|Cincinnati, OH - 6'2" 210|
|Scout||4*, #13 OLB, #227 overall|
|Rivals||3*, #26 OLB, #20 OH|
|ESPN||3*, 78, #41 OLB|
|Others||4*, 91 to 247.|
|Other Suitors||Pitt, MSU, Kentucky, Cincinnati, Miami (that Miami)|
|YMRMFSPA||Chris Graham plus three points of tackling|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Commitment post. Tom talked to him prior to the Big 33.|
Antonio Poole's recruiting script is similar Raymon Taylor, the most recent profile in this series: it seemed like he really wanted to go to Michigan, but Rodriguez's staff showed tepid interest. When Brady Hoke arrived an offer did soon after, and at that point an announcement for Michigan seemed inevitable.
Unlike Taylor's recruitment, Michigan ignoring a well-regarded local-ish WLB product who seemed like he wanted to end up at M never made any sense. Michigan had a bunch of corners they were after, but few linebackers.
Woods was a high profile guy early with offers on or around Signing Day from a dozen schools; his best were lower-echelon Big Ten offers from Minnesota, Indiana, and Michigan State. He started off in Scout's top ten OLBs and just outside their top 100. Interest didn't get much heavier than that over the summer. His rankings started to decline a bit and in August he narrowed his list to a top six of UC, Purdue, MSU, Wake Forest, Kentucky, and Lousiville—not exactly a murderers row.
Some more impressive schools got in late: he visited Miami and Nebraska in January, though it's unclear whether either offered. Then Mattison got hired, visited in-home, and Poole's recruitment was over the next day.
Also like Taylor, Poole is a kid on whom the scouting services are in riotous disagreement. In this case his main advocate is Scout, which places him in their top 300; Rivals and ESPN are all like not so much.
The main issue with Poole appears to be his size. He is either a "rugged, 6'2", 225 pound" monster-in-waiting or a 6-foot, 195 pound guy who should pretty obviously be a three star. Or he's somewhere in between. Welcome to recruiting heights and weights.
It's safe to assume the 6'2", 225, is an exaggeration. Touch The Banner's nearest comparable is former Michigan linebacker Chris Graham, who was almost certainly under six feet tall:
Poole reminds me a bit of Chris Graham in body stature, who played weakside linebacker for Michigan a few years ago. The thing I like most about him is that he's a very physical tackler. Graham had a couple de-cleaters as a Wolverine, but he was never a standout. … Unlike Graham, however, Poole plays downhill and seems to diagnose quickly.
I think Poole could play either weakside linebacker or middle linebacker. He's an excellent tackler and wades through the trash well. Much like Graham, it seems like Poole would fit best as a good two-down weakside 'backer. He blitzes well and he's a good run stopper, but I expect Mattison to use nickel corners (a position that disappeared the last few seasons) in obvious passing situations, and Poole might be lifted when offenses try to spread the field.
If unblocked, Graham was really good at spearing the dickens out of anyone who showed up in the hole. He was not often unblocked, though, and his little T-Rex arms left him unable to get off blocks. When not placing a facemask in the chest he often missed tackles.
Meanwhile, the most recent report that offers a height and weight is at the low end of the scale. It's an O-Zone Big 33 recap:
Antonio Poole, LB Cincinnati Winton Woods 6'0” 195 (Michigan)
I think Poole may have been the most impressive defensive player on the field. He's only listed at 6'0” 195 pounds, but he sticks ball-carriers right between the numbers and they stay stuck. When he's in pursuit, he looks much bigger than he is. He certainly hits much bigger than he is. He may not be big enough to play linebacker in the Big Ten right now, but the Wolverines may not be able to wait.
Smallish, quick, good in pursuit, but it remains a question whether or not he can maintain that level of play when the offensive linemen get bigger and more vice-clampy. At least it seems Poole has one thing on Graham: the ability to tackle. ESPN specifically praises it in their evaluation:
Has the size and athleticism for the outside linebacker position at the major level of competition. His strong wrap tackling ability should serve him well as a special teams player. Shows very good flexibility, balance and agility; does a very good job with K&D recognition skills against the pass and run. We like his instincts and downhill approach when playing the run; demonstrates good timing when filling gaps, showing the quickness to beat blockers to the point of attack. Displays the playing strength to take on and defeat blockers when moving through traffic to the ball; comes off the edge with very good acceleration and leverage. This prospect displays very good pursuit habits.
No downsides are mentioned and yet he gets a decided yawn when rankings hit the road. This is not unusual with ESPN rankings, but Poole is an extreme case. They even say he's got the size to play OLB.
They also mention the athleticism, which others do as well:
"Antonio Poole is a speed linebacker with great range, meaning he can get to places on the field most other players can't," said Mark Porter, director of ScoutingOhio.com. "At times he can dominate the game with unique play-making ability. With the speed and agility of a safety he is also very stout at the point of attack taking on blockers."
So he's fast and big enough and good at tackling and Greg Robinson ignored him—which is probably the nicest thing anyone can say about a defensive prospect these days. He also got no offers more impressive than Pitt and a desperate Michigan. Something doesn't add up. Either a bunch of people mis-evaluated Poole or that size is going to be an issue.
That doesn't mean Michigan can wait. The WLB situation is grim. Poole has a better profile than Mike Jones, who is essentially the only competition unless Jake Ryan grabs the strongside job and frees Cam Gordon up for yet another position switch. Jones does have two years on Poole but missed all of last year injured—he will be in a war to start from day one. This is good for Poole, but maybe not so much for Michigan's defense.
Etc.: Facebook profile lists employment as "hurting people and winning national championships." At one point Kentucky and Illinois were Poole's top two, prompting one Kentucky(!) fan to say "there is no way we should ever lose a recruit to Illinois." Honorable mention in a Korean Essay Contest as a freshman. Video of his commitment hat dance. Commit gallery. Can't decide whether this is the best or worst recruiting headline ever: "More swimmers aware of talent Poole."($) 11 TFLs, 4 sacks as a junior; 22 TFLs as a senior.
Why Chris Graham plus three points of tackling? Graham was smallish weakside linebacker who could bring the lumber but wasn't that good despite his long-time starting spot. The above reports on Poole specifically praise his ability to get guys to the ground, which would clear up one of the major holes in Graham's game. Whether he'll be able to work through the trash better than Graham remains in question.
Guru Reliability: Medium-low. Massive spread in rankings and it appears Poole did not hit any camps, but was healthy at high-profile school.
General Excitement Level: Measure the length of his arms and I'll tell you if it's moderate or high. We'll go with moderately high: his offers side with the more skeptical set of evaluations, and while he was productive in high school a lack of height may prove a long term issues. On the other hand, scouting reports have a decided lack of negatives and production in the Big 33 game is a positive.
Projection: With almost literally no depth at WLB and a horde of linebackers in the 2012 class, Poole is highly unlikely to redshirt. Mike Jones does have two years on him and should keep him restricted to a backup role at first, but it's not out of the question that Poole emerges as a starter at some point this year. A good starter? Probably not as a freshman.