Previously: Last year's profiles. S Sammy Faustin, S German Green, CB Gemon Green, CB Vincent Gray, CB Myles "Spider" Sims, LB Cameron McGrone, DE Taylor Upshaw, DE Julius Welschof, DE Aidan Hutchinson, OL Jalen Mayfield, OL Ryan Hayes, TE Luke Schoonmaker.
|Missouri City, TX — 6'4", 244|
|24/7||4*, #227 overall
#7 TE, #26 TX
|Rivals||4*, 5.8 rating
#17 TE, #29 TX
|ESPN||4*, #46 overall
#2 TE-Y, #4 TX
|Composite||4*, #168 overall
#6 TE, #16 TX
|Other Suitors||Clemson, UCLA, OU, Texas, A&M, LSU|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace.|
Mustapha Muhammad had one of the more understandable recruiting slides of the last few cycles. As you can tell by his set-in-amber ESPN ranking, Muhammad started the cycle in the running for top tight end in the class. By the end of it he'd slid significantly at the two sites that update themselves, and unlike a few other guys (cough cough Khaleke Hudson) the main criticism is a sensible and important one: he didn't really do much. His senior year saw a drop in receptions from 29 to 20, and while the vagaries of high school quarterbacking can play havoc with receiving stats you'd hope an elite receiving TE prospect could crack 300 yards.
Then he went to the UA game. Content about him from both Rivals and 24/7 is limited to "I vaguely remember he was in practice." Rivals:
Of all the tight ends in attendance at the Under Armour game, Muhammad was seen least often on the receiving ends of passes.
Allen Trieu: “He had a fairly non-descript week I would say. He wasn't targeted much, or at all in the game. The tight ends did one-on-ones for one day and he had a drop and only one other rep in that, so not a week where he was able to stand out.”
A guy with Muhammad's scanty senior stats and lofty ranking probably should have slid if he didn't make a case for himself at an All-Star game; he did not and did slide, going from 155th to 227 on 24/7 in their final update... and that was after some earlier drops. Muhammad did rebound a bit in the Polynesian Bowl despite absurd circumstances:
...the most consistent weapon for the Makai offense on Thursday. On a day where the Makai defense had nine takeaways, the Michigan signee was a bright spot, consistently getting open and making tough catches to give the offense a little bit of a spark.
That was practice: IE, his offense had nine turnovers. Woo!
[After THE JUMP: why he was touted in the first place.]
The good news for Michigan is he didn't slide right off the table of touted guys. Both sites that dropped him kept him as a reasonably middle-of-the-pack four star. That's because Muhammad burst onto the scene as a guy with the kind of size and athleticism that may presage an NFL future. ESPN's underclass eval is a good picture of the earlier Muhammad takes:
...great frame, long arms and legit speed. Possesses the focus, ball skills, body control and the want to consistently make difficult catches in traffic. ... Willing blocker ... bit of a 'tweener ... complete package as a tight end prospect. With further physical development and refined technique, he has the potential to be a mismatch at the next level.
...one of the most well-rounded prospects at [TE] and also has the it factor off the field. He has a great frame and long wing-span made for hauling in passes in tight quarters or in the red-zone
...well-rounded skill set. He is a top-level pass catcher at the position. He is long and lean. He has long arms and big hands to help him make the tough catches. He also has soft hands. He runs good routes and is able to get open. ... underappreciated as a blocker by many. He is an excellent zone blocker, who understands leverage and how to use his hands on defenders.
...as a pass-catching threat at tight end, he's elite. His combination of height, athleticism and wingspan make it a simple task for quarterbacks to simply lay the ball out in his general area and he'll just overmatch defenders physically for the ball. He is the textbook example of a tight end that is too fast for linebackers and too big for defensive backs.
...can make just about any catch. He’s an obvious threat to win any jump-ball, but he also showed great concentration to adjust and make catches through defenders’ attempts on the ball. Muhammad doesn’t give opponents many options; he can seal off defenders and high-point balls if they stay behind him, or he can out-stride and out-reach them if they look to get between him and the ball.
All that is still there but as Muhammad's recruiting cycle went along and it was clear all that potential was staying potential and not becoming production, the drop happened.
So what was the deal with that? I don't know. The opposition coach Rivals usually flags down was clearly asked what's up and responded that Muhammad's coach was smart and that "most coaches who have a player like him give him the ball on every play, all game long" and then they're dinged up for the playoffs, so that's one theory from inside the circle of mutual coach protection.
Even though Muhammad didn't do much when the ball was in the air last year he did make more progress in an area that was (probably) a strength already: blocking. Again, probably. There are some conflicting takes. Rivals's Nick Krueger told the Wolverine that he's "the best pass catching option on his team ... so they just don't ask him to do a lot of blocking" but both his trainer and the opposition coach had the opposite opinion. His trainer:
"...can really seal that edge against defensive ends because he’s just about the same size as they are. He’s a really willing blocker ... The first five or six games of his sophomore highlights are him sealing the edge against defensive ends and getting pancakes. Then as the season progressed things started to open up for him in the passing game.
"I also think he has a great ability to be coached. He’s a special kid and he really does love to block. Those two things set him apart from everyone else."
The opposing coach:
"Obviously his physical presence is very imposing," Snelson said. "When you put his tape on you can see that he’s very athletic with a very vast skill set. Not only is he a very good player with the ball in his hands, he’s a good player when the ball isn’t in his hands. He runs his routes hard even when he’s not the primary receiver. He does a very good job blocking in the running game. He’s just a very well rounded player"
And those takes are usually repeated by recruiting folks. You see a couple of those above when Muhammad is described as "well-rounded"—which usually gets deployed to indicate a tight end prospect isn't a Devin Funchess jumbo WR. When the Texas 24/7 guys named an "All Spring team" they highlighted that ("can do it all ... can put his hand in the dirt and block"), as did Greg Powers ("very versatile ... can be in-line or flex out") in a video that mostly spliced in highlights of Muhammad caving in his side of the line. To my eye he's a legit tight end and not a jumbo WR making a conversion. FWIW Krueger seems to have come around late, saying he "really developed a chip-on-the-shoulder personality" as a senior. Fortunate MSU didn't flip him, but maybe he's not into... that.
Etc.: Family background if you're interested.
Why Kevin Koger? Koger was a mid to low four star with the same general shape as Muhammad. He wasn't a 6'6" guy with trouble blocking; he was fairly big and fairly fast and fairly able as a blocker—well-rounded, in other words. Muhammad has more upside and could be an NFL version of Koger; he could be the Koger version of Koger.
Other comparables include Tim Massaquoi with two hands and Bennie Joppru.
Guru Reliability: High. Muhammad was a high profile guy under the spotlight for a long time; UA game.
Variance: Moderate. Blocking seems like it's getting there already and he should be at least functional as an inline blocker with more upside. Inability to catch eyes late is a bit of a concern.
Ceiling: High. Probably has less upside than someone like Gentry or Schoonmaker just because of a lack of hugeness; still a guy with NFL upside.
General Excitement Level: High. I like the ones with a buncha offers. I like the ones without a buncha offers. I like 'em both.
Projection: With four guys in front of him on the depth chart a redshirt is likely, especially since Michigan has a number of candiates for Bonus OL snaps. Will get his four games, in all likelihood.
Michigan could return their entire TE room in 2019 and that'll make things tough for Muhammad to break through unless Gentry or McKeon really really blow up and leave. As a redshirt sophomore there will be a couple of graduations and Muhammad will have a good shot at starting and will almost certainly be a triple-digit-snap contributor.