2015 Recruiting: Alex Malzone

Submitted by Brian on August 20th, 2015 at 1:42 PM

Previously: Last year's profiles, S Tyree Kinnel, CB Keith Washington, DE Shelton Johnson, DE Reuben Jones, OL Nolan Ulizio, OL Grant Newsome, OL Jon Runyan Jr., TE Tyrone Wheatley Jr., WR Brian Cole, WR Grant Perry, RB Karan Higdon, QB Zach Gentry.

       
Bloomfield Hills, MI – 6'1", 200
       

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[Eric Upchurch]

Scout 4*, #185 overall
#14 QB
Rivals 4*, NR overall
#11 Pro QB, #1 MI
ESPN 4*, NR overall
#16 Pro QB, #4 MI
24/7 3*, NR overall
#14 Pro QB, #4 MI
Other Suitors Pitt, Wake Forest
YMRMFSPA Brian Griese
Previously On MGoBlog Hello post from Ace. Ace scouts Brother Rice vs De La Salle.
Notes HS teammate of Grant Perry. Twitter.

Film

Senior:

This doubles as a supplementary Grant Perry highlight reel as well. Scouting video from BR vs DLS:

MGoVideo has his team's snaps from the spring game.

Alex Malzone is the other half of the passing combination that led Brother Rice to the state championship and ensconced Grant Perry into the MHSAA record books; he was the more highly touted bit. He hit a ton of camps and popped up to a solid four star on all the sites (24/7 later dropped him to a three star) despite not having any whiz-bang physical traits.

You probably know where this is going already: heady, polished, etc. You are correct. When Ace and Dave scouted Malzone against De La Salle they came back with the video above and impressions beyond the fact that Malzone was zinging highly accurate balls all night:

The film is impressive enough; what it doesn't show is how much Malzone is in command of the offense. He directed an attack that often went no-huddle, made protection and route checks that I could hear all the way from the top rows of the bleachers, and most importantly, made the correct pre-snap reads. Check out the 1:13 mark, when he sees De La Salle lining up to blitz, changes the protection and has his running back shift sides—the RB is in perfect position to pick up a blitzer and Malzone has enough time to fire off a slant to Perry for a first down.

Scouting reports continually hone in on Malzone's consistency, command, and timing.

  • Allen Trieu, Scout:  “…good velocity on his passes, shows excellent timing and is very accurate. … May not have ideal dropback QB height, but is a gamer and a winner.”
  • Jordan Palmer, Elite 11 coach: "That guy is sponge. … he’s not necessarily physically big. He doesn’t throw the ball like this guy. He’s not as fast as that guy. But man, is he consistent."
  • Barton Simmons, 24/7, comparing Malzone to OSU commit Joe Burrow: "a little bit undersized but has outstanding feet in the pocket and a really live arm. He doesn’t have the ceiling of Burrow but he’s the more college ready player right now."
  • ESPN:  "…marginal athlete for the position. …Really shows good command of the scheme. … Throws a tight, snappy ball. Sticks the ball right on target. … gifted rhythm and timing thrower … Release is quick and over the top. Does show a slight draw back where the bottom point of the ball points backwards as he pulls back to deliver. … ball jumps off his hand."
  • Josh Helmholdt, Rivals, after a 7 on 7: "Malzone was in total command … The ball did not seem to come off his hand with as much pop as we're used to seeing, yet he still got it there with plenty of velocity and was pinpoint accurate with his throws."
  • Helmholdt:  "I watched him lead Brother Rice to the state championship and saw his leadership qualities, the intangibles like managing an offense, how he moved the team down the field. … When we saw him at Rivals camps, he was spotting his passes extremely well, throwing guys open instead of just hitting the open guy. Every pass was on the money."
  • Jamie Uyeama, 24/7 and SBN: "When Malzone has a clean pocket and is properly balanced, I don’t know if there are too many other quarterbacks his age that can chuck it like him. … can flat out zip the ball and it’s really pretty. He has the arm strength to fit the ball into tight windows and to make all the deep throws imaginable."

These are the things that allowed Malzone to complete 65% of his passes en route to a state title.

[After THE JUMP: some funk in the delivery and spring concerns.]

Despite Malzone's extensive experience, early in his he was a bit of a question mark since he played a lot of baseball. That gave him some funky mechanics. Many early reports noted that Malzone had a "hitch" in his delivery and that he was working diligently to erase it. This was partially successful, but not entirely. Clint Brewster evaluated him after the Sound Mind, Sound Body camp before Malzone's senior year:

I was impressed with the amount of velocity he was able to generate on his passes because of his baseball-like throwing motion. Malzone won’t necessarily wow you with his arm but the power and zip he had on his passes made up for the loopy throwing motion he has. Malzone drops the ball low in his release, similar to Bears quarterback Jay Cutler.

That was well after he'd committed to Michigan. You can see hints of that in the highlight video as well. His passes take longer to get out than, say, Zach Gentry. A couple of more detailed reports also note that Malzone has some issues when he's forced to move around. Ace:

A couple throws got away from him when he was on the move or the pocket began breaking down around him; he nearly threw a pick when he wasn't able to drive through the ball at the 2:22 mark, and on the very next throw—on a rollout—he gets his weight just a tiny bit too far out in front, causing him to turf a throw to an open receiver.

Tim Sullivan:

Malzone was feeling some heat. … This displayed the one main weakness in his game, which is a reversion in his throwing motion when he has to move away from pressure. He switches from "passer" to "thrower" when forced to adjust his positioning, unless he has plenty of time to re-set his feet. This led to accuracy struggles at times.

Uyeama also mentioned that shortcoming in his evaluation, placing that caveat about a clean pocket before his highly positive eval. He revisited that later:

The big thing with Malzone is consistency with his his mechanics and his feet. When it’s not consistent, his accuracy suffers and the ball sometimes sails on him.

Those criticisms are admittedly nitty for a high school quarterback that played like Malzone did, but they play into some struggles he's had after his arrival at Michigan.

Given all this and the crater that was Michigan's quarterback position before Harbaugh got to spackling, Malzone's spring debut was highly anticipated. It did not go well. Malzone's team got shut out as he struggled to find anyone further than a few yards downfield. Without the command he showed in high school—and without Perry—Malzone looked like a guy you needed to shelve for a few years. In the aftermath, your author said his stock was down:

Stock down: ALEX MALZONE. I thought he might come in and be the kind of precocious freshman that college football has seen an increasing number of the last decade or so. The practice reports gave you a lot of hope in that department, at least insofar as that he was in the conversation with Morris or Speight and rarely out of it. What we saw on Saturday was a guy who needs to be 100% robotically, ruthlessly efficient to succeed a la Brady or Brees and is a long way away from that. Morris was clearly better; Malzone will have to wait his turn.

A lot of the reaction on the internet expressed concerns about Malzone's arm strength after a couple of his passes almost got jumped. That may be a bit overblown. Emphasis on "may be." While Scout put him in their list of the top ten strongest arms in the 2015 class and ESPN loved his ability to "put mustard" on the ball when it was needed, Clint Brewster was decidedly meh:

Arm Strength 6

Can make all the throws with good zip but he doesn’t show great arm talent based on his highlights. Can spin the ball well and puts nice touch on passes that require it.

After reviewing the spring game I think a few things are going on: Malzone has a bit of a long delivery and he didn't know where to go, thus allowing DBs to close after cuts were made. Because of the helter-skelter offensive line setup and Malzone's indecision, he also had to move around the pocket a lot. Many of his throws were made in a situation he's not great in yet. The actual velocity of the ball seemed fine on the rare occasions he was able to get a rhythm throw off.

That will take time. The payoff when that time is spent could be quite nice. Via Brandon Brown, this is the kind of thing Malzone can do when he's familiar with what his coach wants:

He's been given near-complete control of the offense at the line of scrimmage. He consistently makes checks and audibles at the line to get his receivers into open areas or his backs a lane of daylight.

During the two-minute portion of practice Malzone would hurry his team to the line, survey the defense, and make individual audible calls to every receiver in formation. He was checking to make sure the linemen knew where to be. It was really something to see for a high school quarterback

When he is that guy at Michigan he will be a factor. Spring indicated he had little margin for error in that department, though. He's not going to be a guy who extends plays or makes things happen with his feet; he does not seem to have the kind of arm strength that allows you to make up for a late read. A "gifted rhythm passer" with no familiarity with his offense or receivers is not going to look good. Malzone requires pressure, and time.

This fall Malzone has occasionally featured in a practice report as the third man in a two-man race. A redshirt beckons; Malzone is starting over at the things he's good at.

Etc.: Long, long, long time fan. Successfully trolled DJ Byrnes, though that's not hard.

Why Brian Griese? Griese wasn't big or fast or in possession of a cannon arm. He was just this guy. Eventually he was just this guy who won a national title and became a third round pick in the NFL draft and started for a few years despite not really seeming like an NFL QB in any way. Griese was smart, accurate, and conservative, and that was enough.

You could also go with Tom Brady here if you were willing to bring out the big guns.

Guru Reliability: Very high. High profile QB who went to a ton of camps.

Variance: Low. Malzone is what he is.

Ceiling: Moderate-plus. Some guys that come in Malzone-shaped packages do go nuclear: Brees, Brady. Most of them top out as good college QBs.

General Excitement Level: Moderate-plus.

Projection: Redshirt. Competes for starting job next year once Rudock leaves; likely does not win it. Next opportunity comes as redshirt sophomore (if Morris wins) or junior (if O'Korn wins), whereupon he'll be in a fight with Gentry and Brandon Peters and possibly several other refugees Harbaugh brings in.

I have no idea if he wins that battle. I am pulling for Gentry because got dang a Zach Gentry that's really working out would be something, but Malzone is far from an afterthought.

Comments

kstevens26

August 20th, 2015 at 2:26 PM ^

Gentry/Peters is the likely QB of the future.

I was high on Malzone initially, but Gentry has the upside you can not ignore. Although, anything can happen. Malzone could possess the moxie he needs to take the job next season.

saveferris

August 20th, 2015 at 3:41 PM ^

The QB squad for Michigan back in 1995 looked like this:

Scott Dreisbach

Tom Brady

Brian Griese

Scot Loeffler

Jay Riemersma

If you had told somebody back then that Brian Griese would emerge as the best QB from that group, you'd have gotten a lot of doubters.

Hannibal.

August 20th, 2015 at 8:11 PM ^

Loeffler got hurt, Riemersma had switched to TE by the time that Griese was a redshirt frosh, and Griese had a substantial experience advantage over Brady, who ended up the much better QB in the long run.  The only guy that Griese beat out was Dreisbach, a guy who had pretty unimpressive credentials when he was recruited. 

Hail Harbo

August 20th, 2015 at 11:27 PM ^

Dreisbach was the hero of the Pigskin Classic and then a few weeks later broke his thumb.  He recovered well enough (two surgeries) that he was the starting QB for the 1996 campaign and would have led the 1997 campaign except he again had injury problems.  The only time he lost a QB competition, while healthy, was in 1998 to Tom Brady.

bronxblue

August 20th, 2015 at 2:57 PM ^

I think Malzone will have some growing pains, but anyone discounting him needs to remember he's a true freshman who played on a jumbled spring ball team, and that's about all we've seen of him in college.  He might not be as good as O'Korn, Gentry, Peters, etc., in the future, but college football is littered with guys who were "good enough" and won a bunch of games over guys who were more highly recruited.  Not saying that's the case, but Malzone could absolutely be a guy like Cousins at MSU, who has enough of an arm and enough handle of an offense to guide a team to lots of wins provided you don't ask too much.  

RadioMuse

August 20th, 2015 at 3:03 PM ^

My gut says that Malzone probably won't be a starter for a whole season with the possible exception of his true senior / redshirt junior or redshirt senior year. And even then, maybe not.

But I suspect that he'll be a #2 guy for several seasons (starting in '16) and will see a lot of field. I suspect he'll have his "hero" moment when he goes in for someone with either a minor injury or severe underperformance on the road and pulls out a "W" with moxie. This will mark his "arrival" and we might see him starting after that.

Regardless I'm very glad he's part of the program. In a couple years having a guy like this in the backup QB position sets the floor pretty high. Especially in a complex system like the Harbaughfense.

GoBlueinMN

August 20th, 2015 at 3:15 PM ^

Malzone and Gentry feel sort of similar to Tate Forcier and Denard to me. One guy came in very polished and close to his ceiling, while the other guy came in very raw, but possessing unique physical abilities that made them very intriguing.

evenyoubrutus

August 20th, 2015 at 3:17 PM ^

I always love when DJ Byrnes is referenced here.

"Although, to be fair to Kalis and Magnuson, they were such prodigious talents they spent the 2012 season wearing the same color shirts as many Ohio State fans on game days"

Seriously, I have read better writing by C-students in high school English papers.

Smoothitron

August 20th, 2015 at 3:32 PM ^

The last time Brian mentioned him in passing in a post he responded within an hour on twitter with a link to a truly ancient post Brian made.  It was so fast he must have had the link saved for just such an occasion #ClosetFan.

I trolled him about it. The whole thing was really uninspired. He eventually threatened legal action in the "I'm kidding only if you aren't scared" sort of way.

LKLIII

August 20th, 2015 at 3:32 PM ^

Even if he ends up being a perpetual back-up, he'll be a competent back-up.  For the past several years, seeing that abyss drop off between the starter & the back-up has been terrifying.  Having a back-up that can protect a lead or potentially let the team hang in there & let the defense/running backs mount a modest comeback is a nice thing to have.

wahooverine

August 20th, 2015 at 4:12 PM ^

I think Malzone is being discounted less for his perceived ability gap (he's a composite 4 star afterall) and more for his circumstance:  he's not a Harbaugh guy.  This paired with the fact that he has the least physical upside casts some doubt. Of course he'll get his shot, but had Harbaugh started 1 year earlier would he have offered Malzone?  

Ronnie Kaye

August 20th, 2015 at 4:36 PM ^

Pretty sure Zach Gentry will be a contender to start next season, Brian (unless Morris wins the job this year and comes back as a solid incumbent, which you seem to be writing off).

Michigan4Life

August 20th, 2015 at 5:10 PM ^

FWIW, I know a hs coach who have coached against Morris and Malazone. He said that Malazone is better than Morris at the same stage of their career and he wasn't all that high on Morris. He thought Morris was overrated coming out of hs just like Rob Bolden. He thinks that Malazone would be a solid QB but just concerned with his size.

Sent from MGoBlog HD for iPhone & iPad

Hannibal.

August 20th, 2015 at 8:04 PM ^

I will be shocked if he ever plays a down at Michigan.   He is the least physically gifted quarterback on the roster and in the spring game he looked like a poor man's Russell Bellomy.  If it's going to take three years for him to get to his low ceiling then he might as well get those transfer papers ready pretty soon.  Brady is a terrible comparison.  Brady was a few inches taller and had much more arm strength. He also had higher recruiting accolades. 

Painter Smurf

August 20th, 2015 at 11:33 PM ^

I like Malzone's game, but he does not quite fit the mold of what JH is targeting in the recruiting process.  I believe he would be better-suited for a spread passing offense at this level, where he can work out of the shot-gun and make quick passes.