|Hilliard, OH - 6'3" 240|
|Scout||3*, #63 TE|
|Rivals||3*, 5.5, NR SDE|
|ESPN||3*, 75, #157 DE|
|Others||247: 3*, 83, NR|
|Other Suitors||Vandy, Minnesota, Indiana, Illinois|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Commitment post from Tim|
Keith Heitzman is probably the only player in the history of either program to decommit from Vanderbilt in favor of Michigan, so even if he gets buried on the depth chart and emerges from his eligibility totally anonymous but well-educated he'll always have a special place in the hearts of recruitniks everywhere.
Can he be more than an answer on Extreme Sports Nerd Jeopardy? Well… probably not. Disclaimers about star rankings and Jerry Rice apply, but the odds are the odds even if the occasional player beats them. The odds are stacked against Heitzman.
Scouting reports and rankings make this clear. ESPN($) breaks out "adequate" like a seriously depressed Lloyd Carr:
He gets off the ball well. He can be a physical kid at the point of attack, but needs to be more consistent especially with his hands. He displays the ability to maintain some leverage and hold his ground. Will flash the ability to shoot his hands and create separation, but needs to be more active with his hands and use them to not only protect his legs…. Displays adequate speed in pursuit and needs to be sure to utilize good angles and also secure when tackling. Does an adequate job of taking on pulling lineman. Needs to keep working on his recognition skills…. Needs to be more active with his weapons, develop his pass rush arsenal, and not attack the whole man. Heitzman is a solid defender who will flash some tools to be tough versus the run and pass.
This is the same scouting service that said Isaiah Bell stands for BIG PLAYMAKER, or something. They really loved them some Isaiah Bell. Here they very politely say "MAC." Touch the Banner is in the same boat:
Heitzman has some physical skills, including a willingness to hit and some pretty quick feet. But his footwork as a blocker and a defensive end are suspect. He gets by on having superior athleticism and size, but those advantages will disappear somewhat at the next level.
… Defensively, Michigan has a fair number of options at end, all of whom have superior size and equal athleticism. Even if the Wolverines suffer an injury or two at DE, Heitzman should rest easily on the sideline for a year or two.
Even the normally fawning coach quotes are muted:
“Keith is a special kid,” he said. “Obviously, I’m a little biased, but he’s got terrific durability. He’s started every one of those (41) games. He’s never missed a game. I don’t recall him ever missing a practice.”
That is a good attribute to have, but when you read everything every high school coach says about his Michigan-bound players ("turns offensive linemen into tacos… the most delicious tacos you've ever had!"), "he was there" falls a little flat.
Scout is slightly more encouraging:
An excellent athlete, Heitzman lines up full time at defensive end and part time at tight end. He gets a nice jump off the line and has quick hands. He needs to get bigger and stronger in the weight room if he's going to play either tight end or defensive end on the next level. He's a good run after the catch player because of his athleticism and does a good job with a speed rush at end.
Offers and ratings concur; Heitzman is just hanging on to his third stars at every site. His other offers were the dregs of the Big Ten and SEC. Late involvement from Illinois, a team that recruits decently and has actually seen a bowl game in the last decade, is encouraging in context.
HOWEVA, our most recent data points are encouraging ones. He was unanimously voted his district's defensive player of the year:
Lineman, KEITH HEITZMAN (Hilliard Davidson) 6-4, 250, sr. A unanimous choice as the Central District Division I Defensive Player of the Year, Heitzman used his brute strength and athleticism to overwhelm opponents. He also was one of Davidson's top blockers at tight end. "He was a game-changer on both sides of the ball," White said.
Then Heitzman was a standout on the Ohio Big 33 team that laid waste to Pennsylvania:
While Teague, Ohio's Mr. Football, was grabbing the attention on one side of the ball, it was Hilliard Davidson grad and University of Michigan-bound defensive end Keith Heitzman that set the tone for the Ohio defense.
His combination of quickness and power was too much for Pennsylvania, as he spent most of the game in the opposing backfield.
The other starters on the Ohio line were OSU commit Steve Miller and a pair of guys headed to Michigan State, FWIW. Heitzman collected a sack or two sacks or an interception or maybe all of the above; he definitely forced an interception on Pennsylvania's first drive of the day. He even finished the Ohio scoring with a one-yard TD run.
His performance($) defied the expectations set above:
He’s been consistent, giving great effort on every snap of the ball. When talking with Ohio coaches about Heitzman they mention the word “motor”. It’s his motor that has caused him to be so disruptive coming off the edge although he’s also done some damage working inside out. He uses his hands well, and has surprising strength at the point attack.
That's from Michigan's Scout site and is probably biased, but local observers were also impressed. As a bonus, Heitzman claimed to be up to 250 pounds at the event.
That's hopeful in the same way Greg Brown's strong spring performance was. It gives a prospect most people had written off as a backup or special teamer some new life. Heitzman's new upside seems to be an avearge-ish starter, but here's hoping we read one of those articles about "shutting up the critics (and by critics, we mean people who think critically)" in a few years' time.
Etc.: Davidson beat Glenville for the state championship in 2009. Enjoying his new status as a hater:
“I grew up an Ohio State fan, but I wasn't a die hard or anything, but I’m gladly hating them right now. It’s been mainly joking around. Everyone is pretty proud, and it’s just that it’s going to a big time school and things like that.”
Heitzman's coach on his recruitment:
"Coach Rodriguez had begun recruiting Keith in late December, about a week or two before he got fired," Davidson coach Brian White said. "He left behind all the phone numbers of the players he was looking at. Coach Hoke, who I have known for a long time, got back with me as a courtesy, and I encouraged him to keep Keith on his list and sent along some film."
Eventually, the combination of Michigan's football and academics won over Heitzman and his mother, both of whom, according to White, "were gung-ho about Vanderbilt and the prestige of education there."
Why Jake Frysinger? Heitzman's reasonable long term upside is as a rotation SDE or three-tech who gives the starters a blow and contributes here and there by not getting run over. Frysinger, who appeared in 44 games while starting two, is the quintessential Michigan rotation DE. He may have been a bit taller and was definitely a bigger recruit, FWIW.
Guru Reliability: High. Healthy player at a high profile school; recruiting services are in agreement.
General Excitement Level: Meh. Would be "low" but the flicker of hope provided by the Big 33 performance raises it a bit.
Projection: Obvious redshirt and unlikely to work his way past the competition in the race to replace Ryan Van Bergen next year. May emerge into a depth defender in a few years.