2014 Recruiting: Freddy Canteen

Submitted by Brian on August 6th, 2014 at 11:52 AM

Previously: Last year's profiles, CB Brandon Watson, CB Jabrill Peppers, LB Jared Wangler, LB Chase Winovich, LB Noah Furbush, LB Michael Ferns, DL Brady Pallante, DL Bryan Mone, DL Lawrence Marshall, OL Mason Cole, OL Juwann Bushell-Beatty, WR Moe Ways.

       
Elkton, MD – 6'1", 176
       

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Eric Upchurch

Scout 4*, #172 overall
#31 WR
Rivals 4*, NR overall
#47 WR, #9 MD
ESPN 3*, NR overall
#168 WR, #26 MD
24/7 3*, NR overall
#58 WR, #10 MD
Other Suitors Tenn, Rutgers, Maryland
YMRMFSPA Mario Manningham
Previously On MGoBlog Hello post from Ace.
Notes Eastern Christian Academy (Brandon Watson). Jungle beats.

Film

JUNGLE BEATS

Yeah, still on that. There's not very much out there even now. Here's cutups from one game as a senior from Scout:

247 also posted clips from a game against Maplewood.

Welp. This series has always gone from the back of the defense to the skill positions on offense. This means any ability for this post to be prescient about Freddy Canteen is out the door. Y'all already expecting some rapture business this fall.

That is a shame, because hoo boy were Ace and I hyped about Freddy Canteen since about two seconds after his commitment. Ace said he thought Michigan got a "major steal" in his Hello post; I was repeating JUNGLE BEATS on twitter about every six seconds. The genesis was of course the video above, which remains as mesmerizing as it was when Canteen committed.

That what he did as a junior instead of play football. As you may remember, ECA is a weird school, a football version of basketball prospect factory Findlay Academy. Their first season was Canteen's junior year of high school; ECA got to play three games before Maryland's high school athletic association came down with a ruling that said no one could play them. Canteen locked himself in a gym for the next nine months trying to break as many fitbits as possible.

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He joined a band called And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead Fitbits. He sent Louis CK several jokes about fitbits. &c

This left him off the radars of both recruiting site and college for a long time. Canteen's first BCS offers were from local schools that aren't really powerhouses: Rutgers and Maryland. ECA embarked on a summer-long tour of various summer camps, though, and when he hit Michigan an offer did not take long to get issued. Tennessee followed shortly after when ECA hit Knoxville, but Canteen was already headed for Ann Arbor. He announced a few days later.

Evaluations were thin on the ground then—I remember finding the Jungle Beats video was a major step forward at the moment—but the recruiting sites have filled in the gaps. Michigan has won a route artisan. This was as a 160-pound sophomore:

A terrific route runner with sneaky acceleration, Canteen gets separation easily and has sure hands. He catches the ball at its highest point often and he has the hops to go up and get it.

At the Rivals Camp Series the next year:

There may not have been a better route-runner on the field than Canteen. If he gets a clean release from the line, the defensive backs were rarely able to catch up and make a play on the ball. One of the things that stood out about Canteen was his explosiveness out of his breaks. One multiple occasions, Canteen fooled the defensive back with a hitch-and-go route and ending up with a wide open touchdown catch.

Scout's Brian Dohn took in an ECA game last year:

Canteen is fluid in and out of breaks and he did a nice job of setting up defensive backs with subtle moves before planting his foot and making his cut. …

Canteen has exceptional body control and very good footwork near the sideline, and not only can he go up and catch a ball, he tracks it low and can get down to the turf and get his hands under a low-thrown ball. …

Canteen is versatile and exciting. He has elusiveness in his ability after the catch, and he is an exceptional route runner who did not disappoint. He is good on film, but it doesn't do justice to the speed he plays at when watching him live.

The downsides: blocking and size. A couple of other evaluations do mention that Canteen's spindliness does mean he can get jammed at the line. That's something a few more pounds will help with.

Prior to that ECA game, Dohn saw Canteen at a local 7on7 at which ECA won the title:

He ran exceptional routes, there was no one who could cover him during the day, and he was effective in the short passing game and also getting behind the secondary time and again. The best way to describe Canteen's dominating day was the gasps when he actually dropped a pass. Yes, turns out he was human.

Scout's in-person evals caused them to move Canteen up about a hundred spots in their rankings.

Five-star Florida commit Jalen Tabor is from the same area, and the two had something of a camp rivalry going. Tabor is a fan:

"He’s got good routes.  I definitely respect Freddy Canteen.  We go at it all the time.  That’s my man.  We just had 7-on-7 at Maryland.  The whole championship game it was just me and him. My coach said, ‘go get (Canteen).’  And they were testing me.  We were going at each other.  So I’ve definitely got a lot of respect for Freddy Canteen. He is going to be good in college.”

This may be why:

He has top-flight speed, above-average hands and shiftiness in his route running. Canteen beat Jalen Tabor deep for a touchdown on the first play of one game and, in another game, scored a touchdown leaping in the back of the end zone and on an out-and-up route.

So, like, at this point when his coach says something outlandish like

“Freddy Canteen I think is the best receiver in the country.  I know how (the recruiting services) operate.  You have fit the measurable as far as size is concerned for them to give you a five-star rating.  But if there is a better route runner in the country than Freddy Canteen, tell me who he is.  I don’t think there is one.  I think the expertise on the staff at Michigan allowed them to spot that rather quickly.”

…you're kind of like "seems in the ballpark of reasonable, at least." I mean, I've got a dozen more evaluations that I'm hacking down to snippets like so:

  • 247: "Canteen understands how to get open and has slick moves after the catch.  Runs very precise routes and can stick his foot in the ground and get separation from a defensive back. Tremendous hands and shows a great feel for the game."
  • Rivals: "…caught a wet, heavy football that was often off target with consistency and made some of the more impressive grabs downfield on jump balls."
  • His coach: "“He is such a gifted route runner.  I guess I would compare Freddy to something like a Reggie Wayne type kid.  He runs routes with the precision that allows him to be opened and allows him to finish off plays in the end zone because of his quickness."
  • You get the idea, surely. Freddy Canteen has been in a lab for the last few years, repeating route experiments with a control group and excellent sample size.

On the meh end of the scale, ESPN's evaluation says he's a nice underneath guy only:

Has an ability to make plays but does not possess the explosive speed that will scare defenses from any point on the field. Is more of a possession receiver than he is a big play guy.

As per usual I have no idea when this evaluation was issued or if ESPN did anything other than watch some cut-ups. That's especially relevant in Canteen's case. ESPN is an enormous outlier here—the next-most pessimistic site has him 110(!) spots higher in their position rankings—and there are many reasons Canteen would be mis-evaluated at a particular point in time. Take it FWIW: not much after spring. Speaking of…

And then he showed up for spring practice. The buzz he generated was immediate:

Teammates and coaches raved about Canteen's impact almost from the first day of spring camp. He's a player with 4.4 straight-line speed, he's agile and explosive enough with his feet to make things happen in the slot, and his general knowledge of football and the speed at which it needs to be played on the college level seems to be ahead of other players his age.

Michigan wide receivers coach Jeff Hecklinski remarked that Canteen brings a speed to the position that the staff hasn't had since it took over in 2011.

By the time the spring game-type substance rolled around he was the guy who started opposite Funchess. (FWIW, Darboh was held out.) He hauled in a 44-yard catch and would have had a second long bomb down the sideline except Gardner left the ball short, allowing Countess to recover. In the aftermath, there was one name on my lips:

Freddy Canteen went from freshman to Manningham in the space of 15 practices …

Also reminiscent of 86, at least as a freshman: people screaming at Canteen about where to line up pre-snap. There was one memorable play in Manningham's freshman year where Fred Jackson was having a conniption fit on the sideline trying to get Manningham to relocate himself; Manningham did not and scored a touchdown anyway. Canteen dredged that memory up on Saturday.

Injury issues for Darboh and Drake Harris removed them from the equation, and one or the other may end up in a prominent role (likely Darboh). Still, Canteen sped past the three guys in the class ahead of him and a guy (Jehu Chesson) coming off a promising redshirt freshman year. That indicates the kid is for real. When does Brady Hoke ever sound like this about a freshman?

"Once you watched him compete in winter conditioning and the things coaches are involved with and just his everyday approach to the game, you knew he had the work ethic and maybe the maturity to be beyond some other guys," head coach Brady Hoke told ESPN.com in late March. "What he’s done out here, I don’t know if I expected it. But we have a lot of confidence in him."

Worth noting that Hoke said he may be either outside or in the slot when fall rolls around. Either way, he will make plays.

Etc.: I SAID MAKE PLAYS:

"He's a playmaker," Funchess said. "All playmakers go out there and make plays, and he's been making plays all spring."

MAKE PLAYS:

"(I'm a ) playmaker, to be honest," he said. "I just want to make plays."

MAKE PLAY:

“He’s earned his respect out here,” said quarterback Devin Gardner. “He’s played well and made plays."

Why Mario Manningham? If there was one guy who was a death merchant at Michigan solely because of his routes and quickness, it was Manningham. He too leapt into the starting-ish lineup as a true freshman at about six-foot-even because he was able to get over the top of anyone at will.

It's easy to throw your quick guy in the slot, and hard for that quick guy to immediately say "bro but we could get 50 yards instead of 15"; Manningham did that. Canteen did it too; to start the spring game as an early-enrolled freshman over a returning contributor plus three guys in the class in front of you is an immediate indicator to upgrade expectations.

Also a viable comparison: Tyler Lockett. Not sure if he's as fast as Lockett.

Guru Reliability: Low. Canteen was mostly off the radar by the time he committed because of ECA's problems. Recruiting sites tried to make up for it by going to ECA games when they actually got to play, but they seemingly did not move him up enough.

Variance: Low. Technician already, has put himself in position to play immediately after strong spring practice. Slight size concerns but the guy is 6'1"; he'll fill out.

Ceiling: High. "Oh, wide open."

General Excitement Level: Very high. Again, narrative of this guy's spring is mondo exciting.

Projection: Obviously playing this year. I do think Darboh's return to full health will bash him to the #3 guy on the outside, and he'll have a slightly less impactful year than the current expectations. This is mostly because I think Darboh is real good and people are sleeping on him after his redshirt.

There is an opportunity in the slot, where Norfleet and (maybe) DaMario Jones are currently. Normally you'd be hesitant to bounce a freshman from one spot to the other but with a guy as advanced as Canteen it may work out.

Next year I expect Funchess to be in the NFL, paving the way for Canteen to start and have major impact.

Comments

gwkrlghl

August 6th, 2014 at 12:19 PM ^

You have very likely 1st-2nd rounder Funchess, then Darboh who was doing Wow things in practice last year, and then a speedy slot / maybe Manningham guy who showed up and immediately passed a ton of other wide outs. If the O-line is better, the offense might turn out to be a really good

Painter Smurf

August 6th, 2014 at 12:51 PM ^

Actually expecting Chesson's role to diminish a little in '14.  He benefitted in '13 from UM having only one good WR in Gallon, until Funchess moved over.  But they have what looks like three good WR's from the get-go this year.  Mo Ways is apparently looking impressive lately and could play this year too.  And they have a couple guys coming off of redshirts.  The days of only having to beat out Jeremy Jackson or walk-on's to see the field at WR appear to be over.

woodfeld

August 6th, 2014 at 12:41 PM ^

Expectations for him seem to be sky high but what is reasonable here? 300 Yds for the season? 500?  Manningham had 27 catches for 442 yds as a freshman.  Funchess had 15 catches for 234 yds as a freshman.  I don't think either of those guys came in as an early enrollee as Canteen did, but I have to think something like 400 yards for him seems reasonable.

UMfan21

August 6th, 2014 at 12:41 PM ^

Is Canteen a guy they might consider for special teams?  If he's got quick feet and can fake people out, I would think those could be nice skills to have for punt returns.  I mean, obviously PEPPERS, but Canteen too?  

I don't know...the last WR I remember with good footwork/juke abilities was Steve Breaston and he did alright on special teams.  Granted, he had longer strides and maybe he was more speedy...I don't know...

Eastside Maize

August 6th, 2014 at 1:30 PM ^

I see a nice freshman year for Canteen. Hoping for around 35 catches and 450 yards receiving yards. I would love Drake Harris to join him but if doesn't crack the rotation then he should redshirt.

GoBlueinMN

August 6th, 2014 at 1:32 PM ^

Thanks, now Amazon is trying to selling me a fitbit on the ad banner.

Seriously though, I think this staff has quietly built a really, really solid receiving corp over the last several years.

EGD

August 6th, 2014 at 3:53 PM ^

I am reading this and thinking about those 2004 and 2005 Texas offenses, in which it seemed like the plan was basically to just send Roy Williams, Limas Sneed, and whoever their other recievers were deep, and then have Vince Young either throw it to them or scramble.  If Canteen and Darboh live up to expectations, it certainly seems like M has the athletes to do something similar.  Certainly I am expecting to see something a bit more sophisticated out of Nussmeier, but that approach did winTexas two Rose Bowls and a MNC.

buckeyekiller1

August 6th, 2014 at 4:09 PM ^

I'm very excited about this kid. However, I'm realistic on my expectations for a true freshman. I don't think he will set the world on fire (this year), but I do expect to see flashes of brilliance from the start. Once he fills out another 25 lbs or so he will be a monster. There is definitely potential for our first number 1 since Braylon (unless Funch wants it and comes back next year).

Tyrone Biggums

August 6th, 2014 at 5:39 PM ^

Considering his frame I would expect him to fill out at 185 tops during his Michigan career (about the same as Manningham). His footwork is impeccable and can only get better against D1 talent and getting coached up from Hecklinski. He's a star in the making, forget the hype. 

CoachBP6

August 6th, 2014 at 5:02 PM ^

He reminds me of Marvin Harrison.  Just his absolutely sick route running makes him a lethal option as a slot receiver.  Once Butt is back you gotta think Freddy will get a lot of open looks with Funchess on the outside and Butt at the TE spot.  I like Freddy's potential and think he will be a great player for us for years to come.