|Pickerington, OH – 6'6" 265|
|Scout||4*, #174 overall
|Rivals||4*, #237 overall
#10 WDE, #13 OH
|ESPN||4*, #116 overall
#9 DE, #7 OH
|24/7||4*, #108 overall
#3 WDE, #6 OH
|Other Suitors||Notre Dame, Nebraska, UCLA, Iowa|
|YMRMFSPA||Will Gholston, but not a cannibal|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Ace hit up the Pick Central vs Pick North game. Hello post.|
|Notes||Early enrollee. Given first name is "Vidauntae." Twitter. Pickerington Central (Caris LeVert).|
Ace also caught a game of his:
Taco Charlton was the sixth guy to commit on that fabled Saturday last February when Ace filed a worker's comp claim because his fingers had been worn down to nubs. What an awesome day for everyone who isn't Ace. But I digress.
As a result of the timing of his commitment, Charlton may have been somewhat overshadowed by ALL THE OFFENSIVE LINEMEN. Is it just me, or was Charlton kind of an "oh and that guy is around too" kind of commit? In any case that oversight went a ways towards being corrected when Charlton, an early enrollee, was listed at a strapping 265 on the spring roster and started collecting more hype than anyone on the defense not named James Ross.
Why is obvious. I mean, here's Charlton next to Shane Morris, David Dawson, and Mike McCray after the Columbus NFTC:
on the right, obvs
There you have three highly-touted, consensus-four-star recruits and a guy who makes them look like dudes headed to EMU. No one in Michigan's class—and almost no one nationally—approaches Charlton's first-guy-off-the-bus factor. But don't take it from me:
Charlton is the type of player that you want coming off the bus first as a prospect with phenomenal length and athleticism. There may not have been a defensive end in attendance that has a better set of raw tools to work with than Charlton.
That was as a rising junior, when he was probably 20 pounds lighter than he is now.
Also here is Charlton jumping over a six-foot tackling dummy.
I know. I know that's how tall people are.
Charlton was unsurprisingly a camp fiend what with the hugeness and athleticism. A take from one of the two NTFC showings he made last summer:
… won every rep he took. Camp settings are a perfect showcase for Charlton's outstanding physical tools. Charlton showed he has the speed to beat linemen around the edge and also his the natural strength to power through the opposition.
Charlton also hit up the LA NFTC since he was in the area anyway. Scout:
Charlton set the tone on the first 1-on-1, by blowing by the tackle without being touched. He too only lost 1-on-1, and won every other. The future Michigan Wolverine is a nice long athlete who just needs to add some weight, but he's got the quickness off the edge to be a top-tier pass rusher.
ESPN was there as well, saying he "has a lighting quick step to complement his long stride, making him nearly impossible to block."
An example of the camp killer aspect from The Opening:
4. Taco Charlton – Charlton is always good in camp settings because he has elite athleticism and elite frame. Once again he looked very athletic rushing the edge and turning the corner on offensive tackles and he continues to show one of the best sets of tools in the nation at the defensive end position.
Scout's take from that weekend:
…without question one of the best athletes in this group. He looks the part, he was very fluid during the drills … showed enough to make Scout think he could end up being one of Michigan's top recruits in 2013. He is still raw and he needs to get stronger, but he is athletic, he is very quick, he has good length, and a lot of potential.
I mean, the picture above says it all. If it doesn't, take it from Duane Long, who said his "potential is unlimited" and called his physical tools "elite." Saying he has a high ceiling doesn't do it justice.
The catch is actually playing football. While the Buckeye urban legend that Charlton didn't even start for his high school team as a junior was overblown (he missed a couple series in a high profile game), he is the opposite of just-profiled Mike McCray in that regard. He's a camp standout who doesn't quite translate that potential to production, or at least didn't before his senior year.
Even with a productive senior year you can watch those highlights and the fact that the 6'6" guy stands straight up after every snap leaps out at you. ESPN mentions that and similar technique issues in their evaluation:
…possesses excellent size … not always consistent, but he has very good initial quickness. He can be a tough edge run defender, flashing the ability to keep his pads down and use his reach. When he does, he can quickly separate and shed. He is a tall kid who needs to watch his pad level, though, and be more consistent with his technique as he can stand up too much to look in the backfield and can rely too much on his athletic ability and the fact that he is much bigger and stronger than most of the people he goes up against…. changes directions well and displays good balance and body control. …has the potential to be handful as a pass rusher. … does need to learn to use his reach and hands more to his advantage, develop a pass rush arsenal and have a plan as he can attack the whole man and get caught up.
Raw. And raw. And raw.
This didn't prevent him from being an effective player even during his relatively raw phase. Helmholdt caught the state title game Charlton participated in then:
My appreciation for Charlton grows after each new evaluation. I thought he was OK at the Ohio State NIKE Camp back in May, thought he was better when I saw him on film early in the season and thought he was really solid in last weekend's Division I state title game. …was effective bull rushing offensive tackles. But Charlton also does a great job using his hands and releasing from blocks. He did not record a sack in Saturday's game, but hit the quarterback as he released the football on at least two occasions and got good pressure throughout the night.
But in that evaluation you can see hints of a guy who just wasn't doing much as a junior, something Scout just plain states in their profile for him:
Body Control and Balance
Pass Rushing Skills
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT
Great athlete with an excellent frame. He really stepped it up as a senior and made more plays. Has to add weight and strength to become a more complete player, but has the tools to be a situational pass rusher early in his career. The fact that he's still learning, still growing, and has good physical tools leads us to believe his best days are still ahead of him. - Allen Trieu
Part of that rawness is an Andrew Copp effect. Charlton spent so much time playing another sport that it may have slowed his development in his main gig. With Copp that was football; for Charlton it was basketball($):
Playing basketball nearly year-round has been one thing that's prevented Charlton from reaching his potential so far. He drops weight during the long season - one that included a state championship for Pick Central this winter - and doesn't have the time to focus on technique for the football field.
Charlton dropped basketball last fall and has added 15 pounds as a result.
So all of this sounds wonderful but wait! We have to talk about The Great Opening Hot Take Controversy. Charlton showed up at the Opening, as you saw above, and drew praise for his general Taco-ness from many people. A couple of those evaluations are linked above; I elided a couple more. Then Farrell dropped some truthiness on those evaluators by naming Charlton the worst guy there:
…looks the part, he really struggled. He has great size, long arms and he is very athletic. However, he is also very upright, only has an outside move and when coaches tried to teach him misdirection or crossover, he didn't grasp it well at all. He was beaten on almost every 1-on-1 rep he took.
This got a lot of heat from various quarters, spurring a protests-too-much defense ("simply struggled regardless of what others say") and eventually a tweet from Charlton himself showing him atop the leaderboard for 1-on-1 rep wins at said camp. Charlton would later provide some perspective on a bad day:
"Yeah well, I did real good the first two days," he said. "I actually ended up still tied with the most wins, but I was doing real good the first two days. The last day, I was sort of sick, and then a whole bunch of stuff went on and I just wasn't feeling too good. The Nike guys asked me to wait and compete later in the day, to hold off and see how I felt later. I still was feeling a little bit bad, but I chose to compete."
So there you go. The lovely thing about Mike Farrell is how he makes the kids look professional. Honest day's work, that. Anyway.
As an early enrollee we have a bit more information on Charlton yet, including those 15 pounds. Charlton is an easy guy to notice and folks around the program did, what with Mike Rothstein projecting him to contribute right away and into the the NFL. Mattison did sound a note of concern about his motor, albeit after calling him "the prototype":
Taco Charlton’s been mentioned a lot. You said he’s the prototype. What do you mean by that?
“Taco’s name comes up a lot because if you’re 6-6, 265 and should be going to your prom and you’re here practicing football at Michigan, you’re going to like that. You always want strong, tall, athletic guys. Well, he’s 6-6. He’s very strong for his age, and he was a great basketball player. Now you have to get the mental part. He’s one, for example, it’s very interesting -- he’s one of the guys that doesn’t understand that at Michigan we run to the ball hard every play. And he sometimes thinks he’s going hard, but that’s maybe hard for where he was last year, not hard for where we are in this program. And he’s getting better and better.”
I took a close look at him during an inside zone drill Michigan ran before the game-like section of the spring game:
As everyone's already said, Charlton looks the part and then some. He was struggling in a drill before the scrimmage where half the OL would play half the DL on zone running, getting blown out of his assigned lane; once he got some time against the backup OL he dominated. Unless Cam Gordon's really good, he and Ojemudia will duke it out for the nickel DE spot Ryan's injury has vacated.
During the game-like section, Charlton was neutralized by Lewan and Schofield, then obliterated a walk-on tackle to get a contact sack against a guy wearing a red jersey. Blood makes the grass grow.
Etc.: Oblig. coach rapture quote($):
"I'll never look at No. 33 the same," Laminico said. "I won't be able to do that. It'll be hard for someone else to wear that number and really fulfill it. ... There are few people that can wear that number next after he takes it off for the last time."
UPDATE: Wins this year's Carvin Johnson Award for hatred of losing.
Why Will Gholston? ESPN's evaluator actually made that comparison in their profile of him and that made a ton of sense to me. Both are enormous lanky weakside defensive ends who are not finished products. In Gholston's case that's after three years of futilely trying to get around Taylor Lewan and deciding to injure him instead; Charlton has some time yet.
Gholston was overrated as a recruit but not by a wide margin as a long-term starter and mid-round NFL draft pick, which is about Charlton's baseline as a guy just outside most top 100s. Gholston was listed at the same weight Charlton was as a recruit and eventually worked himself up to 280; Charlton is just 15 pounds away from that already and is a bit shorter, so the leverage issues you get with ends that size should be slightly less of an issue.
If you want a Michigan comp, Shawn Crable is it. Crable was a chicken-legged stick person, which Charlton isn't, and spent most of his career at linebacker, which Charlton won't. They are in the same mold of athletic knives to hurl through offensive lines.
Guru Reliability: High. Same range, same things said, lots of camps. Farrell's HOT TAKE from the AA game is disputed, though, bringing it down from exacting.
Variance: High. Charlton is probably going to be a useful player no matter what simply because of his size, but the upside makes the variance wide. Charlton could be a poor man's Gholston… or he could be Julius Peppers, another 6'6"-ish weakside end.
Ceiling: Vast. A 6'6", 265-pounds-and-counting weakside defensive end that pans out in a big way is destined for the top end of the NFL draft.
General Excitement Level: High. Ceiling is a great thing to have with this coaching staff. Lot of work ahead for Hoke and Mattison with this guy. Heininger Certainty Principle don't fail me now.
Projection: Needs a year to learn, maybe two. If Clark lives up to half the hype, Charlton won't be a major threat until he's gone. Then it'll be an Ojemudia/Charlton battle it seems impossible for Ojemudia to win what with probably being 30 pounds lighter and five inches shorter unless Charlton just busts completely. Two year starting run for Charlton should be in the cards, one that could be anything from Tim Jamison (decent) to Will Gholston (good but overhyped due to physical impressiveness) to a flaming morningstar of quarterback doom.
If you're making me pick, I say Gholston.