|Cleveland, OH - 6'3" 220|
|Scout||3*, #81 OLB|
|Rivals||3*, #30 MLB, #34 OH|
|ESPN||3*, 77, #58 OLB|
|Other Suitors||MAC schools|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Commitment post.|
|Notes||Yes, has same name of love interest in "Sixteen Candles." St. Ignatius also sent the Massey brothers to Michigan.|
I don't usually recommend people watch recruits' highlight films, as they invariably give a distorted impression of the player and are often saddled with songs by Saliva. In Jake Ryan's case an exception should be made. You see, Rudy, St. Ignatius plays a true 3-3-5 on defense and Ryan's tenure as a quarterback-thumping blitzer at OLB gives you an idea of what Michigan will be looking for from Jonas Mouton and Craig Roh this year. Also, watching Ryan obliterate unprepared guard after unprepared guard as the most productive member of the St. Ig's linebacking corps is reassuring given his slim offer list and status as the proverbial sleeper. I'll wait.
All right then: Ryan was a late pickup that Michigan leapt on once it became clear the plan A guys at linebacker were headed elsewhere. This is usually the point at which you start hearing about a senior breakout spurred by a growth spurt and followed by a flood of late mid-level offers, and in this Ryan is much like any other pickup… minus the late offers. Michigan was the first and only BCS school to offer Ryan, though no other schools got a chance since Ryan accepted the Michigan offer on the spot.
At the time, Ryan was virtually unranked by all the sites; since then his stock has climbed dramatically. He got another star on Scout, jumped eleven places in the Ohio state rankings on Rivals, and was actually evaluated by ESPN. He now sits in the range where he's just another three star linebacker, which isn't great but isn't bad for a guy Michigan swooped in on late. Brutal defenses at Iowa and Wisconsin are built on the Jake Ryans of the world.
St. Ignatius is a high school football machine that just picked up its tenth Ohio state title, and Ryan was their best defender last year. That has something to do with an injury to fellow linebacker and Ohio State commit Scott McVey, but Ryan was also the district's defensive player of the year, beating out not only McVey but OSU commit Darryl Baldwin and five-star safety Latwan Anderson. High school awards don't necessarily correspond to collegiate upside but Ryan was the most productive guy in a group of solid to hyped collegiate prospects:
Ryan used his outstanding pass-rushing technique to register a team-leading 104 tackles for the Wildcats with 62 solos, 26 tackles for loss, eight sacks, eight quarterback hurries, four deflected passes and two fumble recoveries.
He did this against a selection of Ohio's top teams, as well: at 2:40 in the highlight film above you can see him make a critical fourth-down stop against Glenville and Ohio State commit Christian Bryant.
As to what kind of player Ryan is, he is a large one suited to attacking vertically with some agility issues that may force a move to the line or removal in passing situations. Rivals on Ryan's game versus Harding:
PERFORMANCE: Had a pair of sacks and a handful of tackles near the line of scrimmage in St. Ignatius' 10-7 win over Warren Harding.
STRENGTHS: A taller linebacker prospect that will continue to get bigger and stronger. Rushes the quarterback well and does a solid job a getting off blocks and finding the ball carrier. Missed much of his junior season due to injury. Ryan would be a major recruit if not for that setback.
WEAKNESSES: Ryan plays outside linebacker right now, but I am not sure he has the speed and agility to play that position at the next level, especially in regards to playing in space and covering running backs or tight ends in the passing game. However, he is simply a good, smart football player that could grow into a monster inside linebacker or a defensive end.
A preseason evaluation from the same guy says his listed 6'3" may be "a bit short," wonders about a move to DE, and praises his size and range.
ESPN's evaluation conflicts with both itself and the evaluation above, praising Ryan's ability to cover ground while complaining about cutbacks::
Has good height and body length on the outside needed to keep blockers off his body when attacking vertically or stringing out the run to the perimeter. Uses hands well as a shedder. Covers a lot of ground and is difficult to outflank. … Flashes good overall sideline-to-sideline range on run pursuit. A good backside chaser and he plays with a motor and desired toughness. Brings it as a blitzer off the edge; is quick off the snap and closes hard. … shows some lateral stiffness changing direction and playing the cutback. Does not sift real fluidly through the wash and appears to be a much better vertical attacker than lateral. Plays high and can open his whole body up at the point of attack. Pass coverage skills will be tested if matched up versus quicker slots.
ESPN praises his frame and overall physical ability, as well. There is room for "a lot more bulk," again raising the possibility Ryan ends up at defensive end. Touch The Banner disagrees with that but only slightly:
…Ryan is best suited for middle linebacker. He seems to do a good job of diagnosing plays and taking good angles toward the ballcarrier. He has a solid frame and could easily play at 240 or 245. He's reported to run a 4.6 forty yard dash, but I question that time.
Ryan is stiff in the hips. He moves well for a high school linebacker, but he looks like a defensive end who's playing out of position at outside backer. He does not have great lateral speed, and I do question his tackling ability. Despite a couple highlight films I've seen, I haven't seen a single de-cleater. All of his tackles seem to be him falling on a player who's already going down or grabbing a runner and letting his 220-225 lbs. drag down the ball carrier. He doesn't have the aggressiveness I would like to see in a kid that size at the linebacker position, but he was suffering from a wrist injury, so that might have made him a bit tentative.
Ryan certainly has the requisite aggressiveness when impacting stationary quarterbacks—a couple of his hits early in the highlight reel are brutal—and if he can "easily" get to 240 or 245 another 15 pounds will put him in the range of a defensive end.
Finally, take this Ohio State message board guy's opinion for what it's worth:
Jake Ryan is a great kid from a good family. After McVey got injured in the week 1 game against Glenville and Scott tried to play one-armed the rest of the season, Ryan was Ignatius' best defensive player this year by a wide margin. Jake had a great year and has an excellent frame at 6'3 225#, he is a big strong kid that can run in the high 4.5s, he is a very athletic kid. Versatile athlete that played FB this year, some TE in the past and also excelled on KO and PR coverage.
To this point, I have been perplexed by his offer sheet, which is essentially every team in the MAC conference. He is far better than a MAC player, I would have expected his offer sheet would read something like Boston College, Vanderbilt, Indiana, Virginia, Northwestern, Michigan State, Iowa, Pittsburgh, Louisville, etc at this point.
That said, I think this is a stretch offer for UM. Jake is a B10 talent, just but not a Big 4 talent IMO. [Ed: since there are at least three schools on that list that have had killer linebackers the last few years, whateva.]
While he possesses good speed, he doesn't possess the lateral sideline to sideline speed that I would want to see at an elite BCS school. Watch his film, when he is making plays near the sidelines, often times it is after someone has already turned the play back inside. … Kid does have an excellent frame and should have no problem adding weight, maybe they want him to play with his hand down at DE, that would make more sense to me.
There is a fairly weak explanation for Ryan's outsized production compared to McVey: even though McVey's shoulder injury occurred in week one, teams "gameplanned for a healthy McVey" and let Ryan do whatever he want. As I said, take it for what it's worth. To me, that's rationalization. While McVey's injury makes it difficult to judge how he progressed as a senior, one guy is 6'3" or more and the other generously listed at 5'11". Most sites rank them about equal; they're approximately equivalent prospects.
Elsewhere, Ohio high school observer Duane Long said Ryan "plays with great intensity and runs well" in a preseason evaluation that foreshadowed his senior rise; Scout calls him a "very good athlete" with "excellent timing and anticipation on the blitz."
So, I'm confused. Multiple evaluations say he runs well; multiple evaluations question his lateral speed. Hell, multiple evaluations call him "very athletic" and then turn around and question his athleticism within a paragraph. The reports are generally similar to what we're hearing about Craig Roh as a 3-3-5 OLB: superior going forward, iffy when asked to change directions. A big guy who can run fast is not often able to redirect all that momentum; when he can the resulting rankings are rapturous, not generic.
Why Obi Ezeh? Ryan is a big, slightly clunky middle linebacker who will easily reach Ezeh's current 245 pounds and may outgrow the position entirely. As a recruit Ezeh was an anonymous three-star in about the same range Ryan is; he was also a sleeper-type pickup who had not been on anyone's radar before Michigan grabbed him. Ryan is praised for his vertical attacking and dogged for his ability to cut through the trash sideline-to-sideline or effectively cover zones; Ezeh's career is ably summed up by those critiques.
Ryan has some assets Ezeh doesn't: a high school career at linebacker (Ezeh was mostly a running back), a head start on the system he'll be playing in, and Greg Robinson as a position coach. Hopefully he'll have some consistency in coaching as well.
Etc.: Wolverine Tactics extols Ryan's virtues. GBMW is fairly positive but mentions he doesn't use his "flipper" very well, which is either football jargon or an indication Ryan is part dolphin. And now the St. Ignatius linebacker equivalent of that ESPN commercial, except without the making out:
One thing Michigan and Ohio State fans can agree on: this gives everyone the heebie-jeebies.
Guru Reliability: High. Late bloomer but the Michigan commit prompted re-evaluations after his productive senior season. All reports are consistent, and the rankings are in a relatively small range (assumption: the #30 MLB is about the #60 OLB). Apparently no combines, though.
General Excitement Level: Moderate. It seems clear that Ryan's got some agility limitations that put a cap on his upside even if he's got a nice frame. A defensive end move might not be possible given Michigan's depth chart, leaving him as a linebacker who is solid against the run but potentially a liability in pass coverage.
Projection: It's not a lock he redshirts if Michigan is using its linebackers in a fashion identical to St. Igs. He'll actually be the linebacker with the most experience in a true 3-3-5 this fall and he should be pushing 230 by the time the season rolls around. If there's an injury or he's a savant he could press for immediate playing time if the starters do not improve.
More likely, Michigan will redshirt him and pack on 20 pounds, whereupon he'll compete with JB Fitzgerald and Kenny Demens for one of the linebacker jobs left open following the departures of Ezeh and Mouton.