Herbert (right) with five-star teammate TJ Slaton. [Isaiah Hole/247]
When Plantation (FL) American Heritage four-star OT Kai-Leon Herbert started picking up attention from power programs back in February of 2015, he called Miami (YTM) his "dream school" and picked up an offer from them shortly thereafter. By that summer, Florida had also offered, and for the better part of the year the Gators held the pole position in his recruitment. In late March, Herbert said he was ready to commit—and that Florida still held the lead.
Then Michigan made their move. Herbert never set a spring commitment date and the Wolverines' recruitment of him went to plaid.
Yoink. [timeline via 247]
This afternoon, before participating in the Opening finals in Oregon, Herbert announced his commitment to Michigan via an impressively produced Walking Dead-style video that features some serious rival-stompin'. He becomes the 18th commit in the 2017 class and the fourth on the offensive line, joining JaRaymond Hall, Joel Honigford, and Andrew Stueber.
4*, #22 OT,
4*, #10 OT,
4*, 83, #15 OT,
3*, 86, #72 OT,
4*, #22 OT,
Herbert is a prospect with serious upside and plenty of development to go, so it's not a surprise to see some variance in his rankings. That said, I can't find a reasonable explanation for 247's outlier ranking—they've had positive scouting reports from the last couple Opening Miami regionals—but I expect Herbert will get a healthy bump when they update rankings after this week's Opening finals. Everyone else has Herbert within the top 200 overall prospects, with Rivals the most bullish.
Herbert is listed at 6'4" or 6'5" and anywhere from 255 to 284 pounds. He's definitely at the higher end of that listing; Scout said he weighed 277 as of March. Herbert is reportedly still getting taller, too—with his long arms, he's got the look of a left tackle.
Herbert first started getting major attention on the recruiting trail following his sophomore season. In February of 2015, 247's Luke Stampini named him as one of ten players to emerge at a loaded Opening regional in Miami, ranking him just behind five-star teammate TeDarrell "TJ" Slaton:
While the 6-foot-5, 265-pound Hebert is not on the same level as Slaton, he proved he was worth watching moving forward. He has an excellent frame with long limbs to pack on the weight and flashed solid mobility for such a young prospect. With another year of development we could be talking about Herbert as one of the best in the Sunshine State.
Despite being a year younger than many of the players in attendance, Herbert earned mention for just missing the top overall performers at the RCS Miami camp a month later:
Herbert has incredibly violent hands. That was the prevailing lesson about his game on Sunday, anyway. He used his initial punch to knock defenders back but also to make a mark on the camp, during which he put on a mostly impressive performance. Herbert was not the most complete lineman at the camp, but he did some things that showcased what seems to be great potential.
At that point, Herbert hit a bunch of SEC team camps, earning offers from the likes of Tennessee in addition to UF and Miami. Michigan offered in May, getting their foot in the door early.
After a strong junior season, Herbert hit the camp circuit again, showing up to this year's Opening Miami regional bigger and better than before. Scout's Chad Simmons:
Herbert has really grown and matured physically and as a football player. He has added close to 20 pounds. He is playing stronger and more violent. He has very good feet, he can bend, and he has so much upside. Look for his ranking to increase in the coming days. Florida is in the lead.
Scout mentioned Herbert first when naming their top ten offensive performers; 247 had him fourth, citing a slow start, and mentioned his "plus athleticism." The performance earned Herbert an invite to this week's Opening finals, and a few days later, Scout bumped him up to four-star territory:
When you look at Herbert, you see an offensive tackle with a great frame. He is a very natural bender, he has good feet, and he has the reach coaches covet at that position. He has come so far in the past 18 months. He has added over 20 pounds, he is playing much stronger, and he is developing into one of the most complete offensive tackles in the 2017 class.
Herbert also had another standout RCS Miami outing:
Herbert was one of the most aggressive offensive linemen when it came to taking reps and after a bit of a slow start, he enforced his will as one-on-ones went along. By the time the session was over, it was clear Herbert was the MVP. His combination of size and strength allowed him to overpower several defenders and his hand placement allowed [him] to keep leverage against shorter defensive linemen as well.
He played well enough that Rivals named him one of the top five offensive linemen from their entire 2016 camp series alongside blue-chips Alex Leatherwood, Walker Little, Isaiah Wilson, and Brett Neilon. Rivals moved him up from #222 overall to his current perch at #61 in the aftermath.
ESPN's scouting report is, as usual, full of hedging, but they make it clear they like Herbert's upside:
(Pass protection) Can set quickly and possesses good arm length and while he doesn't display a jolting punch and can improve placement he is active with hands. Displays good lateral agility to mirror rushers when he stays low, but does need to watch pad level. Can gain good positioning against power and slow, but needs to add size and do better job of sinking hips to help him better anchor. Room to improve physically and technically, but good upside in this area.
(Run blocking) Can quickly get into defenders and deliver a good initial pop. When he gets positioning can control and steer defenders, but needs to improve hand placement and pad level, as can get tall and narrow. Flashes enough lateral agility and quickness to reach defenders from the backside or seal on the front side. Can improve angles, but good range and body control top adjust and get a piece of second level targets.
They like his "excellent height and length" and think he brings "promising upside" at tackle.
Scout's free evaluation is a solid summation:
Herbert is an offensive tackle with a great frame. His length stands out immediately and he has good feet to go with that. He has the body that is developing and with that, he will add mass and more power to his game. He can really move and get into his pass sets well. From his sophomore year to the end of his junior year, he added good weight, he played with more aggression, and he has really started to separate himself as one of the best in Florida. He is a very smart player and he is always working to get better. His flexibility is good and his punch has improved a lot. He could be a true left tackle on the next level.
Body Control and Balance
Areas to Improve
Power And Strength
While Herbert isn't the most polished offensive line prospect out there, his potential is apparent; his combination of size and athleticism make him an ideal left tackle prospect once he adds the requisite weight and strength, and he's come a long way in that regard over the last year. It's notable that on a high school team featuring Slaton, a five-star lineman, it's Herbert that lines up at left tackle with Slaton playing on the right side.
Herbert holds offers from Auburn, Cal, Colorado, Duke, FAU, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisville, LSU, Marshall, Maryland, Miami (YTM), Mississippi State, NC State, UNC, Ole Miss, Tennessee, UCF, USC, USF, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
American Heritage is one of Florida's top talent producers. Recent blue-chips include five-star 2015 CB Tavarus McFadden (FSU), five-star 2014 RB Sony Michel (Georgia), and top-50 2013 RB Greg Bryant (Notre Dame). Michigan got a commitment from them in 2015 TE Nick Eubanks. Five-star 2017 OG TeDarrell Slaton is a top Michigan target. Three-star 2017 LB James Houston also holds an offer. The Wolverines already have offers out to two of their 2018 prospects, five-star CB Patrick Surtain Jr. and four-star CB Tyson Campbell, and they hosted DT Nesta Silvera for a visit in June—if Silvera, who's close friends with Herbert and Eubanks, lands an offer, Michigan should be among his top schools.
Is OL, no stats.
FAKE 40 TIME
Herbert's Hudl page lists a verified electronic 40 time of 5.44 seconds, which gets zero FAKEs. Other combine numbers: 4.90 shuttle, 27.2" vertical leap, 40.2-foot powerball throw.
Sophomore highlights and single-game reels can be found on his Hudl page.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Herbert will be one of what should be a healthy group of talented tackles who could be in line for early playing time. While Ben Bredeson is the early favorite to take over at right tackle after Erik Magnuson departs, Bredeson is better suited for the interior, so we could see a situation similar to this year with Mason Cole; somebody is likely to emerge from the 2015 or 2016 class at tackle and bump Bredeson inside. With a couple years of development, Herbert could very well be that guy; at worst, he's a great candidate to take over for Grant Newsome at left tackle in a few years.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan is now at 18 commits in a class that should reach the mid to upper 20s. With the Wolverines already up to four offensive line commits—plus a fifth who could be a guard in DT Phil Paea—we'll see how things shake out with their remaining top-tier OL targets: Slaton, OT Isaiah Wilson, and OC Cesar Ruiz. At this point, they may only be able to take two of the three, though it isn't safe to assume all three would've ended up in the class anyway.
Other areas of need include WR, TE, OLB, CB, and S. Here's the class as it currently stands: