|Warren, MI – 6'1", 225|
|Scout||3*, NR overall
|Rivals||3*, NR overall
NR OLB, #17 MI
|ESPN||3*, NR overall
#71 OLB, #13 MI
|24/7||3*, NR overall
#34 S, #6 MI
|Other Suitors||PSU (decommit), MSU, LSU|
|YMRMFSPA||Jordan Kovacs, except a linebacker|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace.|
|Notes||Warren DLS(Shane Morris). Son of John Wangler, brother of Jack.|
Midseason senior highlights:
Whiplash time in this series as we swing from the highest-rated Michigan recruit in the history of recruits being ranked to one of the few guys in the class who qualifies for sleeper of the year consideration. (Note: the criteria here has expanded to allow one four-star rating from the four services, because there are very few candidates these days if you restrict yourself to pure three-stars.) OLB Jared Wangler is of course the son of John Wangler and brother of walk-on WR Jack, so when Michigan came calling it took him about a week to dump his Penn State commitment and sign on.
Despite the low rankings, Wangler has a few different indicators in his favor. A Penn State offer is nice; Wangler also had an MSU offer and an apparently legit offer from LSU. While that latter was undoubtedly influenced by Les Miles's relationship with the elder Wangler, it seemed to be a real thing($). Wangler was also selected to the UA game, though he missed it after shoulder surgery.
If those things are odd for a guy it appears no one even considered for a fourth star, well... yeah. There is something of a disconnect between those rankings and his scouting reports, too. ESPN's main downside is a need to add bulk, and opposite that you have these diverse and sundry positives($):
Demonstrates very good range to the sideline. Takes proper angles when in long pursuit showing the ability to open the hips to turn and run. ... Reacts quickly to the run and pass demonstrating the agility and balance needed to move through traffic and play downhill to the football. ... tough customer with solid wrap tackling skills and is a finisher who doesn't allow leaky yards after contact. ... relentless desire to chase down the football ...
We see very good underneath zone coverage skills. Displays the athleticism needed to cross over for depth with eyes on the quarterback and shows good short-to-medium route awareness along with high point interception skills. The ability to make tight turns along with his playing speed suggests man coverage potential. ... athleticism should prove very effective as an outside linebacker at the BCS level of competition.
So naturally they followed that report up by ranking Wangler several spots behind a dude going to Georgia State and a 5'10" dude with crazy eyes headed to Colorado. He did edge bros headed to Chattanooga and Albany, though. So he's got that going for him.
Allen Trieu has a similar take, calling Wangler a "very good athlete" and noting his ability to cover over the slot:
... often asked to play over the slot and drop into coverage. ... He does a nice job of taking on blockers and when he arrives at the ball carrier, he's a strong tackler who can deliver a strike. He's a smart, instinctive kid who keeps himself in good position, doesn't lose contain and does a good job of diagnosing plays quickly and using his ability to run to get to the ball carrier.
Trieu listed "athleticism," "hitting ability," and "pass coverage skills" as strengths in his Scout profile with "shedding ability" as an area for improvement--was really hoping for size there--and echoing his coverage praise:
Is able to play over the slot and does a nice job in coverage, both in man to man and dropping into zones. Has good closing speed to the football and is a good striker who explodes into his tackles. Having just transitioned into playing in the box, he simply has to continue to get stronger and work on getting off blocks.
247's Clint Brewster joins the "this guy can really cover" chorus:
...smart, tough, and plays with good technique at the outside linebacker position. He excels in the open field and does an outstanding job in coverage. .... Wangler has an instinctive and quick first step and made a lot of plays behind the line of scrimmage. Wangler’s talent level doesn’t really pop out at you but he is solid in just about every area of the position. ...fluid and fast enough that he's often asked to line up over the slot and handle quick coverage responsibilities.
And his dad is not an unbiased observer but what the hell let's get his two cents:
"He's around the ball, has great ball skills. He'll hit you, and always when he hit, you knew you were hit. But he can move, too. The good thing everyone likes is he's 215 pounds, and he can get up to 230 easy because of his frame. He can cover, too, because he's a converted safety. He can take the slot guys, has the versatility to come off the end and blitz, take on a fullback or a guard and make a play."
So what's the deal with the rankings? The catch here appears to be the "if you can't say something nice..." nature of the recruiting industrial complex. When Wangler hit camps he'd usually get a brief mention along the lines of "good in coverage against running backs" or "underrated athleticism" before folks moved along to other prospects that jumped off the field more. Brewster touches on Wangler's general lack of wow factor in the "improvements" section of his eval:
Wangler isn’t the most talented player out there but makes up with for it being solid in most areas of the position. He has average size with pretty good athleticism but not great overall speed.
In a generally positive live evaluation, Rivals's Tim Sullivan noted his "impressive athleticism" one paragraph before stating that Wangler will never be the biggest or fastest linebacker on the field. His scouting is full of this kind of schizophrenia. Josh Helmholdt mentioned his "great speed to go with his coverage skills," for instance. Even his coach has a bit of hesitation to him sometimes:
"He'll come up and hit you. He's got good enough agility to make some plays in the open field."
It kind of feels like analysts say these things in the same way they say Nik Stauskas is not just a shooter, you know?
Wangler is a high school safety Michigan plans on moving down to linebacker; I bet one dollar that Michigan envisions him as one of those hybrid space players. Michigan's move to an over defense clarifies a lot of weird things we heard about his recruitment, like the thing he kept saying about how the coaches saw him as a SAM or a WILL.
Those are two entirely different positions in the under. They're still pretty different in the over, but it seems clear the meaning there was "if we become an over defense you are a SAM; if we stick with the under you are a WILL. " This is a fit that Magnus foresaw:
For him to fit at SAM, I think he would have to play in a 4-3 Over defense, where he could cover the tight end and play in the C gap. As for the WILL position, I think Wangler has the mental aptitude but not the speed; he diagnoses the plays quickly, but I think he'll be too slow to slice into the backfield or beat Big Ten running backs to the hole.
So for now he is a SAM, one who can hopefully cover a tight end and defeat his blocks. Sullivan caught him in person a couple times and believes this is the plan:
...has a linebacker's mentality at the safety position. Although he's the size of a safety at this point, he has the frame to grow into linebacker at the next level - which Michigan coaches expect him to do.
FWIW, he told Rivals in January he was up to 225, which means he could hit fall camp at 230 or even 235, which is already in the plausible range for playing time. Michigan should not need him, but that does not stop them from playing guys all that often.
Why Jordan Kovacs? Kovacs was always the world's best tiny linebacker even if he was pressed into duty deeper due to his ability to actually do the things a safety is supposed to do. Wangler appears to fill the tough tacklin', awareness havin', tight end lockin' role that Kovacs generally did.
Wangler's obviously bigger and will move closer to the line of scrimmage; he probably cannot be as utterly reliable as Michigan's best safety blanket in a decade and a half, but kid is from a football family, and is a legacy like Kovacs.
Other option here is Michigan's best and really only space linebacker in the past decade or so: Stevie Brown. Brown came with top-100 guru rankings and high praise for his athleticism that was not of the Not Just A Shooter variety, though, and struggled for most of his career to apply that athleticism in a positive way. Kovacs is closer.
Guru Reliability: High-ish. Was relatively prominent for a couple years, attended a number of camps, and there is approximate consensus. Did not get to show his wares at the UA game, though, and his offers dispute he rankings.
Variance: Moderate. Position switch doesn't really bother me since it is a move down, and it seems like he's already approaching a plausible playing weight. But it is a position move and he is a tweener.
Ceiling: Moderate-plus. He can be an effective presence in the slot and a glue guy between front seven and secondary. Probably not going to blow you away with his rippling awesomeness.
General Excitement Level: Moderate-plus. I like adding LB/S tweeners in this era of college football who can shift between hunting slot receivers and still put a shoulder to a tailback and make him stop. Wangler's got a number of reasons to think he'll outperform his middling rankings, as well.
Projection: It doesn't seem like there's a reason to play any freshman linebacker this year what with Michigan possessing a solid, veteran two-deep that has a couple of special teams options further down the depth chart in McCray and Gant... but a couple probably will. It doesn't seem like Wangler will be one of them, what with Ferns enrolling early and Michigan pretty well stocked on slot options what with Countess and the previous guy in this series.
After a probable redshirt, James Ross will have one more year before a free-for-all for the starting SAM job develops between Wangler, Allen Gant, and possibly Chase Winovich or Mike McCray, depending on how those guys develop. Dymonte Thomas may even be a candidate there if he does not win a safety job, at least in nickel packages. Wangler has an excellent shot of at least finding a role then, as it's doubtful Winovich or McCray will be able to approximate Wangler's cover skills. Gant, another converted safety, will provide a challenge.
Even so Wangler should have a three-year run as some sort of contributor and seems to have a good chance to start as a heady effort guy who is built to eliminate tight ends and tailbacks against teams who spread the field.