Previously: S Jeremy Clark, S Allen Gant, S Jarrod Wilson, CB Terry Richardson, LB James Ross, LB Royce Jenkins-Stone, LB Kaleb Ringer, LB Joe Bolden, DE Chris Wormley, DE Tom Strobel, DE Mario Ojemudia, DT Matt Godin, DT Willie Henry, DT Ondre Pipkins, OL Ben Braden, and OL Erik Magnuson.
|Nashville, TN – 6'5", 291|
|Scout||3*, #58 OT|
|Rivals||4*, #32 OT, #9 TN|
|ESPN||3*, #54 OT, #8 TN|
|24/7||3*, #66 OT, #18 TN|
|Other Suitors||Penn State, Florida, LSU, BC, Virginia, Vandy|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Tim. TomVH interview. Look Up See Blue meets the elder Bars.|
|Notes||Brother at Penn State, another one coming up next year (2014). Dad played for ND. Has 'Bama bangs.|
Also has some junior clips.
Blake Bars takes the title for greatest discrepancy between recruiting rankings and offer list in the class. One of the four sites thought he warranted four stars; Michigan, LSU, Florida, and a pre-crater Penn State thought he warranted an offer. That's weird. It's less weird because Bars is an offensive lineman with a golden bloodline, but it's still a little weird. What did Les Miles and Will Muschamp see in the guy that the recruiting sites mostly didn't? No idea. Why would in-state Tennessee ignore the guy? No idea. These things happen from time to time, I guess.
Compounding the confusion is a lack of scouting out there. In comparison to a guy like Magnuson—who hit every camp he possibly could and had me deleting thousands of words of scouting reports just because they were repetitive—Bars was a recluse. He didn't appear to hit any camps at all and he even turned down the Army game($) when they approached him late. (He'd already scheduled an in-home with Michigan coaches that day, FWIW.) His low profile most places didn't help: he didn't warrant one of those Scout breakdowns that go on their player pages, and Rivals didn't report on him in their "From The Road" segments. So there's not a ton out there.
What is out there is what you'd expect for a guy with Bars's rankings. ESPN's evaluation reads positive for most of it before dropping the "too small" item:
…although we don't see overwhelming playing strength, this prospect consistently gets movement as a result of his blocking base and good leg drive. Does a good job handling quickness and is a very effective as a down and double team blocker. … We see the athleticism to reach and gain leverage on shaded defenders showing the quickness necessary to consistently get a hat on active 1st and 2nd level defenders. Although we see the need for refinement in all areas of pass protection this guy possesses the long arms and nimble feet which should be assets… Bars doesn't appear to be an early starter at the major level of competition however his athleticism is a real positive. Once body mass is added to his frame he should have a long and productive career.
That makes Bars sound like a guy Rich Rodriguez would have chased all over the country to play guard, except he's already 290 pounds.
I see the word "reach" and I think Molk, of course, and Scout's Chad Simmons did broach the idea of center:
…not as tall as some of the other UM commits and could possibly end up on the interior, or with lack of depth at center at UM he could find a home there. He shows excellent balance, punch in his blocking, and the athleticism in run blocking. He plays with excellent knee-bend and keeps his pads low because he understands his position and trench war execution. … plays with that nasty streak that you like to see.
Darryl Funk told reporters on Signing Day that they didn't see anyone in the class as a center, but if they're going to change their mind on that it will be Bars who does it. He's got the intelligence—football family, Vandy, BC, Virginia offers to go with M—and Michigan's center is going to be 6'5" once the Hoke generation of lineman ascends into the starting lineup. Any leverage issues you might bring forward would be shared with his competitors. It's a viable plan B or C.
His toity prep school brought NFL lineman Kevin Mawae around to help coach linemen, and Rivals talked to him about Bars's strengths and weaknesses. Mawae started off by implying he was a bit of a project($)…
"He's going to have to work on his pass blocking technique. It's easy to beat guys when you're 6-6, 280 or whatever … the higher level you go, the more technique's going to be a bigger issue as far as pass protection and stuff like that. All in all, Blake did okay this year, but I thought he could have been even better. He relied a lot on size as opposed to just learning and understanding the technique, which is probably indicative of a lot of high school kids."
..and called him "definitely an outside guy" at 6'5" or 6'6" unless you've got one of those toolsy 6'7" guys, in which case he would be a viable option on the inside. Left tackle is a stretch since he's "not as athletic as you'd want your left tackles to be"… from an NFL perspective. Touch The Banner returned with a similar assessment, and his head coach also projected a move to right tackle or inside($).
Bars's head coach also struck upon something Funk has emphasized as one of the most impressive things about the class($) as a whole:
"He's extremely athletic for his size, with really good feet, and maybe the thing that goes unnoticed but I can tell you is he has flexibility - he bends really well for a kid that size."
The elusive "bend" is a priority for all linemen as it allows them to get pad level, and pad level is the most important thing ever. When you don't have bend, you are "stiff" and transfer to Western Michigan after a year like Dann O'Neill (and then carve out a pretty good career for yourself anyway). Funk likes the bend of the class as a whole.
Aaand the final piece of Bars scouting is the proverbial mean streak. Barton Simmons($):
What stands out as much as anything when watching Bars is his tenacity. He likes to get after, he plays until the whistle blows, and he looks complete each block. He plays with that nasty streak that you like to see in offensive linemen. He has the frame you like as well.
This also makes a move to guard more likely, as they get to deploy the proverbial mean streak more liberally in the run game than tackles. If it matters that much. I mean… these "mean streak" assessments are about blocking a guy even more after you've already blocked him. Blocking him first seems to be 95% of offensive linesmanship, but everyone focuses on the proverbial mean streak. It's a meme and therefore unkillable. I wonder if Funk gives two dangs about it.
We've come to the time on Sprockets were we evaluated the guardiness of the offensive lineman, and Bars is guardy. The evaluations call him a tackle, the recruiting services rank him at tackle, but by virtue of not being 6'7" and not being a universal blue chip, Bars is more likely to slide inside than either of the OL previously covered in this series.
Yeah, Funk told him left tackle($)…
"Michigan wants me to play left tackle," said Bars. "That’s where they said they’d start me out at and go from there. I’m willing to play wherever on the line for a chance to get in."
…and there's no doubt Michigan will evaluate everyone they brought in for that spot. Chances are someone else is a better fit and Bars will be placed in the guard repechage.
Etc.: Empty. This used to happen a lot when these reports focused on guys like DJ Williamson. Not so much now. The googling, oh the googling.
Why Patrick Omameh? Omameh was initially supposed to be a tackle prospect before being moved inside, whereupon he was a second-level-reaching Te'o destroyer before the power-blocking Hoke revamp made him a fish out of water. He got better towards the end of last year and enters his senior year at around 305, still ready to be mobile at you.
Omameh came in with less recruiting hype but a much more plausible claim to being a sleeper after a late growth spurt took him from Big East TE recruit to Big Ten OL recruit. Bars is bigger coming in.
Guru Reliability: Low. OL, no camps, offers defy ranking.
Variance: Medium. Character related issues seem a very remote possibility and he's pretty close to playing weight already. Still needs to develop. Is OL.
Ceiling: Moderate-plus. Athletic, good frame, seems like he could be a high quality guard playing at 310. Probably doesn't have the sheer length to be an elite tackle.
General Excitement Level:. Moderate-plus. The least hyped of the OL but he has great bloodlines and offers and despite the ratings the scouting reports are pretty good.
Projection: Redshirt. Then… whoah, has a very good shot at starting as a redshirt freshman. Even if you assume Kyle Kalis grabs one of the interior spots, Omameh, Mealer, and Barnum will be gone, leaving Jack Miller and Chris Bryant as the only other experienced scholarship interior linemen on the team.
Now that you're done shaking your fist at Rodriguez's one-man OL class from a few years back, Bars just has to be a better idea than one of those two guys to start in 2013. That's a 50-50 shot, more if Bryant doesn't lose enough weight to be effective. If he does grab that spot he'll have heat from behind as he tries to hold it; still, four years starting is not a remote possibility at all. Year one and two might be a little shaky.