|West Chester, OH – 6'6" 280|
|Scout||3*, NR overall
|ESPN||3*, NR overall
#68 OT, #25 OH
|24/7||3*, NR overall
#128 OT, #47 OH
|Other Suitors||UConn, Cinci, Kentucky, Pitt|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace.|
Nolan Ulizio was a bit of a weird pickup even in the context that Michigan acquired him in. That context was a pre-Signing Day scramble after a coach was hired in late December. While that situation often provides opportunities for sleepers, a four star guy had just decommitted from Wisconsin and was all but banging the door down for a Michigan offer; Michigan said nah and swooped in on a guy who was committed to UConn… and also considering Kentucky. Sam Madden ended up at Georgia. Nolan Ulizio is the focus of this post.
That is not a complaint. Far be it from me or anyone short of Steve Hutchinson to question the offensive line bonafides of Jim Harbaugh and Tim Drevno. According to his coach, Drevno likes:
“D.J. called me this morning and said the offensive line coach really, really liked what he saw on film of Nolan and said he fits his scheme. He said he’s really aggressive and plays with a nasty attitude and conceptualizes the game really well.”
His coach's personal take is similar:
"The great part about Nolan is he's a very physical, aggressive player," said Cox. "He plays with a nasty attitude and enjoys being an offensive lineman. … He plays with a chip on his shoulder, he plays to the whistle, and he finishes really really well. Secondly, I think Nolan does a great job of conceptualizing what you're trying to do offensively. He can think on his feet, with the defense a moving object that he reacts to quickly."
When Michigan fans scrambled to Hudl in an effort to see what the coaches saw they saw a guy who put together a nice tape in the top division of Ohio football. I normally dismiss highlight tapes for OL, but you may as well watch this one. There's not a whole lot of scouting on him, and almost all of it was after the fact of his Michigan commitment. On the tape, Ulizio looks mean and agile.
That tape and a major senior-year improvement were enough for a couple of the sites to bump him into quality three-star range. He's only a few slots away from a fourth star on Scout; ESPN has him farther down but still in the "he's got a shot" range. Rivals and 247 not so much.
Some of the disparity comes from the late improvement. Ulizio was not on D-I radars until late in his senior year, when UConn stepped in. Kentucky, Pitt, and Michigan followed relatively quickly afterwards.
Scout was the only site that seemed to think this was coming. They'd already ranked him a high three star by the time of his commitment; other sites' evaluations consisted of shruggie emoticons across the board. Scout's Dave Berk on why they were relatively high on him:
One of the more improved prospects from junior to senior year. Ulizio is a strong drive blocker with above average feet and the strength to compete early. Must work on overall flexibility, but showed great improvement in past year. Plays tackle in high school but projects as a guard with the ability to pull or a power tackle. Must get lower to get more power out of his hips.
ESPN gave him a courtesy bump and a decent evaluation($):
Possesses very good overall size and may even be little bigger than what is listed. Demonstrates excellent playing strength. … needs to watch pad level as he can set high … Big, physical kid that can deliver a good initial pop and demonstrating a very good lower body strength and knee drive can generate good push. … Can be inconsistent and a beat slow off the ball, but does demonstrate he can use angles well to help him get into position and get the job done. …better football player then he is overall athlete and ceiling may not be real high.
247 with a similar bump:
… good looking frame for an offensive tackle, with solid arm length and wingspan. He shows fluid movement getting out of his stance and displays a natural lateral shuffle to stay in front of defenders. Ulizio has the tenacity and aggressiveness you like to see on the offensive line, driving defenders back and putting them on skates. He does a great job on his drive blocks, getting underneath opponents and pushing them back.
Rivals did not move him and had another of their unfortunate articles where they ask Josh Helmholdt about his negative evaluation and Helmholdt spends paragraphs dumping on the kid in defense of his ranking($):
"Honestly I didn't see anything there that would have predicted the offers he's received in the last month or so, from the likes of Michigan and Kentucky. … I have seen his senior film and there are some good plays on there and that's what senior film is supposed to be, it's supposed to be your best plays. When I saw him in a full game setting and the camp setting against other Division I prospects, what we saw out of him was a 2-star level prospect."
Etc., etc. The courtesy bump thing is partially CYA on the part of recruiting services, but it's also partially taking new information into account and reconsidering. Helmholdt does not play that game, for better or worse.
A lack of athleticism is consistently mentioned in the negative areas of Ulizio's scouting reports. I wonder what that even means in the context of an offensive lineman, where functional speed is dictated almost entirely by technique except in rare cases like getting out on screens. If Michigan was going to be outside zone heavy that might be a problem. Since they're not going to be, eh.
Ulizio is a guard or a right tackle down the road, depending on whose take on his feet is correct and how much development Harbaugh and Drevno can drag out of him. This was a guy Michigan chose over not only Madden but in-state three/four star borderline OL David Moorman, so Michigan thinks there's something there even if the recruiting sites are generally skeptical.
Given the track records here, you would be justified to deploy Trust The Coaches. Reading all these exhortations for Ulizio to get lower reminded me of Dann O'Neill, a massively hyped in-state prospect who transferred almost immediately because he was reportedly just about unable to bend his legs. He was an All-MAC player at WMU and had a cup of coffee in the NFL, which just goes to show that nobody ever knows anything about OL. Except maybe Tim Drevno.
Etc.: His commitment announcement is now slightly awkward.
Why Reuben Riley? Riley was a big thumping right tackle with pass protection issues who may have been better off at guard. Riley was considerably more touted out of high school than Ulizio is, but underperformed expectations and was just all right as a college player.
Guru Reliability: Low. Nobody was paying attention to him before the flurry of offers except Scout.
Variance: High. Is OL. Is sleeper OL.
Ceiling: Moderate. I don't know. He's certainly big enough to play. There are many people with reservations. He is OL.
General Excitement Level: Moderate. I like him better than his rankings and offers because of that context he was acquired in, and I like his tape. I wouldn't go so far as to say THESE RANKINGS ARE CRAZY, but when guys rise late as seniors they are often undervalued.
Projection: Is OL and is not Mason Cole, so redshirt. After, could compete at either guard slot or RT. Is OL. Nobody knows.