"a lot of similarities between McCaffrey and Brandon Peters. …similar calm to his game and seems to play without panic … really high release point … unorthodox route to get there. … just a guy that has a maturity about him."

At the level of specificity this series aspires to these guys are almost the same prospect.

They ended up at the same point in the rankings, eventually, but at one point McCaffrey was ranked the top QB on the composite not because any one scouting service was particularly high on him but because all four thought he was a top-50-ish prospect. He steadily dropped over the course of the cycle. His most precipitous drop came after the Army game. He was busy attending that award ceremony where he zinged his parents on the first day, and when he arrived he was naturally behind the other guys in attendance:

…looked a little out of sync … was late on some throws but he certainly flashed that major potential as well with some nice throws while also displaying he can be an RPO threat in Ann Arbor getting loose in practice with his legs as well.

struggled a bit on the first day, never really settling into a rhythm with his receivers.

He would settle in as the week went on, but criticism continued. Some of it gives off a whiff of Wormley Derangement Syndrome wherein a recruiting guy is talking about putting together a high school all star team instead of projecting to the next level:

… showed the most poise and accuracy but lacked the arm strength to make deep and tight throws.

McCaffrey is 6'5" and probably 30 pounds from the finished product. The arm strength will come. You can't make the same assertions about fireballers without any vision.    

The resulting drop was dramatic. 247 slid him almost 150 spots, and McCaffrey went from 51st in the composite to 123rd. And that's fine. If it's me, I'm not looking at a guy named McCaffrey who's going to play QB for Jim Harbaugh and knocking him down the list based on this amount of data

only got to lead the West offense twice in a scrimmage format, he threw a bad interception in one of them … being looked at based on (literally) a handful of throws

…mostly because he's not as far along physically as some other guys in his class.

Tom-Brady-shirtless-02-15-15

Etc.: My man:

“It was Denard Robinson," he said. "I loved watching him! They were definitely tough to beat. I laid out all the options, so I really did look at all the schools that I was interested in. It just so happened that they fit me best."

There have been some doozies but this is the saddest MSU recruiting article of the cycle:

MSU DB target Cumber beats Michigan QB commit McCaffery

Cumber committed to Colorado State.

Why Also Andrew Luck? He's the same recruit as Brandon Peters so he gets the same comparison. Luck is a pocket passer with plus athleticism who was ranked in about the same range coming out of high school.

Guru Reliability: High. Heavily scouted QB, All Star and Opening appearances. More or less total agreement rankings-wise, but some scouting wobbles.

Variance: Moderate. Competition level and tendency to drop when put in those All Star appearances do give some pause, as does a certain amount of projection needed to get him to 230 and assimilate increased arm strength into his repertoire.

Ceiling: Vast. 6'5" guy with some wheels and an advanced ability to process information. McCaffrey's top end is bonkers.

General Excitement Level: Very high. I mean… McCaffrey QB coached by Harbaugh seems pretty all right.

Projection: Harbaugh QB means redshirt, especially when there are three guys in front of him. Assuming Speight maintains the job McCaffrey will be in a three-way competition for the job with Peters and Joe Milton in 2019. That competition could come a year early if Speight takes off and heads to the NFL.

Comments

2017 Recruiting: Kurt Taylor

2017 Recruiting: Kurt Taylor Comment Count

Brian August 14th, 2017 at 12:13 PM

Previously: Last year's profiles. S J'Marick Woods, S Jaylen Kelly-Powell, S Brad Hawkins, CB Ambry Thomas, CB Benjamin St-Juste, LB Drew Singleton, LB Jordan Anthony, LB Josh Ross, DE Kwity Paye, DE Luiji Vilain, DE Corey Malone-Hatcher, DE Deron Irving-Bey, DT Donovan Jeter, DT Phil Paea, DT James Hudson, DT Aubrey Solomon, C Cesar Ruiz, OT JaRaymond Hall, OT Joel Honigford, OT Andrew Stueber, OT Chuck Filiaga, WR Oliver Martin, WR Nico Collins, WR Tarik Black, WR Donovan Peoples-Jones, FB Ben Mason, RB O'Maury Samuels.

Covington, GA – 5'8", 205

kurt123

Scout 3*, NR overall
#48 RB
Rivals 2*, NR overall
NR RB
ESPN 3*, NR overall
#56 RB, #87 GA
24/7 3*, #880 overall
#51 RB, #89 GA
Other Suitors IU, UK, GT, Vandy, MSU
YMRMFSPA Vincent Smith
Previously On MGoBlog Hello post from Ace.
Notes Twitter.

Film

Junior:

Senior:

Kurt Taylor got to Michigan by sheer force of will. He jumped on an early offer and was immediately earmarked by Michigan fans as this year's unfortunate and somewhat embarrassing forced decommit, but it never happened. Taylor was so gung-ho about Michigan and so clearly working his ass off day after day that they had no choice but to keep him.

So here he is. He's not that big and not that fast. He's not going to win the Heisman. He still has a role to play.

That role is likely as a third down back. Taylor is low to the ground and "built like a bar of steel," so he should have the same kind of blocking upside as Vincent Smith and Mike Hart, both short guys who were able to stand up taller, heavier folks by getting under their pads. Even when Taylor was first emerging onto the scene as a rising junior, the first thing that stood out about him is his thickness

Taylor would certainly make the cut if you are choosing the first guy to get off the bus. Few high school prospects are put together as well as the 5-foot-9, 205 pound back.

…and the sheer amount of mass he can move:

…only going into his junior season, but he looks college ready now. Strapped with muscle, Taylor's bench press is up to 370 pounds, leg press is 580 pounds, power clean is at 310 pounds, and his forty yard dash time is down to a 4.5 seconds.

No doubt those numbers have continued to improve. Harbaugh saw a lot of similarities with his favorite guy in the universe because of Taylor's body type:

"Coach said he couldn't remember seeing a high school junior that was as physically built as I was," Taylor said. "He told me my low center of gravity and build was a lot like Frank Gore. To hear that was a blessing because Frank Gore was a great running back both in college and in the pros."

That sounds outlandish but deep into his NFL career Gore is still listed at 5'9", 212. Taylor will probably hit that this year.

There was a moment in there where Taylor's recruitment looked like it would take off. He was fairly well regarded when he committed, sitting in the 3.5* range, and a couple of complimentary reports from FSU's camp made it seem like he was on the verge of a Seminole offer. When he attended an Opening regional as an underclassman he was singled out as one to watch:

This writer would’ve absolutely loved to see the 5-foot-9, 194-pound Taylor in a padded camp, but this young man brings it as a powerful and decisive ball carrier. Both up-and-comers have SEC offers with more to come.

That moment faded. Taylor lost about 600 slots on 24/7 and got an extremely rare downgrade to two stars from Rivals—when he committed he was the #19 RB in the country(!) and on the verge of four stars. I don't think I've ever seen a Michigan commit lose a third star. Five yes, four yes. Three? No.

There's that, and there are the scouting reports. It seems unlikely that Taylor will emerge into the feature back given the scouting reports. ESPN:

…stout muscular frame with good pop to it. Runs with a low center of gravity and solid, sturdy base. …better burst than top-end speed. … Lacks an extra gear … doesn't consistently see and hit the smaller cutbacks. …  Flashes good burst … Gears down some when cutting at full speed. Shows effective lateral cutting ability and is quick enough to get through a tight seam. … We do question if he will continue to produce between the tackles at the next level given his size and at this time lacks the speed to add a playmaker element at the Power 5 level.

Woody Wommack:

"… tough runner. I'm not sure how fast he is, top-end speed wise. He doesn't have that suddenness you look for in a bigtime running back. I'd like to see more of that explosion, and I think that'll come. He's got a ton of muscle and he's really built well. … If Michigan wants a bowling ball guy though, he fits it."   

Taylor's package of size and speed isn't great. That isn't the end of the world for running backs if they have a standout skill like vision or acceleration, but those don't come up either, or if they do there are conflicting takes. The positive aspects of Taylor's scouting reports focus on his strength and desire.

Scout's profile is more positive than the above reports:

…looks like he has already been in a college weight program for a couple of years. He is physically fit, very strong, and back who can hit the hole on the interior or get to the perimeter. Better burst and quick acceleration than top-end speed. Can definitely break tackles and get yards after initial contact. Loves to compete. Plays with some attitude.

And Clint Brewster's take was the most positive out there:

compact, hard-nosed runner that can move the pile. … very low to the ground … excellent power to his lower half. … runs with great effort and intensity. He keeps his feet moving through traffic and can pinball from defender to defender … good balance …isn't a home-run back … very good blocker in pass protection

That version of Taylor could have a role as little thunder to someone else's lightning and could be a useful short-yardage back who consistently falls forward for extra yardage. Harbaugh's take suggests that the head man sees something along those lines as a possibility:

"He's very well put together and well built. He can run inside or outside and get to the edge, and he has the frame and power to be a strong pass blocker as well. … has a lot of power. He also has vision that, when put into action in combination with his other positive traits, leads him to take advantages of angles and rack up a lot of yards after contact."

There are a couple of positive notes about his pass protection above, and that is a rarity. Maybe that's just people looking for something nice to say; maybe it is a real positive. After his junior year his coach talked to Rivals about his upswing in that department:

"He's definitely better in the passing game than in the past… a lot of what we need our backs to do is pass pro and catch swing passes out of the backfield. Last year we had concerns with his pass blocking and catching the ball out of the backfield. That was the part of the game that needed to improve for Kurt and it has tenfold."

"He has at least 10 catches now on the season and he's doing well blocking."

Taylor has the potential to be a great pass protector, solid short yardage guy, and dumpoff target. That's not Adrian Peterson but if you get an A+ guy in any of those departments that's a valuable player along the lines of Khalid Hill. Taylor will give his all to be that.

Etc.: Wrote four episodes of Good Times, which apparently has a wiki. Program guy:

"Kurt is a wonderful kid. He's very respectful and shakes everybody's hand all the time. I don't let him shake my hand because he's too strong now, but he'll try," Banks said with a laugh. "He walks through the hallway, holding his football, and shakes the teachers' hands and says hi to everybody.

Why Vincent Smith? Smith was a short, tough gent who made his way through college football on sheer will. Smith was never a feature back but found a role as a third down back because of his pass protection and screen proficiency. Taylor's probably never going to be a feature back; there is always a role on the team for someone who won't take no for an answer.

Kevin Grady is another comparable. Grady was a short, thick bowling ball type of guy. He was one of the most overrated players in Michigan history, dropping from five star range to bit player by his second year.

Guru Reliability: High. Taylor did his share of camps, isn't switching positions, and played at a couple of high profile Georgia schools.

Variance: Low. A+ dude with top-end work ethic and one clear niche he is very likely to fill.

Ceiling: Low. Tops out as a solid contributor.

General Excitement Level: Not great. All players can defy their rankings an expectations, but there's not a lot about Taylor's profile to suggest he will. Even a late Michigan State offer came during their "oh God we need anybody" phase.

Projection: Obvious redshirt since Michigan goes four deep at RB before even considering the freshmen. Afterwards it's going to be a crowded backfield for a while: Evans has three more years, Walker four, Samuels four or five. Taylor should carve out his role by year two or three and then remain a useful piece for the rest of his eligibility.

Comments

2017 Recruiting: O'Maury Samuels

2017 Recruiting: O'Maury Samuels Comment Count

Brian August 11th, 2017 at 12:06 PM

Previously: Last year's profiles. S J'Marick Woods, S Jaylen Kelly-Powell, S Brad Hawkins, CB Ambry Thomas, CB Benjamin St-Juste, LB Drew Singleton, LB Jordan Anthony, LB Josh Ross, DE Kwity Paye, DE Luiji Vilain, DE Corey Malone-Hatcher, DE Deron Irving-Bey, DT Donovan Jeter, DT Phil Paea, DT James Hudson, DT Aubrey Solomon, C Cesar Ruiz, OT JaRaymond Hall, OT Joel Honigford, OT Andrew Stueber, OT Chuck Filiaga, WR Oliver Martin, WR Nico Collins, WR Tarik Black, WR Donovan Peoples-Jones, FB Ben Mason.

Los Lunas, NM – 5'10", 190

OMaury-Samuels-324x

Scout 4*, #319 overall
#20 RB
Rivals 4*, NR overall         
#21 RB, #1 NM
ESPN 4*, #240 overall
#22 RB, #1 NM
24/7 3*, #386 overall 
#22 RB, #1 NM
Other Suitors OU, Arizona, Texas Tech, TCU
YMRMFSPA Denard Robinson
Previously On MGoBlog Hello post from Ace.
Notes Twitter.

Film

Junior:

I give this three-game senior reel a Kind of Good:

O'Maury Samuels was a guy from New Mexico hoping for UT-San Antonio offer when he showed up at a couple of camps and did this:

Samuels posted the top Nike+ Football Rating score of the year during a testing day Saturday at AT&T Stadium with a mark of 142.41. … He then went out Sunday at The Opening Regional in the Dallas area and hit 138, which included 4.4 in the 40 and a 44 inch vertical.

He left with an invitation to the Final in July in Oregon.

UT-San Antonio offered. So did some others. I like to imagine the amount of mail that came in afterwards, and wonder if they put a ski lift on it.

Probably not, since Samuels committed to Michigan mere days after the world learned his name. This short-circuited some fevered pursuit and possibly further rises up the rankings; once committed and back in New Mexico, Samuels didn't have much opportunity to continue climbing without an All Star appearance. For whatever reason, he did not make one.

I bring it up because the scouting doesn't really match the rankings here. Once sites were alerted to Samuels's existence and took in his high school film they came back with reports that are really, really encouraging. ESPN starts off by mentioning his merely "adequate" size before describing a demigod:

Quick, sudden but also fast with very good top-end speed and acceleration to separate.  Excellent vision. Runs with his eyes, very instinctive with a natural feel for the cutback. Will run with patience and let blocks develop, capable of getting through tight closing seams.  … 0-60 in just a few steps …great in-line burst to get through seams of traffic.  … not a pile pusher but he is a tough scrappy runner who doesn't go down easily. Twists and churns on contact and will pop out of arm wraps and make quality yards after contact. Runs with a lower base and possesses excellent balance. … Very natural runner with a ton of speed and quickness.

Hot damn!

Most of this shows up on film to this layman's eye. There are moments where Samuels is obscured by a churning mass of bodies before erupting at top speed from the middle of the pack. He will gear down in the backfield until he finds a lane and then explode into it. He'll reverse field when in trouble and then find a nonexistent crease to jet through instead of bouncing. The bits where he outruns New Mexico safeties are whatever, par for the course. The frequency with which he pauses, surveys, and then does something electrifying is where it's at. Samuels's film kind of feels like this:

I mean… I'm just sayin'.

Other evaluations aren't far off. Clint Brewster:

huge upside … great strength and quickness. … quick-twitch explosiveness pops out at you on film. He can start and stop with subtleness and get skinny through the hole to get to the second level. … combination of speed, quickness, and explosive power that Samuels has is very exciting. … lower-body strength allows him to run through arm tackles and behind his pads. …sudden, 1-cut ability on stretch plays. …toughness to run inside the tackles and can get to the perimeter on the outside zone plays.

Scout's Greg Biggins:

size and speed combo is obvious … plays with a suddenness to him, is a decisive runner who can hit full stride in just a few steps and he's gone. … fluid athlete with no wasted motion, can make you miss in the open field and isn't stiff or robotic like you see with some players that are as muscle bound as Samuels. …vision, patience and balance and projects at the next level as a player who can run between the tackles, bounce it outside and be used in the passing game. … easy to project, no matter what state he was playing in.  

They continue in this vein, with literally no criticisms. Even his less-than-Najee-Harris stature isn't really cited as a problem because he is a squat brick of muscle—see that picture above—and being low to the ground is an asset for tailbacks:

Samuels isn't necessarily a 'big back' in the typical sense of the term. He's 5-foot-10, 188 pounds but he is extremely impressive from a physical standpoint. The dude is jacked. Even at 190 pounds, he's going to pack a punch and be able to play powerfully behind his pads. …one of the most athletic athletes at any position in this entire class. … homerun threat.

In addition, his balance and ability to stay up when hit is a frequent discussion point:

great running back frame at 5-foot-10, 190 pounds, strong and compact. He runs with great balance and has the ability to take a hit, spin off a defender and keep going or just run right through a would be tackler. He has a very strong lower body, is a decisive runner with no wasted motion and can hit full speed after just a few strides.

This 5'10" guy with a crazy SPARQ score gets described as "downhill running back," "classic power back," a "rock-solid, hard-nosed running back" and a guy with a "powerful running style." And yeah, the Versailles of thighs looks hard to tackle:

C_jlwfyUAAAOuLo

Touch The Banner praises him as "quick, speedy, strong, [and] instinctive"; Rivals's Adam Friedman says he's a "sturdy guy who can run the ball between the tackles as well as out on the perimeter." Both note his burst, because everyone does.

That about covers it as far as running back skills go. And yet.

It feels like there should be a catch. The rankings are middling. Samuels did open up his recruitment, and when he did the only school he visited was Arizona. (Oklahoma was also talked about.) There really isn't anything in the scouting, so… maybe Samuels's ability to go the distance? Nick Baumgardner was skeptical that he'd be a home run hitter:

He's not a breakaway back. He's a 4.6-ish back. … He's probably not going to be a home run hitter in college and that's not really something I'm sure he can improve. It just sort of is what it is. He's not slow, so don't get that confused. But his top gear comes out early and sort of remains.

This is a lonely opinion, but I mean… feels like there should be a catch, right?

Samuels's top end speed is tough to evaluate because of his competition and there's some confusion about what exactly he ran at camps. Some reports had him running a high 4.5 at the Opening finals—his breakout was at the regional—and others a 4.45 on a tweaked hamstring:

"I was nursing my hamstring, so I sat out track to get ready," said Samuels.  "I wished I was healthier for The Opening and I think if I was, I could have ran a 4.3 (he clocked a 4.45).  I would have ran it another time.  But I was pretty happy with my results."

His hundred-meter times were good for a state championship; his personal record of 11.02 in high school was not in Denard Robinson's class (10.56) and is a bit behind Fitzgerald Toussaint (10.86) and Christian McCaffrey (10.89) but easily beat Dalvin Cook (11.24). McCaffrey and Cook just ran 40s a hair under 4.5 at the NFL combine. Given his explosion—his vert was five inches better than anyone at this year's NFL combine!—he's probably gaining on all non-Denards over shorter distances.

So he's not Denard fast, but he's in line with a couple of the biggest home-run hitters in college football last year. That'll do.

Attitude issues? Doesn't seem like it, via Steve Lorenz:

"He's a great kid," a source told Wolverine247 on Thursday. "He's well built and his mind has been like a sponge so far as he's caught onto everything really well. He really has an awareness about him that you can't teach either which is really interesting."

I do not have a catch for you. Samuels is a super athlete, a natural runner with an excellent, squat running back frame and he's a fringe four star because he's from New Mexico. There is no way there are 20 better running backs in his class.

Etc.: Man, "Los Lunas" is really bugging me. How is it not "Las Lunas"? Argh.

Why Denard Robinson? This is a good point to assert these are playing style comparisons, not assertions player X is going to be Denard Dang Robinson.

But: same frame, same electric start-stop, same field vision and patience. Robinson showed up at the NFL combine at 5'10", 200 and ran a 4.43; his vert was 36.5. He was also Denard Robinson, acceleration machine. Samuels is never going to be as effective a runner because he is not also the quarterback, but he looks like the kind of guy who can go from zero to 60 faster than anyone else on the field. That's Denard. Hopefully he won't have the same fumbling issues caused by long-term ulnar nerve damage. Now I'm depressed. Let's fix that:

Other comparables include Fitz Toussaint, he of the stunning jump cuts and sudden failure to pass block, and Oklahoma's Samaje Perine, per Scout. The judges will also accept "Mike Hart, but fast!" if only for nostalgia's sake.

Guru Reliability: Low. Running backs cannot be evaluated in un-padded situations. New Mexico. Quick emergence and commit caused some fire-and-forget. Rapture scouting reports do not match rankings.

Variance: Moderate. Samuels is already a jacked up 190 and close to physically ready for the show, and there's no doubt what position he'll play. Severe uptick in competition level is always a question.

Ceiling: Very high. SPARQ champion who looks like a savant in highlights.

General Excitement Level: Very high. I'm almost embarrassed about how high I am on this class. Samuels looks unbelievable, and the stuff he's doing in his highlights is stuff that translates. Maybe it'll all fall apart because every run not on the highlights is a ridiculous Mike Shaw bounce, but if so all the scouting reports are lying.

Projection: I'd guess a redshirt since Michigan has four guys ready to go in front of him, but I doubt Samuels is going to stick around for five years so whatever. Still, New Mexico transition and obvious target for garbage carries (Walker) should allow Michigan the luxury.

How Samuels's  career develops depends not only on him but the rest of the crew as well, and there are too many moving parts for me to make a definitive declaration. The next two years will be platoon city with Evans, Higdon, Walker, and Samuels splitting carries. He'll get his chances, and he could be anything from Higdon 2 to Denard 2. Yes, both of those are good outcomes.

Comments

2017 Recruiting: Ben Mason

2017 Recruiting: Ben Mason Comment Count

Brian August 9th, 2017 at 11:48 AM

Previously: Last year's profiles. S J'Marick Woods, S Jaylen Kelly-Powell, S Brad Hawkins, CB Ambry Thomas, CB Benjamin St-Juste, LB Drew Singleton, LB Jordan Anthony, LB Josh Ross, DE Kwity Paye, DE Luiji Vilain, DE Corey Malone-Hatcher, DE Deron Irving-Bey, DT Donovan Jeter, DT Phil Paea, DT James Hudson, DT Aubrey Solomon, C Cesar Ruiz, OT JaRaymond Hall, OT Joel Honigford, OT Andrew Stueber, OT Chuck Filiaga, WR Oliver Martin, WR Nico Collins, WR Tarik Black, WR Donovan Peoples-Jones.

Newtown, CT – 6'3", 250

920x920 (1)

Scout 3*, NR overall
#57 ILB
Rivals 3*, NR overall
#35 ILB,v #6 CT
ESPN 4*, NR overall
#30 OLB, #3 CT
24/7 3*, #933 overall
#36 ILB, #6 CT
Other Suitors Wisconsin, BC, UConn, Duke, Cal, Harvard, Navy
YMRMFSPA Joe Kerridge
Previously On MGoBlog Hello post from Ace.
Notes Twitter. Man, it's a hot… nah j/k.

Film

Junior:

Senior:

 

Ben Mason is a big thumping guy who would have been middle linebacker classic 30 years ago. Under Don Brown his tenure there lasted one spring practice before he became the MLB's ancient enemy: a fullback. Jim Harbaugh is, to say the least, enthused:

"I’ve never seen anybody go forward and hit somebody better. I think this guy was just made to be a fullback.”

“That would be a great way to be described, right? That's grit, right there. Going forward and hitting somebody better than anybody I've ever seen – I'd like to be described that way. That's somebody's gravestone!”

That was an appearance during Pardon My Take's "Grit Week," and he'd repeat that nearly verbatim a few days later on WTKA:

“Ben Mason goes forward and hits people better than anybody I’ve ever seen and what a great thing to say about somebody that they go forward and hit people, and that’s the fullback position. Your identity is a lot on offense with the fullback. If there’s one guy that you say what’s our identity as an offense, the fullback’s carrying a lot of water there.

“Who would you rather have than Ben Mason? It looks like he was born to play the position. A lot of the running backs are clamoring for it, too. Chris Evans, ‘Can Ben Mason be a fullback? We want Ben Mason as a fullback.’ Other guys see it, too. He’s got a real enthusiasm for the game. He loves football. I’m excited to see where that goes. “

Michigan's need was obvious and… well, sometimes there's a man. I won't say a hero, cause what's a hero? But sometimes there's a man… and I'm talking about Ben Mason here… sometimes there's a man, well… he's the man for his time and place. He fits right in there. And that's Ben Mason. At fullback.

Unfortunately, recruiting sites all but refuse to scout folks at fullback so the great bulk of information on Mason is about his play at linebacker, with the occasional evaluation throwing in an aside about how he's a "very good blocker." You will be unsurprised to learn he is a Hard Nosed Old School Throwback:

Mason is an extremely hard-nosed, old school throwback type of linebacker.

And an Old School Big Ten Linebacker:

Mason is an old-school, Big Ten middle linebacker.

Those are backhanded compliments these days; reports are accompanied by worries about change of direction, flexibility, and coverage:

…had his ups and downs. … clearly more comfortable playing downhill at this point. Mason did struggle in pass coverage … needs to continue to improve his flexibility and possibly drop some weight to play linebacker at the next level. …probably not done growing.

That last bit is a key one. He was already 247 pounds around the time of his commitment. What is he going to be in two years? Probably not a linebacker. Definitely not a linebacker you want chasing slot receivers or, like, Akrum Wadley. Wisconsin did offer him on defense, but they run a 3-4 and probably envisioned Mason as a standup quasi-DE. Either that or they were planning a bait-and-switch because of Mason's potential on O. (Wisconsin knows their way around a fullback.)

He has quite a bit of that potential. At fullback Mason's drawbacks are minimized and his strengths come to the forefront. Like his, er, strength. Don Brown:

"Ben, yeah, shoot -- strongest guy on the team. A tough guy, but -- if you ask me, I wouldn't want to face him in the B gap, coming at me at 60 miles an hour at 247 lbs. So, is that good for our team? I think it's very good for our team."

And his ability to diagnose holes and come downhill. The stuff he's really good at as a linebacker translates precisely to his job as a fullback, both when it comes to meeting someone in the hole

“He’s an absolute thumper in the middle of the field," Friedman said. "He brings a physical presence, especially against the running game. He comes downhill, sheds blockers, and makes plays in the backfield."

"The one thing that separates me from all the other linebackers is the way I come downhill and fill the hole," Mason said. "When a running back tries to run through the hole, you don't want to meet me."

When Mason hits a ball-carrier, there will be no yards after contact. He brings plenty of force to his tackles. …a true, old-school run-stuffer, who is decisive and doesn’t lose ground with false steps."

…and identifying where that hole is going to be:

…game is predicated on technique and instincts. His ability to diagnose run plays and get through the offensive line to meet the running back in the backfield is outstanding. He doesn’t take false steps and goes 110% once he makes up his mind where a play is going to go. His pre-snap reads and alignment put him in the right spots and he takes the proper angles to the ball. His size and physicality really stand out at the high school level.

…able to dominate because of his strength and explosive power. …could also play the fullback position at the next level with his ability to take on blockers and win in tight spaces. … a very good pass-catcher out of the backfield.

ESPN:

Savvy and disciplined … Fast downhill filler on full flow backfield action. Quick enough off the spot to beat blockers to the point of attack and makes stops with inside out angles. Can lineup at a variety of spots and is a very instinctive football player. A strong stack and shedder who can take on bigger linemen and hold his point. Shows great scraping ability in staying square to the line of scrimmage and keeping leverage to the ball carrier. A knock back thumper who limits yards after contact. … big, physical, football fast and has great game IQ.

That's a LB evaluation that sounds like an amazing fullback evaluation. "Savvy and disciplined" might be the best bit there. Even gap-blocked plays will frequently get disrupted by defenses slanting, forcing the fullback to make an instant, instinctual decision to move to another gap. Back when Harbaugh got hired I went back to poke around the Stanford offense and was extremely impressed by their fullback's ability to roll with the punches and insert himself into a useful spot no matter what chaos was going on in front of his face.

Not coincidentally, Owen Marecic was also a thumping middle linebacker.

FWIW, Mason did play fullback in high school, and productively. He had 67 touches as a junior—43 carries, 24 catches—for 647 yards and 15 touchdowns. As a senior he ran for 719 yards and added another 15 catches. His senior tape above is split about evenly between offense and defense, with the offensive tape featuring a couple of Khalid Hill destroy-and-destroy-again edge blocks and a lot of rampaging amongst the villagers. Dude was the Owen Schmitt of Connecticut high school football. His coach:

“Ben is an unusual kid because he has a lot of skills. We’ve used him everywhere on both sides of the ball. He’s very versatile, he has great hands, he blocks well, he tackles everything, he’s smart — he really understands offense and defense.”

How much of that translates to college is an open question—some of his opponents were tiny—but there's a decent chance Mason adds some value as a runner, a la Sione Houma. The traps that fell out of the offense last year because neither Poggi or Hill was a good target for them should return in force.

Even if he's not a plus runner on the college level, if Harbaugh says you're the thumper to end all thumpers that's something to hold onto.

Etc.: Spurred a great Don Brown-ism:

"Ben Mason at the MIKE position -- I mean, if you look in his eyeballs there’d be water in there because he’s swimming."

Why Joe Kerridge? I'd actually written this bit up before a reporter covering the Green Bay Packers exclaimed that Kerridge had "no regard for human life," and now feel vindicated about that. Kerridge was physically ready to go early in his career, starting as a redshirt freshman, and functioned as an all-purpose thumper for the duration of his career. Kevin Dudley and Houma are other options.

If Mason had stuck at linebacker comparables would be Johnny Thompson and Desmond Morgan. Obviously the latter is much more optimistic.

Guru Reliability: Low-plus. Connecticut, nobody ranked him at his college position, nobody cares about fullbacks. Consistent takes, at least.

Variance: Low. Lot of experience at his future position, already big enough for it, high-end football IQ.

Ceiling: High at fullback, low on D. Mason looks like a potential triple threat FB—block, run, catch—and is a plus athlete relative to the walk-ons and the like who often man fullback slots. Likely to be a man without a country on the other side of the ball.

General Excitement Level: Moderate-plus. I mean… fullback. Michigan probably has a bunch of walk-ons who are candidates to hammer people in the face and would do so adequately. Mason does represent an upgrade on those guys physically. I will say this: usually I'm irritated about taking scholarship fullbacks but Mason is an exception.

Projection: Will be the third FB this year—watch out, Rutgers—as Michigan preps him for a three-year starting gig after Poggi and Hill graduate. Only real question about his career is whether any of the walk-ons will be rough and tough enough to be worthy of splitting snaps with him.

Comments

2017 Recruiting: Donovan Peoples-Jones

2017 Recruiting: Donovan Peoples-Jones Comment Count

Brian August 7th, 2017 at 12:03 PM

Previously: Last year's profiles. S J'Marick Woods, S Jaylen Kelly-Powell, S Brad Hawkins, CB Ambry Thomas, CB Benjamin St-Juste, LB Drew Singleton, LB Jordan Anthony, LB Josh Ross, DE Kwity Paye, DE Luiji Vilain, DE Corey Malone-Hatcher, DE Deron Irving-Bey, DT Donovan Jeter, DT Phil Paea, DT James Hudson, DT Aubrey Solomon, C Cesar Ruiz, OT JaRaymond Hall, OT Joel Honigford, OT Andrew Stueber, OT Chuck Filiaga, WR Oliver Martin, WR Nico Collins, WR Tarik Black.

Detroit, MI – 6'3", 195

33933361711_5c712c7c2a_z
[Bryan Fuller]

Scout 5*, #22 overall
#1 WR, #1 MI
Rivals 5*, #12 overall
#1 WR, #1 MI
ESPN 4*, #22 overall
#4 WR, #1 MI
24/7 5*, #26 overall
#2 WR, #1 MI
Other Suitors OSU, UF, FSU, MSU, ND
YMRMFSPA Braylon Edwards
Previously On MGoBlog Hello post from Ace. Featured in four different Future Blue posts.
Notes Twitter.

Film

Junior:

Single game video vs Ambry Thomas:

There are guys, and there are dudes. Donovan Peoples-Jones is a dude. He is a dude who posted the best SPARQ score in the nation… as a junior. He is a dude who casually flips over six-foot fences for a comedy vine. He is a dude who effortlessly executes 52" box jumps.

He is a dude who leaps over three persons to dunk a basketball and sends his high school into hysterics that are only now abating.

He is a dude who forces his coach to look up broad jump records

"…he jumped almost ten-something, eleven-something? And I was like, 'God, it's that far?' … Everyone else was doing like eight or seven. I was like, 'Y'all better jump farther! There's no way that he could outjump everybody!' … I Googled up what was the furthest jump, right? I said, 'Holy shit! He's got the furthest jump in the United States! He outjumped everybody in the combine! He has the record!' I was like, 'Oh my God!'

…as a freshman…

"That was his incoming freshman year."

…and also as an eighth grader:

As an eighth grader, Peoples-Jones had the best broad jump of any recruit in attendance at a junior camp at the University of Tennessee.

Also he has a 3.9 GPA and wants to be a doctor. Also sometime he catches footballs:

Donovan Peoples-Jones is a dude.

This shows up in his testing. Those SPARQ components are nuts, as you might imagine. DPJ ran a 4.42, 4.0 shuttle, and had a 42 inch vertical. Two things: he was the first non-senior to ever win, and he was the only prospect in his class to finish in the top 25. He wasn't able to defend his championship because of an injury, but he didn't get slower. When Michigan released the results from their spring combine, DPJ had the top 40 (4.41) and vertical leap on the team; Chris Evans and Benjamin St Juste narrowly pipped him in the broad jump and shuttle components.

It also shows up in the scouting reports, which don't stint on the superlatives. Camp takes:

  • Steve Wiltfong, 247: "…speedster with incredible leaping ability." Also: "…speed really showed up, just flat running by defensive backs. …no question one of the freakiest athletes in the United States."
  • Allen Trieu, Scout: "…elite athleticism and smoothness was on display in one on ones. Man, it's a hot one."
  • Josh Helmholdt, Rivals: "one of the most well-rounded wide receiver prospects to come out of the Midwest in the last decade." Also: "easily [created] separation and [caught] everything that came his way. …excels in the categories of speed, athleticism and strength, but even with all his physical traits the five-star’s best asset may be his work ethic and desire to be the best.
  • Isaiah Hole, 247: "…prototypical college size … possesses speed, route-running ability, hands and an insane vertical leaping ability that put him heads and shoulders above many of his peers."
  • Ace Anbender, this here site: "smooth runner who covers a ton of ground without looking like he's moving that fast, but his acceleration and top-end speed are elite. … impressive mid-air adjustment[s]  …  five-star athlete. Something about the midday sun." Also: "stellar athleticism and soft hands … really explosive off the line… toughness after the catch."
  • Barton Simmons, 247: "He's so effortless and such a smooth glider that it's hard to really grasp how athletic this kid is. There isn't a receiver in this class with the physical tools and complete package of Peoples-Jones."
  • Woody Wommack, Rivals: "He’s so smooth running downfield that it looks effortless and his always-consistent hands were on full display. *Santana guitar solo.*"

Fuller evaluations focus on his… everything. Mostly his explosive explosiveness:

"…regularly showed the ability to stretch the field vertically, while also catching short-to-intermediate balls to prove he's dangerous at all levels. …plays such a fluid game and has built himself up enough physically that it's difficult for cornerbacks to know what he's going to do. If you play him tight, he can break free. If you play him too soft, he will run right by you. …did what he was supposed to do against some of the nation's top prospects.

And his new size:

“Peoples-Jones has the size and strength to destroy press coverage, the speed to get deep on cornerbacks and the precision in his route-running to create space in the short and intermediate passing game. …exceptional work ethic and dedication to his craft.

Although not always the ol' route running:

Exceptional athlete with above-average size, but top notch speed, explosiveness and outstanding leaping ability. Shows the ability to make tough grabs downfield with defenders on him, and has excellent body control and ball tracking skills. Must still get stronger and continue to polish his route-running, but has all of the physical tools to be a go-to receiver in college.

ESPN:

Tall, sturdy and physical … can just pull away from most, if not all pursuit. …really impressive especially on angle breaking vertical routes -- posts, streaks, corners etc because he doesn't have to gear down  … strong hands and a wide reach. Plucks cleanly and we really like his over the shoulder focus on deep balls. Will come down with the contested ball and when in tight quarters can outmuscle the ball from defenders.… difference maker vertically due to size/speed combo. … can routinely win one-on-one and take the top off a defense. …doesn't have an expansive tree yet. Possesses impact qualities.

"Difference maker" and "impact qualities" are rare indeed in ESPN evaluations.

Their take also gets into another important facet of DPJ's game, especially since we're comparing him to Braylon Edwards: he has great hands. Our in-person scouting has notes of it, and when he showed up for the Army game he was a vacuum:

…showed his five-star ability by catching pretty much everything. The Michigan commit showed great body control to make catches on two contested deep balls in one on ones and made a diving catch behind him on a poorly thrown short route.

Rivals praised his ability to "[make] the difficult look easy" and Mike Farrell named him the player with the best hands at the event, more for his consistency than the spectacular stuff:

…did have a couple highlight reel catches during the week of practice, but he gets the nod here primarily because he was so sure-handed.

They also preferred him to last year's #1 WR prospect, Arizona State's K'Neal Harry, because he's "more polished and physical at the same stage," and named him one of ten "can't miss prospects."

The one blip of negativity comes from this site, naturally. Over the course of DPJ's Cass career Adam, Dave, and Ace scouted him four separate times, and in doing so caught something important that the other reports tend to overlook:

As far as route running goes, Peoples-Jones rarely ran anything other than a fly or a slant, making that part of his game difficult to judge.

Cass utilizes a very run-centric offense, and then they bomb it to Peoples-Jones two or three times a game. He usually catches one for a touchdown. … It’s hard to tell whether Peoples-Jones is a good route runner because he usually just runs a go route and torches a corner in the process.

Cass's passing game was not very developed. MLK head coach Tyrone Spencer:

"I think we still haven’t even seen what he can really do because Cass runs a lot of zone read concepts so he still wasn’t getting the ball a lot."

This is more about the limitations of a high school offense that isn't IMG than Peoples-Jones, but he didn't run the full gamut of routes he'll be expected to in college. That's what ESPN is referring to when they say he "doesn't have an expansive tree yet." Until he does his effectiveness will be somewhat muted.

Peoples-Jones enrolled early and Harbaugh's already started in with the Peppers/Gary kind of talk:

"He's really serious about being good, that's what's stood out the most. That's standing out even more than some of the physical attributes that he has. So far so good. But he's serious about being good. Very smart."

Also:

"Doing an incredible job. He’s come in, and he’s a very polished athlete, mature, a winner, a champion all the way. He has been outstanding.”

Drevno, too:

““He’s really locked in. He’s really focused and really wants it. He’s very mature and has a very good concentration level. He wants to be a student of the game. He wants to do it right."

There's a certain variety of five-star who comes in without having to be de-recruited, and the kind of things that get said about them in press conferences are along these lines. Also the physical things are pretty nice. Speight:

"Donovan was doing things today that were pretty freaky. Just the catch radius he had. If the ball is way out here; there was one that was going way out of bounds and he just plucked it. Some guys that were standing out of bounds just looked at each other after that one."

Practice reports from on-site observers were "very encouraging," per this very site, because it "took him just a few practices to establish himself. Unfortunately, he was dinged up and in and out of the lineup. Per Pep Hamilton he missed "quite a few practices," which limited him to "flashes of extreme talent." He was held in relative check in the spring game, for whatever that's worth.

Survey says: not much. Peoples-Jones is a stellar athlete who's already gotten his head coach to talk about him like a future captain. It's not if he becomes a star. It's when.

Etc.: Uh

His speed is underrated and seems to catch defensive backs by surprise.

No.

Like it isn't even a thing:

Why Braylon Edwards? Edwards remains the gold standard for terrifying downfield receivers at Michigan. He was a sleeper recruit, not the top WR in the country, but that was a scouting failure more than anything. By the time Edwards entered the NFL draft he was 6'3", 210, and running sub-4.5 40s. (He posted a 4.45 at the combine and a 4.36 at Michigan's likely-more-forgiving pro day.)  At Michigan he was able to cruise by many defensive backs and out-leap or out-muscle anyone who was able to keep up. Hopefully DPJ won't have Edwards's unreliable hands or tempestuous relationship with the head coach. 

Other comparables, per national guys, include Sammy Watkins and Mike Williams (Clemson edition). Tai Streets and Jehu Chesson are Michigan options.

Guru Reliability: Exacting. One of the most heavily scouted prospects in the country, eerie agreement, no positional projection.

Variance: Low-plus. A tiny worry or two in here: he wasn't asked to run a full route tree at Cass and he's had a couple of lingering minor injury issues. Other than that all systems go. 

Ceiling: Vast. Could easily be the first WR off the board whenever he ends up in the NFL draft.

General Excitement Level: Giggity. Michigan has not had a five star wide receiver since David Terrell. I'm looking forward to having another one.

Projection: Will play this year, obviously. Likely to fall into a genuine platoon situation early with Crawford, Black, and probably one other as Michigan starts the year wondering if they have a top two. Like Black, does not have a clear path to a starting job any time soon because of the other guys in this absurd WR class; will have to fight tooth and nail for snaps. He will get his share because he can line up on the outside and demand safety help from day one.

Breakout is likely at some point as he refines and expands his route tree; that's really the only thing missing, and a guy getting talked up by his coaches like DPJ already is will get there. Relevant question in year three is likely to be "will there be a year four?"

Comments

2017 Recruiting: Tarik Black

2017 Recruiting: Tarik Black Comment Count

Brian August 4th, 2017 at 1:34 PM

Previously: Last year's profiles. S J'Marick Woods, S Jaylen Kelly-Powell, S Brad Hawkins, CB Ambry Thomas, CB Benjamin St-Juste, LB Drew Singleton, LB Jordan Anthony, LB Josh Ross, DE Kwity Paye, DE Luiji Vilain, DE Corey Malone-Hatcher, DE Deron Irving-Bey, DT Donovan Jeter, DT Phil Paea, DT James Hudson, DT Aubrey Solomon, C Cesar Ruiz, OT JaRaymond Hall, OT Joel Honigford, OT Andrew Stueber, OT Chuck Filiaga, WR Oliver Martin, WR Nico Collins.

Cheshire, CT – 6'4", 210

e2060b95a0cff8c9cc6409b3b874b3b8_crop_north

Scout 4*, #90 overall
#16 WR
Rivals 4*, #76 overall
#11 WR, #1 CT
ESPN 4*, #225 overall
#33 WR, #1 CT
24/7 4*, #194 overall
#28 WR, #1 CT
Other Suitors ND, Bama, UCLA, Auburn, Stanford, Harvard, Yale
YMRMFSPA David Terrell
Previously On MGoBlog Hello post from Ace.
Notes Twitter. Man, it's a hot one.

Film

Senior:

Tarik Black has been sanded. He was mixed thoroughly before being placed in the pan. He was the subject of that one Sade song. You do not need ice to consume shots of him. You will not get splinters from Tarik Black. His coefficient of friction is remarkably low. Give Tarik Black your heart, make it real, or just forget about it.

Don't take my word for it. Take almost everyone who's ever talked about Tarik Black. ESPN:

long and smooth … quick feet and smooth stride … elusive in traffic flashing the ability to make first tackler miss while his smooth stride and tough finishing effort can eat up chunks of yardage.

Rivals:

"… very smooth runner and you can’t tell how fast he really is. His long stride and smoothness is deceptive. … long-striding, smooth runner.

Nick Baumgardner, taking in one of Michigan's Italy practices:

…no one looked as smooth as Black.

Scout is the king of smooth, though, applying that descriptor to black in no fewer than six different articles, many of them from the Army game. He is a "smooth kid who creates separation." He is a "smooth and cerebral receiver." He is a "smooth athlete with a big catch radius." He's a "smooth route runner for a bigger framed kid." He's a "big, smooth receiver who surprised us with his long strides and suddenness for a big guy." Also—finally—he is "smooth in the open field."

Now I have read the word "smooth" so much that it looks like it's pronounced like "tooth." Good god y'all. Let's take a break from this and what it all means, and talk about the other obvious Tarik Black thing: he, too, is a large man.

A lot of this is going to sound like Nico Collins, because Black and Collins are both gents out of the same loping downfield-contested-ball archetype. Collins is bigger, because Collins asymptotically approaches the theoretical limit of wide receiver size. Black is a bit quicker, a bit thicker, and… well… smoother. They're more alike than different, though, so a lot of these scouting reports could be for either guy. Tim Drevno:

"When you have a player of his size and stature, one advantage is that the quarterback is able to see that big target down the middle of the field. Tarik runs really good routes, has really good hands, and plucks the ball out of the air well, so he has great ball skills, too. He really fights to grab the ball out of the air and we just love his competitiveness."

Bits of ESPN's evaluation that do not include that word:

…wide wingspan and long legs. … could [be] a really physical presence down the road. Top end speed is adequate-to-good  …subtle and very effective when pushing off and muscling his way through coverage. …ball rarely gets to frame. Times jumps well and high points the ball better than most. …fields over the shoulder throws naturally. … Will make his fair share of big plays particularly in the red zone. … terrific measurables, he is sneaky athletic and rangy and he catches the football very well in the vertical passing game. Shows toughness. 

Scout's eval of Black:

…big target who tracks the ball well and high-points his catches. He goes over the middle and can also get down the field. He has big hands to secure the ball and tucks it quickly. He gets off the line well and is quick in and out of breaks. He knows how to use his size.

The "quick in and out of breaks" is the main differentiator here. Collins comes with some concerns about his ability to separate; Black draws a lot of praise for his skills in that department. Exactly how much depends on when the scouting report was written. ESPN's early fire and forget wasn't too enthused

…still developing as a route runner. Rounds off cuts, gears down into breaks and must become more precise.

…but over the year or so after that it appears he made a lot of progress. Sanded down his rough edges, if you will. Rivals acknowledged that Black had some work to do in that department, and then he did it:

"…very technical route runner too and gets separation in underneath and intermediate routes … rounded out into this great, overall receiver. He has the skills to excel all over the field. He’s become a much better route runner and that’s something that we harped on earlier in his career but he’s really got it now. He’s explosive off of that plant foot and gets open a lot. … can really make tough catches over the middle."

Many later evaluations marvel at his ability to get open at his size. Former ND QB Evan Sharpley:

"I would love, love, love to be able to throw to Black. Big time, physically developed specimen. … He runs quick and clear routes. …  He possesses exceptional balance while adjusting to ball flight and positions himself to high point the catch. Impressive catch radius."

He was outstanding at various camps as a rising senior. He participated in the Rivals Opening analogue, where a reporter asserted he "glides down the field and is very clean in and out of his breaks"; a second take found him the "second most-consistent" WR at the event because "his crisp routes allowed him to create gobs of separation."

By the time the Army game rolled around you couldn't throw a brick without hitting the word smooth, and here we can talk about what that means. His coach provides the clearest translation from scouting jargon to English:

It was clear to me two weeks into his freshman year how special he was going to be. Unbelievable ability to catch the ball, run routes. … I think his route-running ability is freakish, to be honest. He has an innate ability in and out of a cut and create separation, no matter what you're doing.

Also:

“Tarik is as natural a wide receiver as I have ever seen. He's just got an incredible ability to run routes and find ways to get open. He gets in and out of breaks like he's a slot guy and yet he's 6-4 and has the ability to go up and be a true X receiver.”

Black doesn't waste movement, or let his footwork put him in a bad spot, or drop balls. He puts defensive backs in panic situations—just ask Benjamin St-Juste. He outperformed his ranking at the Army game:

…has been a major standout.  Whether running by defensive backs or jumping over them, he has caught almost every ball thrown his way. He has just been too much physically for some of the best defensive backs in the country.  A few Scout analysts suggested he was the top performer regardless of position for the East team on day one.

Other Army-related articles praise his "good, reliable hands and ball skills," "long strides and suddenness," and "ability to get off the line to top gear quickly." Rivals gave him an honorable mention in the "best hands" category—DPJ won it, FWIW—and noted that he got open deep repeatedly.

Black appears to be a player who improved rapidly over his last year of high school, camp season included. By the time he committed Scout was calling him a "complete player":

His size makes him a matchup problem for cornerbacks, he is quick off the line of scrimmage, he has the speed to stretch the field, he gets into and out of his breaks well and he is a red-zone threat. When getting off of the line of scrimmage, Black knows how to set up the cornerback and stick his foot into the ground and make a cut.

While he rose in the rankings you can make the case that he didn't rise enough.

That's in part because Black's stock continued to improve through spring practice. In the spring game he tormented St-Juste on a late drive that was all fade routes; this site got some insider information saying "he's a tough cover with his size and physicality" and used its own eyes to say he's "bouncy, 6'4", and adjusts well to balls in the air."

Reports from the open practices in Rome bordered on effusive. Webb called him "impressive" and noted that the coaches had already started talking about the details that you need to get to great after you're already good:

At this point the coaches are really working him hard on route precision. Rounding off routes... standing up at the top of routes... things that he will improve upon in time. …he's too good right now to not see the field. He'll play. A lot.

And Nick Baumgardner shed his usual grumpiness to near Dick Vitale levels of enthusiasm:

I saw Black work for basically a week of practice. And every time, I kept waiting for him to come back to Earth. Kept waiting for him to drop a ball. Kept waiting for him to botch a drill. Kept waiting for him to miss a route. Kept waiting for him to be a freshman. That moment – at least in the roughly 10 hours of work I saw – never came. …

My biggest takeaway – and probably the best compliment I can pay a receiver – is that he looked absolutely reliable. …he has great hands, great technique, great feet and a great football IQ/knowledge on how to work a route and how to get open.

That is a lot of data, all of it pointing in the right direction. From the moment ESPN put up a positive but not top 100 evaluation Black has gone straight up, resulting in a couple of re-ranks that were insufficient to capture his improvement and a spring session in which he blew Michigan's most experienced returning WR to defense. Dios mio, man.

Etc.: *Santana guitar solo* 

Why David Terrell? Terrell's the best combination of size, downfield chops, and the ability to pop open underneath with quickness you would not expect him to have.

He was the #1 WR in the country back in the day before there was a composite and played like it during a three-and-out career that saw him picked 8th overall, whereupon he was a terrible bust in part because of WR diva behavior. Black is bigger and not the #1 WR in the country; he looks to be about as plug-and-play as Terrell. He displays zero diva tendencies.

Other comparables include Adrian Arrington, if Arrington was less of a stick, and Amara Darboh, if Darboh was a couple inches bigger. Greg Mathews if he doesn't quite work out.

Guru Reliability: High. Army game, camps, no projection. Some spread and early takes appear to be outdated. On the other hand, significant agreement. Especially on that word. You know. That one.

Variance: Very low. Black's already the #3 outside WR at worst. Zipped right past every veteran not named Kekoa and allowed Drake Harris to flip to CB.

Ceiling: Very high. Because he's so smooth. *second, superfluous Santana guitar solo*

General Excitement Level: Very high. Black has the profile of a guy who didn't rise enough because he's from CT and has competition-level issues, and he detonated those issues in spring. That puts him on another level from the rest of the (again, astounding) WR class.

Projection: Probably starting against Florida and not looking back. He and everyone else vying for outside WR snaps is going to be in a fight. Even if a couple guys wash out you're probably going to see a 2016-DL like rotation at some point over the next three years, what with Crawford and McDoom and Schoenle seemingly panning out from the previous class.

Comments

2017 Recruiting: Nico Collins

2017 Recruiting: Nico Collins Comment Count

Brian August 3rd, 2017 at 11:14 AM

Previously: Last year's profiles. S J'Marick Woods, S Jaylen Kelly-Powell, S Brad Hawkins, CB Ambry Thomas, CB Benjamin St-Juste, LB Drew Singleton, LB Jordan Anthony, LB Josh Ross, DE Kwity Paye, DE Luiji Vilain, DE Corey Malone-Hatcher, DE Deron Irving-Bey, DT Donovan Jeter, DT Phil Paea, DT James Hudson, DT Aubrey Solomon, C Cesar Ruiz, OT JaRaymond Hall, OT Joel Honigford, OT Andrew Stueber, OT Chuck Filiaga, WR Oliver Martin.

Pinson, AL – 6'5", 200

DeerfootCC9

Scout 4*, #178 overall
#24 WR
Rivals 4*, #120 overall
#17 WR, #6 AL
ESPN 4*, #150 overall
#21 WR, #5 AL
24/7 4*, #200 overall
#29 WR, #8 AL
Other Suitors UGA, Bama, LSU, FSU
YMRMFSPA Devin Funchess
Previously On MGoBlog Hello post from Ace.
Notes Twitter.

Film

Junior:

Senior:

Nico Collins is, in a word, huge. "Incredible size," says Rivals. "Quintessential red zone weapon," says 24/7. "Ideal size and length," says Scout. A "mammoth target," says ESPN before getting more specific about his physical attributes:

…tremendous height and is a one-on-one nightmare on fades, redzone shots and underneath slants and crossing routes. … huge wingspan and long levers. … fast enough especially considering his size.

I mean, look at this wingspan photo to end all wingspan photos:

5496618

wingspaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan

This here blog just spent a very productive afternoon trying to extrapolate a measurement for that wingspan from different photos and came up with something along the lines of Collins's height plus two or three inches. That's approximately 80", barely behind Devin Funchess's NFL-combine-best 83". And as a bonus, Allen Trieu asserts he's grown an inch between January and his arrival at fall camp.

Nico Collins casts a long shadow at noon. In this everyone is agreed.

Everyone also agrees that Collins is a mid-to-high four star somewhere between 120th and 200th nationally. Scouting reports get a little wobblier once you start drilling down—praise for his hands leavened with the occasional cautious note, that sort of thing—but in general describe an uncommonly gazelle-like huge person. SBN's Alex Kirschner:

…it’s not easy to have good body control when you’re a high-schooler and you’re 6’5. But when Collins runs routes, he looks fluid. He can run dig routes across the middle at any level of the field. He can take a screen pass and run behind blockers. And at his size, he’s obviously dangerous on fly patterns down the field and fade routes to the corner. … he’ll require safety help on a lot of his routes, opening up lanes elsewhere on the field. He’ll be a tremendously valuable player to have, whether his numbers are huge or not.

Scout's Chad Simmons from the Opening:

…not a burner at close to 6'6" … but he showed a bounce in his step … may have surprised some with how he moved … really covers a lot of ground quickly with his long strides and he sneaks up on some defensive backs in coverage. hands have gotten better and more consistent.  … has been known to fight the ball some, but last week, he really received the ball well, and caught just about anything that he could reach."

Scout also caught him at Michigan's camp:

big, did not drop a pass on the night as he showed excellent hand-eye coordination and concentration. …can change directions better than many kids his size. … great upside.

Collins has the height and arm length of a tight end but retains enough mobility to be a threat across the middle, on screens, and underneath—especially because job one of anyone in coverage on him is not getting beat vertically by a guy with the catching radius of two guys standing on top of each other.

Collins's hands and ability to make a play in traffic are also consistently praised. ESPN:

capable of outmuscling and shielding DB's from the ball and makes for a wide catch radius … not very crisp  … room to improve footwork. … big, strong hands … Focus and concentration when in a crowd is very strong and he does a great job of adjusting to the ball. … Wins more jump balls than most receivers not only because of his size, but timing as well. … significant jump ball weapon and redzone mismatch. Does not need to beat DB's over the top to win vertically due to size, body control and range to elevate.   …easy to label Collins a pure possession type, but he has more juice than that athletically. Runs well enough and his size is obviously appealing. 

Nick Baumgardner:

… gigantic, smooth and polished wide receiver prospect. … red zone weapon if ever there were one. …. can box out a defensive back in space and then go high-point the football. … doesn't need to blow the top off a defense to be effective in the downfield passing game. … He catches passes over the middle without fear, he knows how to adjust in the air, he knows how to use his body and attacks the football with his hands.

Rivals's Alabama site:

excellent hands and is better after the catch than given credit for, has displayed consistency and physicality as he's grown into his 6-foot-5 frame. Collins can challenge most defensive backs at the high point and he is a willing blocker on the edge.

Mike Farrell:

…great body control … room to fill out and he has reliable hands. He doesn’t get a ton of separation on film but he provides a nice window for the ball, adjusts to poorly thrown balls and is a red zone nightmare … willing and physical blocker.”

A report from his Opening regional performance praised his ability to "high point the ball with ease" and noted his body control and long arms; Scout's eval asserts he is a "very dependable wideout who catches the ball well in traffic"; a 7-on-7 reports asserts he's "very sure-handed." Some of that tracks backs to his hands which are, like everything else about Collins, oversized.

Unfortunately for Michigan fans' ability to crow on twitter at satellite camp skeptics, Collins's stock fell appreciably over the course of his recruitment. He dropped a fifth star at Rivals and slid out of a couple other top 100s to land where he is currently: a very good but less than elite prospect.

Given his frame it does not surprise that the main reason for the drop is a lack of jets. Rivals on their decision to bump him down:

…sometimes vanishes in games … big-time prospect for sure, but there are more sudden, explosive wide receivers in the country.

potential is sky high. … he hasn’t spent his senior season always living up to his lofty ranking. Collins goes in streaks and has a tendency to go quiet for long stretches despite his overwhelming physical advantages.

It's not always a WR's fault when he falls out of an offense (see his YMRFSPA for a tragic instance of that principle). Collins did have a drop in production as a senior but it was relatively minor. He went from 60 catches for 1100 yards to 46 for 900 over his last two years in high school. "Vanishes" is pretty harsh, especially given the vagaries of high school quarterbacks and offensive lines.

Another, likely more valid, complaint was that Collins didn't light it up at either the Opening—where he had a couple of okay games before withdrawing with an injury—or the Army game. The pile of rapturous Oliver Martin chatter from the previous post is largely absent. Only Rivals actually chose to say something negative; in addition to the above they mentioned that he "went quiet for the most part during all-star season":

…impressive build … solid hands but struggled to get separation from top-flight defensive backs. … he’ll need to become more explosive to develop into a truly elite college talent.

This is probably because Rivals was far higher on Collins than their competitors and Collins's performances were in line with others' expectations.  They're not necessarily wrong: there were a bunch of guys being talked about at the Army game and Collins was not one of them. That says something if we're trying to distinguish between a potential five star and a merely very good prospect.

Another potential issue is Collins's debatably sloppy route-running. There are plenty of brief camp evaluations that say he's great, but the more skeptical takes have more specifics and ring true. Touch The Banner:

…does not have great speed and is a long-strider as a runner. … short-area quickness is [an] issue, and that affects his route running. He is a little bit sloppy with his routes and needs to improve in that area to create separation."

Nick Baumgardner:

Collins' overall consistency with his route running could use some work. … won't be able to afford sloppy technique …false step habit.

I'm also guessing that Collins is going to have some issues adjusting to press coverage. It might take a minute for Collins to absorb the finer points of getting past it, and a year or two to build the strength to shove folks off of him.

Once he does, though… what if Funchess was a wide receiver from the drop and played with Jim Harbaugh quarterbacks? I'd like to see that. I hope we do.

Etc.: Go dad:  

"I'm a Michigan fan through and through,” the elder Collins said laughingly. “I could be in Jamaica somewhere (and) I'm still a Michigan fan. Yeah, I'm a Michigan fan through and through. The football down here is pretty tough, but you like to be true to your team. You grow up as a Michigan fan or any fan, that's who you like to ride with."

Why Devin Funchess? Obvious. Funchess is the biggest receiver in Michigan history and Collins will match or even surpass his size in time. Funchess was a low-four star thanks to a Rivals whiff, with most folks incorrectly labeling him a TE. His effort level late in his career was questionable, with good reason, but he was still a second-round pick and immediately an NFL starter. Collins will need a couple years to get up to 230 or so to match him.

As for other comparables, pick anyone in the huge leaping guy mold that is increasingly common across college football. Michigan played 6'5" Oregon State WR Jordan Villamin recently, along with BYU's all-enormous WR corps. Mike Evans of Texas A&M. Kelvin Benjamin at FSU. Etc. Etc. Anywhere there's a gent who's not covered when he's covered.

Guru Reliability: Very high. All Star game, zero positional projection, pretty tight range.

Variance: Moderate. Separation issues are a thing and conjure the specter of Jeremy Jackson on the downside. Could end up being just okay because WRs aren't usually that big for a reason.

Ceiling: Vast. WRs aren't usually that big, and if he pulls it off…

General Excitement Level: High. I'm not quite as high on Collins as the rest of the WR class, which is insane, but in most years he'd be the headliner.

Projection: Likelier than the rest of the class to redshirt because Martin comes in as the most polished WR in the last decade of Michigan freshmen and both DPJ and Black enrolled early. I'm not sure there's room to play four freshmen WRs, and it sounds like Collins has the most work to do (unless he doesn't).

Again, it's difficult to project these WRs because they are all outstanding prospects. Chances are someone gets pushed aside and someone becomes a #1 to rival Braylon. Either could be Collins, or he could settle into a redzone weapon and #2-#3 WR for the duration. I don't know. I do know that whoever does start is going to be the veteran of a danged war and is more likely than not to be nationally elite.

Comments

2017 Recruiting: Oliver Martin

2017 Recruiting: Oliver Martin Comment Count

Brian July 31st, 2017 at 4:23 PM

Previously: Last year's profiles. S J'Marick Woods, S Jaylen Kelly-Powell, S Brad Hawkins, CB Ambry Thomas, CB Benjamin St-Juste, LB Drew Singleton, LB Jordan Anthony, LB Josh Ross, DE Kwity Paye, DE Luiji Vilain, DE Corey Malone-Hatcher, DE Deron Irving-Bey, DT Donovan Jeter, DT Phil Paea, DT James Hudson, DT Aubrey Solomon, C Cesar Ruiz, OT JaRaymond Hall, OT Joel Honigford, OT Andrew Stueber, OT Chuck Filiaga.

Iowa City, IA – 6'1", 190

6_4664456

Scout 4*, #216 overall
#31 WR
Rivals 4*, #206 overall
#35 WR, #1 IA
ESPN 4*, NR overall
#60 WR, #3 IA
24/7 4*, #47 overall
#7 WR, #1 IA
Other Suitors ND, MSU, Iowa, UO, OSU, UF
YMRMFSPA Austin Carr
Previously On MGoBlog Hello post from Ace.
Notes Twitter.

Film

Junior:

Opening one on one reps at :12, 3:03, and 4:11:

 

Senior:

One of the great Michigan traditions is yoinking every four star wide receiver out of Iowa, and in that Oliver Martin follows in the footsteps of Amara Darboh and Adrian Arrington. Unlike those two, he burst out of nowhere to do so. Martin was one of those guys without a picture on his profile when he showed up at an Opening regional, won the receiver MVP, and impressed the coaches there enough to get an invite to the big show. This was the state of his recruitment at the time:

In a wide receiver group with more high profile guys, Martin earned MVP with his excellent route-running and sure hands. Toledo, CMU, WMU and EMU have offered.

Things changed a bit afterwards.

Martin started picking up midlevel Power 5 offers in the interim and then heavy hitters came in when he lit some dudes up at the Opening itself. Michigan offered during the event more or less because Dylan McCaffrey and friends insisted on it:

This isn’t a kid that the Wolverines were heavily involved with before The Opening, but they are now. Thanks to some not-so subtle suggestions from the Michigan commits at The Opening, the Maize & Blue offered Martin a scholarship Sunday night.

His Hypercool teammates weren't the only folks to have their socks knocked off by the lanky kid out of Iowa. I summon the bulleted list to explain:

  • Allen Trieu, Scout: "great route runner with sure hands … consistently made catches in traffic … attention to detail and technical route-running separated him in the eyes of coaches." Also: "some of the surest hands in the Midwest."
  • 24/7: "so smooth and effortless as a  route-runner … great hands .. extremely strong. A quarterback's best friend."
  • Sam Webb, Scout: "just gets open … works the slot with the precision of a New England Patriot…combination of size, speed, quickness, and route running from the slot was tough to stop. …picture Grant Perry, but bigger, stronger, faster, and with more shake."
  • Trey Scott, 24/7: "…simply one of the best players in the entire 7on7 Tournament. … burned guys across the middle, down the field and toward the sidelines on corner routes. … just one drop, but he’s not merely a possession receiver. He made people miss, too … By the end of the weekend, he was the talk of the camp.
  • Matt Prehm, 24/7: "smooth route runner … constantly in the right place at the right time."
  • Tom Loy, 24/7: "…one of the day's true pleasant surprises. … snagged double-digit catches on the day including multiple first downs, a 15-yard touchdown on a corner route, and he shook five-star linebacker Dylan Moses on a quick pass." Also: "…fantastic performances in 7-on-7 play. … one of the top receivers in the country … superb route runner with excellent hands."
  • Barton Simmons, 24/7: "…one of the best receivers in this entire class. He was the steadiest pass catcher of the event. … He's a freaky athlete with a crazy ceiling."

24/7 named him to their dream team and declared him "one of the elite receivers nationally," which they backed up with their steadily-escalating ranking that ended up inside the top 50.

Martin developed a reputation as a technician over the course of his recruitment. So much so that I don't think I've ever seen a wideout evaluation anything like those that follow. Scout's 1,000 foot view:

Very skilled, technical wideout. Excellent route runner with great hands and ability to make catches in traffic. Smart and understands how to get open. Very good athlete with good quickness, leaping ability and body control. Competitive, hard working kid.

ESPN:

…good height and strength … more of a speed builder, not darter. … precise and sharp. Comes off the line with purpose and has an imposing, strong stride to get people to back off him. … some shake to avoid press at the line. … bit rough around the edges on speed cuts and sharp angles. … big, strong hands and can shield defenders from the ball. … reach and strength to pull the ball away from coverage … physically gifted player …very steady and reliable both in the slot and on the outside.

Rivals Oregon reporter Scott Reed:

… very good understanding of route running, setting up defenders, breaking off his route, and coming back to the ball. … variety of release techniques … very sharp on his cuts … very adept at using his hands to grab the ball rather than let the ball come to him and … very good functional speed on film. He frequently pulls away from defenders when he gets into open field and understands angles very well.

Barton Simmons:

“He’s just really crafty in the way he’s able to maneuver his body and track the football. He makes every catch look really easy. He’s also extremely athletic and can get open in a lot of different ways, whether it’s beating you on a route or outrunning you.”

Even the only note amongst dozens that has anything resembling a criticism is largely overwhelmed by "dang":

"Martin can have some issues getting separation when his top end route technique isn’t crisp and when matched up against more athletic defenders, but his route running skills are quite good and will only get better. His ball skills are top notch and he shows good body control, which allows him to make contested catches even when covered tightly. Martin has good vision with the ball in his hands, he can go up and out-play defenders for the ball and he’s a tough kid."

24/7's breakdown of his skills have him rare 10s in "hands" and "ball skills" and a 9 for route running. Evaluations almost always says something like he "just gets open" or he's "as natural a receiver as anyone in the class" or he "always manages to get open," etc. This is usually just before or after "catches everything," "you can't even hear the ball touch his hands," and so forth and so on.

I watched that whole dang set of one on one reps from the Opening and while there are only three from Martin they leap off the tape because he's running actual routes. Most of these guys are running playground stuff guaranteed to get your QB sacked: false steps at the start, double triple quadruple moves, routes that leave the QB baffled as to where he should throw the ball. Martin's reps see him torch guys on corner and slant routes; on the third he hitches up and then drifts away from a guy in good position to make the catch anyway. There is not a wasted step. This is a guy who means business.

Serious business. His coach:

“He’s a very humble player. He’ll never advertise himself. He just goes about his business working incredibly hard. He’s the most athletic and most talented kid I’ve ever coached and most humble hard working kid. What I see is a kid that’s fundamentally as polished as any kid I’ve seen in high school and that’s a credit to him. He works outside of our practice time and training time on his own religiously. His play does the talking."

His skill set alone is impressive for a guy with the athletic ability to run away from just about anyone in his home state. Add in the fact that he was a D-I baseball prospect with Big Ten offers and a college-level swimmer and it gets downright baffling. How can the most polished receiver in the country be a three-sport athlete from Iowa? Either he does not need sleep or he does not need leisure time.

Martin isn't Donovan Peoples-Jones but neither is he (just) a gritty heady gamer. His physical testing at the Opening regional was excellent, with an overall SPARQ of 112 thanks to a 4.6 40, 4.1 shuttle, and 38 inch vert. He'd run in the 4.5 range at the Opening itself and increase his vert to 42 inches, upping his SPARQ to 133. That was 12th nationally, second amongst WRs. DPJ topped out at 149 (as a junior, which is why he's a five star).

Evaluations consistently mention his ability to run by you. In addition to the above, "fine athlete with quicks and leaping ability"; "very explosive and very fast … can run strong, vertical routes"; "outstanding athleticism." At some point during Martin's career—possibly all points—a man on television will credit his success to the fact that he's a gym rat film maven. This will be correct, and also incorrect. Martin isn't a 4.3 guy, but that's about the only criticism you can level.

Despite the basically recruitment-cycle-long surge, Martin still seems underrated. The last piece of the puzzle is on-field production, and Martin had that in spades:         

…caught 85 passes for 1,272 yards and 14 touchdowns this past season, leading the Trojans to a 10-3 record and the Class 4A state final. Martin also averaged 26.1 yards per kickoff return and 18.8 yards per punt return.

As a junior he had 72 catches for 1200 yards.

And yet only 24/7 is over the moon about him. I get why. Martin played in Iowa and had no profile before his breakout. ESPN executed a fire and forget after the Opening, and Rivals skipped that camp, only cottoning on at the Army game. He is technical, athletic, good sized, and productive. He did all this without an exclusive focus on football. I don't know what more you want from a prospect inside the top 100, and side with the 24/7 ranking and expectations:

Wherever Martin goes, he's going to be one of the most productive players in that school's history. That's how highly I think of Martin and his skillset.

In the history of these posts Martin is the highest floor WR prospect. And he's got a high ceiling.

Etc.: Got divorced from Halle Berry recently. Sister just missed the Olympic team as a swimmer. Namesake of a very large gold nugget. Got Harbaugh to jump in a pool fully clothed. Teaches you how to do a Katana. Also provided an opportunity for Harbaugh to reconnect with… the guy who hit him with a car when he was six?

Half these things are true!

Why Austin Carr? The Northwestern wide receiver broke out as a jumbo slot last year with a whopping 90 catches. He's a y-cross merchant who has the quicks and route precision to play in the slot but at 6'1", like Martin, he's still a reasonably sized downfield target with sticky hands. He signed with the—yep—Patriots, where he's impressing. NFL.com:

"Touch it, catch it" target. Able to make the combat catches in traffic. … Uses good positioning and leverage in his routes. Finds optimal space in zones when working underneath. … big slot receiver who is best left to working on the first and second levels in routes that are more fluid and less angular.

Martin is a much bigger deal than the former walk-on and brings a lot more athleticism to the table. Both guys are slots who can get after safeties and linebackers downfield, not screen merchants.

As Webb mentioned above, route artisan Grant Perry is another comparable. A third: Drew Dileo after getting bitten by a radioactive spider. He's like all these guys, but fast! A fast version of these guys: former OSU WR Anthony Gonzalez, who was a bigger slot who found a home in the first round of the NFL draft.

Guru Reliability: High-minus. Martin showed out at both the Opening and the Army game and gets universally consistent scouting reports. Big spread from top 50 player to generic four star.

Variance: Very low. If Martin stays healthy he will be a productive contributor. He has the size, speed, and route chops already.

Ceiling: Very high. Martin isn't enormous and he's not DPJ but he's an A+ technical WR with an A- physical package. 

General Excitement Level: Very high. Martin is going to be excellent, the end. 

Projection: Figuring out what will happen with the receivers this year is difficult. Black and DPJ enrolled early and were extremely impressive. Martin is the most polished guy in the country and should be instantly useful. Collins should be a redzone weapon immediately. All could play, but I'd imagine you want at least one redshirt just to space things out a little.

You could make an argument for Martin being the redshirt because there appears to be a ton ahead of him at slot, his most natural position: Grant Perry, Eddie McDoom, Nate Johnson, and Nate Schoenle are all available and (sort of) experienced. You could make an argument that he should play because Michigan needs to roll all the available dice to see which guys hit in a year when they have next to no production returning.

Martin likely plays early, and on the outside given that slot depth. Michigan does not yet have a set two deep at outside WR and there will be room for a fourth guy to contribute. My money is on Martin over the veteran challengers. Also don't sleep on him as a punt returner.

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2017 Recruiting: Chuck Filiaga

2017 Recruiting: Chuck Filiaga Comment Count

Brian July 28th, 2017 at 12:31 PM

Previously: Last year's profiles. S J'Marick Woods, S Jaylen Kelly-Powell, S Brad Hawkins, CB Ambry Thomas, CB Benjamin St-Juste, LB Drew Singleton, LB Jordan Anthony, LB Josh Ross, DE Kwity Paye, DE Luiji Vilain, DE Corey Malone-Hatcher, DE Deron Irving-Bey, DT Donovan Jeter, DT Phil Paea, DT James Hudson, DT Aubrey Solomon, C Cesar Ruiz, OT JaRaymond Hall, OT Joel Honigford, OT Andrew Stueber.

Aledo, TX – 6'6", 325

     26_5046704       

Scout 4*, #139 overall
#15 OT
Rivals 4*, #175 overall
#16 OT, #23 TX
ESPN 4*, #137 overall
#13 OT, #23 TX
24/7 4*, #99 overall
#14 OT, #14 TX
Other Suitors OU, Neb, Texas, TCU, UO, A&M, Bama, USC
YMRMFSPA Jon Runyan (by default)
Previously On MGoBlog Hello post from Ace.
Notes Twitter.

Film

Junior:

Senior:

The rest of the tackles in this class are all long, lean guys who need to get up to face mashin' weight. Chuck Filiaga is emphatically not that. Chuck Filiaga is a house on legs. An angry house:

  • Brandon Brown, Rivals: "…a mountain of a young man and has one of the strongest initial punches of any linemen in the class. He's not quite as bouncy and light on his feet as some offensive tackles in the class but if he gets his hands on a defender it's all over. … will have to improve as a pass blocker."
  • Gabe Brooks, Scout: "…great strength and close-quarters power as a drive-blocker. … high motor and finishe[s] blocks with tenacity. … can improve his body control and balance."
  • Nick Kreuger, Rivals: "…one of the more dominant offensive linemen in the state … carries next to no bad weight and is as athletic as he is large, making it a near-impossible task to simply get around him. …versatile enough to plug in at either tackle or guard."
  • Greg Powers, Scout:  "plays with a chip on his shoulder and has the size and dominant nature to enforce his will … massive right now … still has a very high upside frame . He is going to be an absolute beast in a year or two from now." Also: "punishing blocker who plays through the whistle with a noticeable mean streak. "
  • Steve Wiltfong, 24/7: "pancake machine … powerful player … good feet and a finisher’s mentality. … brings the toughness Harbaugh and his staff covet … I could also see Filiaga being a road-grader on the interior"
  • Tim Drevno, Michigan OL coach: "a tall tackle with long arms and good size, he has great measurables, great turnover speed and is very, very physical."
  • Jon Runyan Jr, Michigan OL: "Chuck – huge dude."

This is a different kind of Michigan OT. This is a throwback to the days when men wore hats in the shower and passing games were so primitive they did not have a distinct nucleus. I struggled to come up with a relevant comparable in the last 20 years and eventually gave up. This is a man who hates donkeys, and has a very specific disease where everyone in a helmet looks like a donkey.

Longer evaluations emphasize Filiaga's near-ideal physical characteristics. 24/7 called him one of the most physically impressive guys at the Army game, specifically noting his enormous 11-inch hands, the largest at the event, and how he "looks lean" at 326 pounds. Superlative-averse ESPN starts off with some words they don't often employ:

outstanding combination of height and bulk on a big frame. … physical tools to protect the edge. … good arm length and flashes ability to deliver a strong punch … possesses the lateral agility to mirror rushers, but needs to work on set and keep feet moving. … needs to improve technique to better utilize athleticism. … can smother and overwhelm defenders … needs to improve hand placement as well as pad level as can tend to lunge or get tall and narrow and fall off blocks. … Can work to second level and be effective for size, but needs to sharpen angles. … doesn't always seem to have his foot completely pressed down on the gas pedal  … very nice upside and many deficiencies are coachable things

Scout is in the same boat:

…a massive, physical offensive lineman… exceptional 6-foot-6, 335-pound frame and wears his weight well. He's a powerful run-blocker who can maul opponents in the ground game. Filiaga will take defenders to the ground if he can. He blocks through the whistle and with a mean streak. He can improve his foot quickness and technical aspects of pass pro, but his height and length give him a high ceiling as a pass-blocker.

As was 24/7's Chris Hummer:

Long kid with a thick lower body, well proportioned frame with good knee bend and flexibility. Athletic specimen … good athleticism, size, quickness and agility for a big kid. Good bounce with good feet and mobility. Shows good hand placement, can lock out defenders, steer and control. Plays with excellent leverage and leg drive … ability to punish defensive tackles when he is asked to secure a down block. Excellent athlete with good upside.  

In addition to being an absurdly huge person, Filiaga has the proverbial Mean Streak. (At least, so says everyone other than ESPN.) Lots of those evaluations above reference his ability to finish plays. Scout:

" will simply punish his opponent. While his size sticks out for obvious reason, his "motor" or "drive" is by far best feature. He will knock you out and then look for some more. On multiple plays on Saturday, Filiaga took care of his first opponent then traveled down field to hit someone else. His willingness to work and instincts to make solid contact should help him see the field early on his college career."

Sometimes I think sites put too much emphasis onto this kind of stuff for OL—I'd rather have a guy like Cole who isn't a punishing blocker than a guy like Kalis who misses a bunch of assignments—but it's better to have people praising someone for it than not.

The potential doesn't quite match the ranking and that's because Filiaga has a ways to go. He was a 275-pound defensive end early in his high school career and then he blew up even further, so his junior year was his first in which he focused on the OL. Early takes on him are  heavy on caveats related to that move: "extremely raw … length and size are both elite"; "extremely raw … athleticism and movement skills are there" and so forth and so on. Chris Hummer evaluating Filiaga's junior season pass protection:

"doesn't have a true kick slide, most of the time he just mirrors his opponent at the line of scrimmage. Does not play with great technique."

There are a number of evaluations that mention his potential at guard, which is 1) understandable because dude is enormous and 2) kind of seem like nice ways to worry about his pass protection.

While those worries were largely submerged by Filiaga's dominant high school season—thus the reports above—they re-emerged the Army game. As you might expect from the scouting reports above, he had some struggles in pass protection:

"…can look like the most dominant player on the field any given week at the high school level. As a run-blocker, if he gets his hands on a defender, that’s typically the end of the play for him. … struggled mightily against top-flight competition - particularly while pass-blocking - and in many cases had issues just staying on his feet. He’s still a great offensive line prospect, but last week showcased some weaknesses.”

Lorenz noted that Filiaga got flipped to right tackle and his footwork was rough as a result. His take on Filiaga's performance ("mostly dominant but did lose a couple … one looked bad in particular") was less harsh than the above, as well. Even so, expectations were dialed back almost across the board. Lorenz did admit that after watching him in person that Filiaga "has a bit of development ahead of him" and might not be the instant-impact prospect that Michigan fans—and coaches—are hoping for.

These concerns were still relatively minor in the grand, 335-pound scheme of things. Filiaga slid only slightly after the Army game, going from 98th to 113th on the composite. The physical package here is too rare for a little thing like not being able to block edge rushers right now to matter much.

Etc.: Tim Drevno loves reggae?

“Coach Drevno is a mellow chill dude,” Filiaga said.  “He loves reggae and he loves his Poly dudes, so that’s kind of a plus for me.”

Why Jon Runyan Sr? More or less by default. Michigan hasn't had a successful planet-sized OL in a while. Chris Bryant got hurt; Quinton Washington moved to defense. Michigan had six straight classes where they were looking for Molk/Cole types and just about all of Hoke's OL bombed out. Runyan is the archetypical Michigan right tackle steamroller and will remain so until someone else claims the crown.

So… I guess Mike Onwenu is all have for other comparables, because Mike Onwenu is also made of superdense neutrons. If Filiaga ends up moving inside he projects as the kind of pummeling road grader we hope Onwenu is. Taylor Lewan minus elite pass pro is also another option. Lewan is the only OT in the last decade who was a punishing run blocker. (Cole is also a great OT run blocker but in a different way.)

Guru Reliability: High. Tight band and almost total consensus in the scouting reports. Heavily scouted Texas kid who went to the Army game.

Variance: Moderate-minus. OL. No questions about size; questions about technique and whether he'll be able to make his frame count. Attitude right.

Ceiling: Vast. Filiaga has the highest upside in the class outside of the five star gentlemen.

General Excitement Level: High. Pass pro concerns are real but the backup plan where Filiaga becomes a 330-pound athletic guard is almost as good as Filiaga sticking at tackle and becoming Runyan 2.

Projection: Given the Army scouting it seems likely that Filiaga needs a year of refinement before anyone's willing to put him on the field on a passing down. Basically everyone in this class is going to get a shot at the starting RT job; this preview's guess is that Filiaga ends up third in the pecking order behind some combo of Runyan and Stueber and redshirts.

Broken record time: major opportunity for a redshirt freshman in this class to claim a starting job next year. If it's Filiaga it'll be at right tackle, not left, with (presumably) Stueber or Honigford on the other side. Anyone who doesn't find themselves in the starting lineup in 2018 will have a two year wait, knock on wood, before guys start graduating.

Filiaga has a second path as an OG. If Michigan feels comfortable flipping Ben Bredeson out to tackle an interior line of Filiaga, Ruiz, and Onwenu would be something to behold. From a distance.

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