2010 Recruiting: Jake Ryan Comment Count

Brian May 20th, 2010 at 1:17 PM

Previously: S Carvin Johnson, S Ray Vinopal, S Marvin Robinson, CB Courtney Avery, CB Terrence Talbott, CB Cullen Christian, and CB Demar Dorsey.

Cleveland, OH - 6'3" 220


Scout 3*, #81 OLB
Rivals 3*, #30 MLB, #34 OH
ESPN 3*, 77, #58 OLB
Others NR
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.



May 20th, 2010 at 1:31 PM ^

...(Not That Jake Ryan (NTJR)) chases down ball carriers is making us all swoon like we're Samantha Baker on her sixteenth birthday.


May 20th, 2010 at 1:44 PM ^

FWIW, when I talk about lateral speed, I'm talking about the ability to move side-to-side with his shoulders square to the line.  He has decent-to-good speed when in chase mode, but he doesn't move well from side to side.


May 20th, 2010 at 2:27 PM ^

It did come before the "switch."  However, that doesn't really chage my impression.  If anything, I think playing a 3-3-5 would make it more important that we have a sturdy MLB.  However, I don't think our defense is going to vary greatly from what we saw in 2009, so it might be a moot point.


May 20th, 2010 at 1:44 PM ^

I know how we all feel about "the vest" but he has been able to turn Hawk and Laurinatis into high NFL draft picks.  They were smart LB's that didn't have the physical talents as other LB's.  I believe Hawk was a 3 star guy coming out of high school.

If Ryan is out of the mold (which I think he is),  we could have a great future LB here.  I also agree with Brian's example of Wisconsin and  Iowa defenses, not a ton of playmakers but they play hard and tough.  The Orange Bowl against a tough Georgia Tech offense is a good example.


May 20th, 2010 at 1:57 PM ^

You have to love the level of production from this kid coming from a school like St. Ig.  I don't think he will be an immediate contributor, but I can see him challenging for some Big Ten honors by the time he graduates.  It will be very interesting to watch him develop over the next couple of years. 


May 20th, 2010 at 2:17 PM ^

Another thing to consider about the Ryan and Ezeh comparison is that while Ezeh has been a disappointment to this point in his career, it will be interesting to see how a similarly-built player in the same position can do in a continuous system for five (or four) years, opposed to dealing with 3 d-coordinators in 5 seasons.


May 20th, 2010 at 6:05 PM ^

I hope it's not a foregone conclusion that the defense will be bad.  According to Pandora from God of War III, "Hope is why we live."  I continue to hold out hope that our defensive line will make our secondary look good and that Mouton/Ezeh will step it up as fifth year seniors.


May 20th, 2010 at 8:08 PM ^

I think it's far from a forgone conclusion.  I'm confident in our DL (whoever ends up starting there), I think our 3 starting LB's will be decent to good (or they might get benched permanently this year) and although our DB's will be young, they have Woolfolk leading them and there will be a ton of talent where the experience lacks.  

Basically, I think our defense will be pretty average, but I think it has the same chance of being really good as really bad (both fairly low).


May 20th, 2010 at 11:24 PM ^

This year's team reminds me a little of the 2007 Florida squad. That team was 8-4 (prior to getting smacked by us in the Cap One bowl), had a very young secondary, and was a relatively young team overall.

I'm not saying one of our soph QBs will win the Heisman, but I would settle for a year like that. I would especially settle for a year like the following for that Florida team.


May 21st, 2010 at 3:21 PM ^

I dunno, I saw him blast a RB off his feet @ the 1:05 mark and then procced to blow up the QB @ the 1:15 mark.  I also like the fact that he's all business, no showboating - refreshing.


May 20th, 2010 at 3:21 PM ^

Just in terms of performance against quality competition. There is a tendency to discount on-field results in high school for a number of legitimate reasons, but most of those do not apply to the kind of top-level competition he played against.

There's a better-than-average chance that Ryan will prove to be an anchor at linebacker, providing stability for everyone else. Here's hoping the two seniors (Ezeh and Mouton) stay healthy and play well enough this year to allow Jake to keep his redshirt and continue to develop. 

Painter Smurf

May 21st, 2010 at 10:50 AM ^

After this season UM will only have two big ILB-types in Demens and Fitgerald.  The rest of the LB's are mainly converted, undersized safeties or tall blitzer-types (Roh).  The coaches will want more ILB competition in 2011.  Getting another player experience this year is important for that.  He has relative polish coming from a big HS program, size, and experience in 3-3-5.  If he picks things up in fall camp quickly, I bet the coaches play him.


May 21st, 2010 at 3:09 PM ^

Although he technically falls under your "converted safety" category, Isaiah Bell is certainly not undersized.  He's 6'1" and 237 according to the roster, whereas Fitz and Demens are 239 and 244, respectively (Mouton is only 228).  Bell is just as tall as Demens, but a year younger, so I would throw Bell in that category too.  

I think once Ezeh and Mouton graduate, Ryan will be in the mix.  But this fall, he'll be 3rd string at best, and there's still Mike Jones and the other freshman coming in (Kinard, Rogers, maybe Furman, depending on where they play him) to compete with.  


May 20th, 2010 at 2:53 PM ^

Good stuff, as always, with these features Brian.

Of course, I have a ton of material and thoughts on this recruit. Rather than one TL;DR, i will just leave some sporadic comments as this thread grows.

RE: Ryan vs McVey.......yes, Ryan stood out this season because of the McVey injury. But, is McVey the standout prospect he is headed into 2009 if Ryan himself wasnt injured in 2008? Probably not. Both are good playmakers who would probably--and I say probably-be ranked higher had they both played an injury free final 2 years of high school.

And, I dont know what the comment from the fan site is talking about. I talked myself to a scout in the state of Ohio, who watched every St Ignatius game and knows the NE Ohio area pretty inside and out....and, in an on-the-record conversation, he said unequivocally that other teams were gameplanning against Ryan, not McVey. So this isnt a case of Ryan making plays becuase nobody was accoutning for him.

This is a good player and he'll make his mark at Michigan, sooner, rather than later.

Not a Blue Fan

May 20th, 2010 at 8:34 PM ^

I can't say if Ryan will be any good at the college level, but your thesis RE: McVey was a big recruit because Ryan was hurt doesn't make a lot of sense to me. Ryan being hurt didn't help McVey make 5 sacks and intercept a pass in the Ohio D1A state championship game. That's what got McVey all the attention, and it had nothing to do with Ryan.

Anyway, who knows? Maybe Ryan will be awesome. Either way, it's good to build a little depth at LB.


May 21st, 2010 at 12:16 AM ^

I think you misunderstood me or I wasnt clear with what my exact point. Lets say a little of both. Because I wasnt trying to take down McVey at all. Love his game.

What I'm trying to say is there is a critique out there that Ryan emerged as a nice recruit only because he got the chance due to the McVey injury. McVey entered his senior year as a great prospect due to his stellar play. But he also didnt have Ryan possibly taking stats away, which, I mean, how can you say he wouldnt based on his play this year, because Ryan was hobbled and even out at times with an injury during that junior year.I dont think it knocks McVey down, my point was soley centered around Ryan and had he the chance to play a healthy jr year, his recruiting outlook would have been much brighter going into 2009.  I guess I dont think the injury situation should be used to drag down either of their performances, but people do seem to be using against Ryan in certain analysises.And, of course, McVey was downgraded some in the rankings after this year, iirc, falling like 20 spots in the OHio Varsity rankings.  They're basically the same recruit right now.  Had the injuries been reversed in chronological order, Ryan probably enters the 2009 year the higher recruit. Or at least right up there as I admittedly aint creeper enough to know how players are rated heading into their junior year.

Again not trying to take down McVey. I actually think both fanbases will be sick of ryan/mcvey stories by the end of the 2014 season with all those high school teammate now hated rivals that they'll hammer us with on the WWL. But, thats just me.

Wolverine In Exile

May 20th, 2010 at 2:56 PM ^

situational situation that is caused when you have depth (or building it). Ryan would play more against the slobberknockers (MSU, Wiscy, Iowa) and a speedier LB would be in against fellow spread-ites.


May 20th, 2010 at 5:05 PM ^

There is a great kid here in the Chicago area named Mike Morrissey.  Son of former MSU/Chicago Bear LB Jim Morrissey, Mike was a standout at WR and LB in high school.  I believe he had offers from most MAC schools, Duke, and BC(his only "big" offer).  Most people might have doubted that he could play at the ACC level.  Read from BC's website:

"Appeared in every game and earned the starting sam linebacker spot the last seven games of the year...finished with 37 tackles (24 solo) on the year and ranked third on the team in pass break ups (3) and tackles for a loss (7)...had two tackles and a tackle for a loss against USC in the Emerald Bowl."

Folks, these players DO go un-scouted.  It is possible for kids to get better than they were in high school.

Good luck, Jake.  Proud you are a Wolverine.



May 20th, 2010 at 6:29 PM ^

Is a guy down the line that would be really good at facing teams like Michigan State, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Ohio State. Is the type of downhill linebacker that would be perfect for smashmouth old school Big Ten football.


May 21st, 2010 at 7:04 AM ^

"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."


I watched the highlight film, the kid decleated a bunch of guys, a couple of them head on.

Section 1

May 21st, 2010 at 7:07 PM ^

How about Erick Anderson, recruited from the Chicago suburb of Glenview, instead of Ezeh?

Anderson was unheralded enough that they switched his jersey number three times by the time he was a senior at Michigan.  Then the guy went on to be an All-American, the Butkus Award winner, and the Jack Lambert Award winner.  At almost exactly the same size (at the same age) as Jake Ryan.  They even look the same when running and when in a two-point behind the line of scrimmage.

Erick Anderson, versus Ohio State, 1991; beginning at about 00:42, and again at about 07:26 ...



October 14th, 2012 at 7:02 PM ^

I read it, but I must say I was surprised the new post wasn't spam, as these new posts to old threads usually are.  I do find it more gratifying to see in retrospect that people have underestimated rather than overestimated a player's abilities.


October 16th, 2012 at 9:39 AM ^

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.

That may well have been the very last time anyone on this blog cited Greg Robinson's coaching as an asset.

a non emu

October 24th, 2012 at 3:36 PM ^

This is great. I sought out this post thinking it would be more hand-wringing over a 3-star recruit with career trajectory predicted as riding the bench and maybe break into a starting role as an upper classman. Instead this is mostly bewilderment at his sub-par offers given his awesome highlight tape and general excitement about his commitment. I love it than Brian and co. aren't blindly taking the recruiting services at their word but instead doing their own assessments and giving their honest opinions. It seems like the consensus on this thread was that he would battle for time soon, if not immediately then after a redshirt year and that has pretty much borne out!