2015 Recruiting: Nolan Ulizio Comment Count

Brian July 20th, 2015 at 10:11 AM

Previously: Last year's profiles, S Tyree Kinnel, CB Keith Washington, DE Shelton Johnson, DE Reuben Jones.

West Chester, OH – 6'6" 280


Scout 3*, NR overall
#42 OT
Rivals 2*, NR
ESPN 3*, NR overall
#68 OT, #25 OH
24/7 3*, NR overall
#128 OT, #47 OH
Other Suitors UConn, Cinci, Kentucky, Pitt
YMRMFSPA Reuben Riley
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.


Space Coyote

July 20th, 2015 at 10:37 AM ^

I like him as a prospect more than Moorman, who I was never very high on. I think Ulizio has a lower floor but a higher ceiling than Madden as well, who is a classic Wisconsin RT that has a lot of work left on how well he moves, technique, getting his weight low enough, etc.

I'm in general agreement with Brian, I'm a bit higher on Ulizio than the scouting services, but he's probably not going to be a star either. I jus think he can be a really solid interior player for Michigan though if he can work out some of the technical issues.


July 20th, 2015 at 10:45 AM ^

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."

Dude has a giant head so I'm guessing there is a giant brain in there - capable of conceptualizing complex offensive schemes. 



July 20th, 2015 at 11:27 AM ^

Sam Madden was consistently the last guy off the ball for his high school team. He moved about exactly like you would expect a high schooler who's 6'7" and 345 lbs. to move. Maybe trimming off 35 lbs. or so would fix that, but he was very stiff.

Anyway, I'm sticking to my comparison of Ulizio to Mark Huyge. Huyge didn't light the world on fire, but you basically forgot when he was in the game, which isn't a terrible thing.


July 20th, 2015 at 12:38 PM ^

Hells yeah.  Not everyone needs to be a star.  If this guy is consistently in the right place at the right times and gets in the way of his man, that's one less OL to worry about.  This is the encouraging bit:

"He can think on his feet, with the defense a moving object that he reacts to quickly."

It's easy to say in hindsight that a guy should've been a few inches farther this way and his head pointed that way and his feet here and on and on, but that's damn hard to do when everything's blowing up everywhere.  The way I see it, you drill the fundamentals, rep the plays, and teach the concepts.  That last part is all brain.  You don't drill, drill, drill because then once the defense does something you don't expect, you're dead.


July 20th, 2015 at 12:01 PM ^

The recurring theme when people dissect the difference between Drevno's OLine at Stanford and ours last year has seemed to be the way their linemen were able to adjust on the fly and find the right guys to block instantly. This seems to jive with the mentions of Ulizio being able to "conceptualize the game." Maybe Drevno puts more weight on linemen's understanding of the game than do others, believing that he can coach technique, but a guy either has the mental part or doesn't.

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July 20th, 2015 at 12:02 PM ^

With the way Harbaugh develops QBs this guy is a can't-miss future NFL signal-caller. At 6'6 he should be able to see over the OL well, allowing him to deliver consistently on 3rd down.  You also can't underestimate his ability to avoid sacks. How many 280 pound QBs have YOU seen get sacked? None, and for good reason. 280 pound humans are hard to tackle.  And can you imagine a load like him in short-yardage situations? Does the word U.N.S.T.O.P.A.B.L.E mean anything to you?  Because it does here. 

Not that opposing defenses will have a chance with Gentry and Wheatley as bookend tackles, but with the center position so uncertain, this is JUST the kind of powerful and smart game-managing power QB that we need. A flame throwing visionary who can't be sacked or stopped in short-yardage situations? I think Drevno says "yes please sir thank you pal" to that.

At that weight, he projects to have a powerful heart. Which, you can't measure enough of.

YMRMFSPA:  Jay Riemersma pre-shoulder injury.  Jon Navarre BUT fast and without any batted passes. I also see a little Tom Harmon/Steve Everitt potential.

Prediction: Starting QB by Michigan State. It will take a few weeks for him to get the playbook down, you gotta be realatastic.


July 20th, 2015 at 12:24 PM ^

I like this guy and think Trust the Coachs is justified.  D-1 size and strength? Check.  Plays mean and nasty? Check. Good feet/agile? Check.  Smart football player? Check. Hardworker? Check. I'd take this type of guy over a massive, athletic physical marvel, who doesn't have the heart, brain or will to be a great lineman. (i.e. Robert Gallery). His highschool coach said, "he enjoys being an o-lineman". That's awesome and I think that's a telling quote. You can tell on his tape he loves destroying people, but also understands the offensive game well. Looks like he has some real brute strength as well. So he's unlikely a future top 15 draft pick, but I can see him being a real solid, lunch pale type who starts for a year or two, or at worst a great depth guy. Those types are so valuable. If Drevno likes, I like.

Low Key Recidivist

July 20th, 2015 at 2:02 PM ^

1) Big noggin:  Would be interesting to know what his shoe size is, but based on his head, I bet he tops off well over 3 bills in playing shape; low center of gravity as well;

2) Has pretty good feet, but a lot of that is he understands where he's supposed to be and what to do once he's there (the conceptionalizing thing they discussed); this results in good angles and leverage on blocks which contribute to the play.

There's a reason that studies have shown that OL are often the smartest players on a team. It drove me absolutely nuts the last 4 years when an OG would pull or get to the second level on a zone and have absolutely no idea what they were doing - I get the feeling that won't necessairly be the case with Ulizio.

His athleticism will likely limit his ceiling and it remains to be seen whether he can continue to play with leverage and in space against better athletes.  But like Magnus, I believe  he can be a solid backup or even a decent starter because of how well he understands the game.