Previously: S Carvin Johnson, S Ray Vinopal, S Marvin Robinson, CB Courtney Avery, CB Terrence Talbott, CB Cullen Christian, CB Demar Dorsey, LB Jake Ryan, LB Davion Rogers, LB Josh Furman, DE Jordan Paskorz, DE Jibreel Black, DT Terry Talbott, and DT Richard Ash.
|Avon Lake, OH - 6'3" 263|
|Scout||3*, #11 C|
|Rivals||3*, #7 C|
|ESPN||3*, 79, #13 OG|
|Other Suitors||Florida State, Iowa, Stanford, Pitt, Michigan State, Northwestern, South Carolina|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Commitment post.|
|Notes||Probably could have gotten into Michigan if he was 5'6".|
Christian Pace is the entire 2010 Michigan offensive line recruiting class. Those of you with fingers will be able to calculate the number of offensive linemen who play at the same time, note the number of people one person is (it is one), and grimace meaningfully at the lack of people just one person is. But that's another show. This one is about the one person.
Fortunately for your fingers and what they abstract, Pace seems like as close to a can't-miss sort of prospect you can get in a three-star. I usually don't advocate watching highlights but this exceptionally useful and interesting AMP piece on Pace is an exception:
If you're still allergic to video (or at work or something), Rivals's Greg Ladky says the following things:
Pace has perhaps the best tape—not highlights, tape—in the Midwest.
He's a perfect fit for Michigan's offense, which prizes agility over massive size.
He doesn't have that size, is therefore a serious longshot as far as the NFL goes, and this is an explicit factor in Rivals's rankings.
Those opinions add up to the most concrete reason to be more excited about a prospect's potential impact at Michigan than his rankings would suggest than has ever been ventured. They're also shared by many according to his high school coach.
"I’ve had coaches tell me that (Pace’s highlight tape) is the best they’ve ever seen, bar none, coaches throughout the country," he said.
And more detail yet:
“I had a number of college scouts tell me that might be the best senior lineman tape in the whole United States, it was that good,” Dlugosz said. “He’s a very, very physical player. He’s an individual that has tremendous footwork and he’s very agile. He loves the physical part of the game and he knows how to finish blocks.”
Interestingly, one of those coaches was very likely Rick Trickett, the Florida State offensive line coach/Full Metal Jacket devotee who was Rodriguez's OL coach at West Virginia before FSU flashed its thigh. The guys from Tomahawk Nation follow Florida State recruiting closely and mentioned to me after Pace committed that Rick Trickett was grumbling about letting him get away and how he could have turned that kid into a Rimington winner. Here's the version of those events from Bucknuts:
Pace didn't get four stars from anyone for a pretty good reason: dude is small. But the constant refrain from people who watched his film was that he was a nasty, agile center perfect for Michigan's zone read running game. A Florida State blogger I keep in contact with reported back that FSU offensive line coach Rick Trickett, formerly on Rodriguez's West Virginia staff, groused that he could have turned the kid into a Rimington winner if he'd grabbed him.
Add that to the pile of reasons to file Pace as Molk 2.0: an undersized, feisty center who is a crucial starter but doomed when it comes to the NFL.
Rimington winners don't play tackle, but as per usual with D-I line prospects, Pace was a tackle in high school. Due to his Molkian stature he'll move inside in college. Michigan is going to put him and his enormous brain at center, where it will be best put to use:
"He finishes blocks really well, he’s also an intelligent football player," Dlugosz said.
"Christian understands concepts, when you tell him ‘we’re running this blocking scheme,’ he will be able to visualize who everybody is supposed to block and how he fits into that scheme. So he ends up being like a coach on the field. He understands those things really well."
Continuing the theme from earlier where the coach says something and then says pretty much the same thing:
“He’s very intelligent,” Shoremen coach Dave Dlugosz said. “Some players understand: I’ve got to block this player on this play. Christian can look at the defense and he understands the concept of the play, and he’s capable of making adjustments not only for himself but for the rest of the team as well.
“He plays tackle for us, but Michigan is going to move him to center, where he’ll be responsible for making most of the blocking calls.”
Another AMP video featuring a Pace interview confirms:
Also though Pace picked up 25 offers from various mid-level programs plus Florida State before his commitment, his final three were Michigan, Northwestern and Stanford. This was not a guy admissions cocked an eyebrow at.
At center, Pace will have plenty of opportunities to pass off a guy to one of the guards next to him and wall off a linebacker with his agility. As a high schooler he displays A+ mobility. ESPN's evaluation is a technical version of the above praise:
Pace is a very proficient run blocking offensive lineman. He is undersized a little in terms of height but is extremely strong and powerful. Comes off the ball like a locomotive and derails the defensive lineman on run blocks. Really dominates the defender on base and drive blocks. Fires out low and hard with a flat back and strikes the defensive lineman across with a jarring first punch. Follows the initial blow delivery with great leg drive; churns legs like pistons. Impressive reach and zone blocker; uses excellent footwork in gaining position on the edge defender. Runs his legs and keeps the opponent locked in; really works hard to finish and sustain the block. Very solid combination blocker that drives defensive lineman into the lap of the linebacker. Pulls and traps with authority; turns upfield and seeks out defenders in the openfield. … He has the aggressiveness and nastiness coaches look for in a lineman.
Similarly, Ohio Varsity calls him a "fantastic interior line prospect":
His agility is what sets him apart from most linemen, as he has the ability to get out in space and execute blocks against smaller, faster defenders. Pace thrives as a pulling guard and his film features numerous plays where he rockets out of his stance and immediately becomes a dangerous 265-pound lead blocker. Where he really impresses, however, is that he sees the field and when pulling he has a proper feel on when to trap/kick out the blocker and when to pull around and seal the edge.
I’ve said it on reviews of other linemen and I’ll say it again: I want to see elite prospects putting defenders on their back on a regular basis. If you have a 6-foot-3, 260-plus pound offensive lineman playing at the high school level, pancake blocks should be a regular occurrence. For Pace, it is. And I love it.
Both evaluations mention some potential dodginess in pass protection, which Pace doesn't do much of, with OV smartly noting that the transition from a tackle who never pass blocks to an interior lineman is a tough one that requires the ability to pick up all manner of stunts. Pace's intelligence should help him with that, and he won't have to play until his third year at center anyway.
Other than that probably-minor issue, the only thing that hold Pace back is his size. That issue kept Pace from the rankings those evaluations—heavy breathing even for recruiting fluff—suggest he should get. (Scout unhelpfully lists as it an "area for improvement.") Pace is optimistically listed at 6'4", 270 in several newspaper articles, but the official site has something closer to the truth: 6'2", 259. Even those tend to be burnished, which means Pace could be 6'1". That could be a problem when Michigan's offense isn't busy running away from behemoth nose tackles, which is infrequent but not unheard of. Pace's ability to pull might mitigate that, though; Michigan might be able to go power off tackle, using him as a 270 pound fullback instead of an overmatched center going up against someone 30-40 pounds heavier.
If he doesn't make it, his (very) relative shrimpiness will be the reason. But many, many people think that's a problem that will be overcome.
Etc.: Interview from after his enrollment. Commitment article with plenty of quotes but nothing hard. Want to wonder what you're doing with your life? Watch this video of Pace working out at a Pitt combine. Second-team All-Ohio in his division as a junior and made Ohio Varsity's all-division first team as a senior.
"It’s going to be an interesting transition with snapping and everything, but I’ll play wherever they want me to," Pace said. "The center makes all the line calls and reads the defense and gives the O-line all the calls it needs but other than that, I’m basically coming in fresh to the position."
Why David Molk? Obvious. Extraordinarily tight comparison here. Same sort of recruiting profile if you give Pace the benefit of the doubt implied by the AMP video above, same size, same position.
Guru Reliability: Low? Don't get me wrong, the consistency of the evaluations and Pace's profile indicate strong reliability but when you've got Rivals guys stating that he's a great fit for Michigan but too small for the NFL as part of their evals… well, I don't care about that last bit. I care about the first bit.
General Excitement Level: High. People are talking up Rocko Khoury a bit these days but he'll have a hell of a time holding off Pace after two years of schooling and weights.
Projection: Likely starter as a redshirt sophomore after Molk graduates.