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, and DT Terry Talbott.
|Pahokee, FL - 6'4" 300|
|Scout||4*, #25 DT|
|Rivals||3*, #52 DT|
|ESPN||3*, 77, #55 DT|
|Other Suitors||WVU, USC(?), Florida(?), Florida State, UCLA, South Carolina|
|YMRMFSPA||The Fat Elvis edition of Brandon Graham, or a less severe Jason Kates|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Commitment post.|
|Notes||Pahokee has sent Martavious Odoms, Vincent Smith, and Brandin Hawthorne to Michigan in the last couple years.|
For a brief moment, Richard Ash was white-hot. In early July of last year he added a USC offer to go with his Florida, Tennessee, and Florida State ones, establishing himself as one of the top defensive tackle recruits in the country. A couple months later, with those offers seemingly off the table he committed to West Virginia. Two weeks later, Doc Holliday was Marshall coach and Ash was on campus committing to Rich Rodriguez.
Michigan fans will be interested, then, in determining which Ash is the real one. All-conquering fire hydrant that uses centers as shot-put practice, or just another guy who could be second-team All Big East some day? There's a long way from favoring Florida in May to two of three scouting services giving you a ranking of "meh."
The internet's conventional wisdom is that Ash's appearances at various camps, most prominently Florida's, disappointed. "Work ethic issues" are commonly cited. I can't vouch for that opinion from a random South Carolina message board, but that's as good as a narrative as we're going to get until Urban Meyer opens up Jerry Jones-style about a random three/four star recruit. A couple other sources with a bit more credit do have the same story. This appears to be a Q&A session with some Rivals guy replicated on a Florida message board:
No idea where this is from but it looks like a Q&A on some Florida site or another:
I did talk to someone who recently spoke to Ash, and he said Ash’s workout at Florida’s camp might not have been to the coaches’ liking.
I watched Ash at Florida’s camp a couple weeks back and yes, he didn’t look as in shape, but it’s also the summertime and spring football has been over with for a while. He looked a little slow and tired, but displayed a frame that probably builds a lot of muscle fast. Not everyone was in the best shape and that’s to be expected in June. Things change when kids start going to more camps as the month progresses and July comes around. Speaking of July, Ash was supposed to work out at Friday Night Lights, and when I spoke to him last that was the plan. I haven’t heard anything different, but anything could happen between now and late July.
That's followed up with an assertion that Florida's DL coach was "pushing him harder" than other guys in the camp, with his "focus for the afternoon" mostly on Ash and uber-recruit Ronald Powell. After that hard look, Florida decided to move another direction.
Finally, when FlaVarsity.com analyst Michael Langston evaluated Ash for the Wolverine($) he flatly stated that Ash "started the season off way too big" because he didn't "take care of his body in the offseason." His fluctuating weight provides supporting evidence. At the time of the Trojan offer he was listed at 263 and was being recruited as a three-tech:
He runs a 4.85 40 and is known for his combination of speed and strength. The Trojans are recruiting him for the three-technique position and he has been recruited to USC by defensive line coach Jethro Franklin.
(QFJ: Quote for Jethro.) That number was not fictional. It was measured at '>the Nike camp early in his recruitment that put him hunting lists of big time schools. One of the skeptical reports from summer camps noted he wasn't in great shape because he had reached "265-270 pounds." By December he was telling folk he was 290($) and in May he reported to GBW that he was an even 300. Even without the reports that he was out of shape last summer, it's impossible that Ash put on 60 pounds of good weight in a high school program.
So there's your script: very promising prospect from Pahokee who fell off the radar because of too much ham and should spend the next twelve months in a sweat lodge with Barwis communicating with his workout chi.
As to why he's promising, that aforementioned Nike camp had observers all a-flutter. Ironically, the first positive scouting-type mention of him on Rivals notes his frame($):
Chandler and Lemonier were the top defensive linemen along with a very strong performance out of Pahokee (Fla.) High School's Richard Ash. Ash has the body to carry a lot of weight and maintain his athleticism and his aggressiveness and explosiveness was evident on Sunday.
Rivals analyst Barry Every took in the same camp, praising Ash's "great body structure and really long arms," declaring him "easily the best-looking interior lineman physically," and projecting he'd triple his offers by the end of May. Every also projected that he would grow into a DT, although he didn't say this would happen by August.
ESPN makes the chorus complete($):
…a bit of a 'tweener between the tackle and end spot. He could start off in college as a defensive end, but in the long run we think he projects as a defensive tackle or at least as a swing guy like he is now. He has good size and should be able to add more good bulk. He has a good get-off and is a kid capable of getting some quick penetration. He is a physical kid at the point of attack. He does a good job of using his hands to create some separation and he can hold his ground. … We feel he will grow into a defensive tackle and his skills will be better used there, but he offers some versatility also.
Scout's version of that:
Ash is an excellent athlete and has terrific size for a DT prospect. He has a quality first step and gets into the backfield quickly while having the speed to pursue to the edges. Ash needs to continue to develop his technique, particularly his ability to disengage blockers. He should add plenty of size which will help him against the run.
So in three years Ash could be 300 pounds and everyone would be happy with that, especially a nose-deficient Michigan defensive line. Depending on how 3-3-5 Michigan's new 3-3-5 actually is, he could find himself in the lineup anywhere in the front three.
For his part, Ash on his own game:
“I’m quick off the ball. I have a good first step and have great hands. I use them good and have great technique. I like to play quick and fast.
“I want to run better and get faster in the forty. I’d like to be more explosive because that would help me get more sacks.”
The analysts disagree about the technique, with many reports citing his tendency to get high and failure to use his long arms as effectively as he should. Langston suggests($) he needs to gain more upper body strength but has good burst and that Michigan told him that they wanted him as a defensive end because "they told him they needed a pass rusher like him, a guy … with speed around the edge."
For what it's worth, even after the drop Ash was still a guy worth pursing. In July he was the #27 player in Florida—which would be solidly in the top 250 range nationally—to the Orlando Sentinel. There were a number of BCS teams willing to overlook whatever issues caused the Floridas and USCs of the world to back off. He took officials to UCLA and West Virginia, committing to the latter and aborting a planned Rutgers visit. South Carolina was trying to get him on campus. LSU was in his top two (with USF) as late as mid-October.
Michigan probably won't know what they plan to do with Ash for a year, maybe two, as they figure out what weight they actually want him to play at and what his strengths indicate the best spot for him is. Ideally, he'd end up an angry, lithe 280 and play as the three-tech DT/3-3-5 DE Ryan Van Bergen or Mike Martin could end up as. With the roster in the state that it is and Ash's apparently ability to get up to three bills in both good and bad fashions, he may be drafted to play nose tackle. Whatever he ends up as, there's a lot of work to do to get there.
Why Fat Elvis Brandon Graham or Jason Kates? Graham was a vastly touted high school middle linebacker who claimed he wanted to play LB in college, too then showed up to Michigan at 290 pounds. He burned his redshirt (not that he would have used a fifth year anyway) coming in as a nose tackle on passing downs and spent some of his sophomore year on the interior, looking ponderous, until Barwis came in and shaped him into Michigan's golden calf. Ash briefly had the same sort of hype but added his weight earlier and fell down boards as a result; he may have the same sort of trajectory as Michigan takes the time to turn him into the player that could have gone anywhere he wanted in May.
Jason Kates, meanwhile, was a frighteningly large DT prospect who got four stars from Scout… and two from Rivals, which explicitly expected him to wash out of football because he could not get his weight under control. Rivals won. Ash is 50 pounds lighter than Kates entering college and doesn't have that same sort of explicit risk, but the sort of thing where he's always a "yes, but what if he wasn't carrying around a small child too" is possible.
Which will it be? Well, Langston said the reason he switched to Michigan is that "he feels the best chance" of getting to an impact level is with this staff. Kates, on the other hand, was a last-second add, not a hotly pursued prospect.
Guru Reliability: Only moderate. Boom/bust sort of player, one that the sites may have fairly ranked despite his high upside.
General Excitement Level: Moderate. On the one hand, Ash's physical potential combined with Barwis's wolf run ("You are covered in pork fat, some of it applied by us. Run away from the wolves.") could yield a crushing destroyer of a defensive lineman. On the other hand, Jason Kates.
Projection: Probably a redshirt as Barwis will have to mold this clay into something less clay-like. Bad sign for this year if he sees the field but possibly good for Ash long term. Redshirt sophomore year earliest projected effectiveness. From there will either go HAM or just ham.