|Cincinnati, OH – 6'3", 230|
|Scout||4*, #4 OLB, #69 overall|
|Rivals||4*, #7 OLB, #111 overall, #5 OH|
|ESPN||4*, #5 MLB, #5 OH, #142 overall|
|24/7||4*, #3 ILB, #2 OH, #58 overall|
|Other Suitors||Penn State, UNC, Stanford|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Tim. Insane comedy post featuring Mark Smith's terror at technology.|
|Notes||Cinci Colerain (Mister Simpson, Cobrani Mixon, BJ Askew). Early enrollee.|
UA game clips:
And some high school ones:
BEHOLD THE JOE BOLDEN HAIR PROGRESSION
Like Sampson, Bolden's reputation has grown with his locks. When he committed to Michigan last April he was on the outer reaches of four-star consideration, but after a strong senior season and star turn at the Under Armor all-star game practices he finds himself about the 5th best linebacker prospect in the country, give or take a spot. Expectations ratcheted up further after Bolden's arrival on campus in January as coach raves gradually filtered their way out to the public and Bolden took a turn as the starting MLB after Kenny Demens injured his hand. By the end of spring practice, Bolden was locked in as Kenny Demens's heir apparent. By 2013 Bolden's hair will hit the middle of his back and the hype will be intolerable.
This goes here.
The hype may already be thus. ESPN's($) evaluation covers all the bases:
Bolden is a tough, instinctive football player with a knack for getting to the football and making big plays. … Demonstrates the good flexibility, balance and agility required to play in space; does a very good job with key and diagnosis skills against the run and pass; is quick to react to the inside run, demonstrating the ability to play downhill while attacking and defeating blockers at the point of attack. This prospect also displays the quickness necessary to avoid contact when moving through traffic; is quick to the edge and does a good job maintaining leverage when pursuing the football from the backside; doesn't overrun plays. We like his proper angles and effort in long pursuit. We see very good coverage production from this athlete; displays the ability to drop and get into throwing lanes; shows good route awareness; does a nice job looking up inside receivers while managing to get his eyes on the quarterback; shows the ability to plant and break on underneath throws. His excellent awareness in space is responsible for quite a few pass breakups while also demonstrating good ball skills.
That is… everything. Save mentioning him as a blitz terror, I guess. Everything else you could want in a middle linebacker save "is Ray Lewis" is there. Here's Rivals's Chris Nee confirming:
"Bolden is everything that you want at the linebacker position," Nee said. "He has good athleticism to cover a good area of space but is a great tackler one-on-one in space. He does a great job of putting himself in position to make plays whether the ball stays inside the tackles or goes outside. He is extremely physical at the point of contact."
That kicks off three consistent themes in Joe Bolden evaluation:
- S-M-R-T smart.
- Gets sideline to sideline.
- Relentless tackling machine.
Now to the blockquotes. Scout's Scott Kennedy named him his team's defensive MVP($) at the UA game:
With the offensive line occupied by the defensive line, the linebackers were free to roam uninhibited. No one took advantage of the room to run better than Michigancommitment Joe Bolden. Bolden was popping pads during walk-thrus, and he continued to seek and destroy when the tempo was moved to full speed. Bolden doesn't do anything half-speed. He showed he was capable of dropping into coverage as well as attacking the line of scrimmage.
The Michigan commit was impressive all week in practice, and quickly caught all the coaches attention at Under Armour. He is a guy that certainly really impressed with his football IQ. Not just that, but his ability to move laterally, and his general ability to play his assignments and to not take false steps. He reads the play and is more athletic than people give him credit for, and is one of those guys that if you go to a camp or see him at a 7-on-7, maybe he is not as high on your list, but you put him in pads and you can really see this guy having a great college career and playing a lot in the National Football League.
His coach at that event:
Linebackers coach Joey McGuire of Cedar Hill High in the Dallas area loves what he has seen from the future Big Ten player.
“I love the Bolden kid,” McGuire said. “He’s one of the most instinctive kids I have seen. He’s similar to the Spence kid (Sean Spence at Miami) from the first Under Armour game in that he is so instinctive on the field. He just finds the football.”
FWIW, Spence started eight games as a freshman, was All-ACC and a Butkus semifinalists as a senior, and was drafted in the third round by the Steelers. Bolden is four inches taller than him.
Other UA game evaluations mention his instincts($) ("among the best on Team Highlight, regardless of position") and name him the best tackler at the game ("showed great technique on a pair of one-on-one tackles").
If we're looking for catches, athleticism seems to be de-emphasized above. That's contested by evaluations from Josh Helmholdt—who said "his combination of size, athleticism, and speed has been unmatched so far this year" after taking in a high school game of his—and Allen Trieu, who lists "speed" as one of his main assets.
Scout.com Player Evaluation:
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT
Underrated athlete who can really run sideline to sideline and arrives at ball carriers with bad intentions. He's a great tackler and a big hitter that likes contact. He'll have to adjust to taking on bigger, stronger blockers at the college level, but he's a tough kid that won't shy away from it. In coverage, he does a nice job and made a number of plays dropping into zones and showing good ball skills in high school.
Elsewhere in futile attempts to find chinks in the armor, Bolden is not a coach's son but is a coach's nephew—his uncle Tom is Colerain's head coach. He is, in fact, an athletic director's son. His work ethic is strong, his background is advanced, and he's got a leadership edge to him:
“To me he plays the game the way it is supposed to be played,” said Bolden. “He runs fast and he plays with reckless abandon. I’ve had college coaches refer to him as an athletic throwback. Hopefully his little brothers and my boys, his nephews, will play the same way. That is all you can ask for. He’s been the vocal and emotional leader with these kids by his effort. He’s a 1000 miles per hour in practice all the time, the same way he is in a game and hopefully it’s taught these young kids how to prepare.”
Elsewhere, Tom Bolden told Sam Webb that "when he tackles kids, they stay tackled," mentioned his 3.9 GPA, and added the usual bits about range and smarts. Trieu added that he is both a "classic, throwback-type linebacker" and an "every-down linebacker" at a good school, from a good family, who comes with a free beach towel.
Again: everything. Plus a towel.
After that hype as a recruit, Bolden arrived on campus and started turning heads there as well. He showed up from time to time in the "let's overreact to" spring scrimmage video series:
Play 5: Inside zone run with H-back (Miller) flaring weakside that we've seen for years now. Roh(+1) drives his man—probably Schofield—way down the line and Fitz decides to cut behind that mess. Bolden(+1) is there to clean up on the cutback at the LOS with help from Ryan. Miller's block on Ryan… eh… not so good.
Play 16: Denard hands off to Rawls on an under center stretch(?). Odd. Rawls finds a crease as Barnum, who's flowed well down the line, latches on to and eliminates Bolden. Gyarmati gets enough of a block on Morgan to get Rawls the edge and a nice gain.
Play 20: Short yardage Vincent Smith iso is… a touchdown? I don't want to talk about this. Bolden got rocked by Gyarmati, probably because he didn't read the play quick enough. That contact is not happening near the LOS and that's all she wrote.
And then again:
Poole gets on the wrong side of a pulling Barnum, which prevents Bolden from making a tackle. Then a safety I can't identify whiffs as he tries to fill. Bryant doesn't actually end up blocking anyone. Bolden's reaction time was impressive there: if Poole knows what he's doing that's going to be a thump for Bolden at or near the LOS.
Then I managed to write a billion-word-long spring game post without once mentioning Bolden. I have no idea how that happened. He did play, there are pictures and everything. The insider buzz was all positive; we'll see it on the field this fall. Even with the hype, he's still a freshman.
Why David Harris? Yes, going there. The two main weapons in Harris's arsenal were an ability to diagnose plays very early and sideline-to-sideline tackling rage. Basically every evaluation above mentions those as Bolden's primary assets. Size-wise it's pretty close: Harris topped out at 6'2", 250. Bolden will reach that latter number easily and is an inch taller.
Bolden is of course more touted than sleeper Harris. Also he does not look as much like Worf, but you can't have everything.
Guru Reliability: Very high. Bolden was healthy, played at power Colerain, made an all star game appearance, and has gone through spring practice with flying colors.
Variance: Low. On campus, already pushing Demens from behind.
Ceiling: High. Has the frame, athleticism, background, and pedigree to be an all-conference performer.
General Excitement Level: MASSIVE! WOO!
Projection: Will not redshirt, as he's already got a spring practice under his belt and Michigan will want to blood him in preparation for 2013, when he's going to be the leading candidate to replace Demens. Should see extensive special teams time, garbage time, and the occasional Demens-spelling drive when he needs a breather.
After this year, the path is clear for Bolden to be a three-year starter.