2016 Recruiting: Carlo Kemp Comment Count

Brian June 9th, 2016 at 1:41 PM

Previously: Last year's profiles. S Josh Metellus, S Khaleke Hudson, CB David Long, CB Lavert Hill, LB Elysee Mbem-Bosse, LB Devin Bush Jr., LB Devin Gil, LB Josh Uche, DE Ron Johnson, DT Michael Dwumfour, DT Rashan Gary.

Boulder, CO – 6'3", 250


Scout 4*, NR overall
#42 DE, #1 CO
Rivals 4*, #215 overall
#11 WDE, #1 CO
ESPN 4*, NR overall
#42 DE, #1 CO
24/7 3*, #451 overall
#19 SDE, #2 CO
Other Suitors ND, UCLA, CU, Stanford
YMRMFSPA Jibreel Black
Previously On MGoBlog Hello post from Ace.
Notes Early enrollee.


No senior highlights on HUDL. Junior:

You can't throw a rock in Carlo Kemp's family without irritating a guy who played or coached football, often at the highest level:

The four-star prospect's grandfather is Sam Pagano, the former longtime Fairview High, Colo., head football coach and Colorado High School Activities Association Hall of Fame inductee. He also ran the prestigious Mile High Football Camp for 36 years.

In addition, Kemp's uncles are Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano and San Diego Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano.

"I pretty much have a connection to every college in America because my grandfather back at home knows everybody [in football] and everyone knows him," Kemp told HuskerOnline.com.

I mean, this is a dude Kemp lives with just hanging out on the sideline of an NFL game.


Kemp's first words were probably an audible to a matchup zone. Pedigree doesn't quite cover it.

While having a bunch of hard-bitten football dudes around isn't a guarantee of success, it's a nice head start. Harbaugh noticed Kemp's readiness almost immediately upon his arrival this spring:

"He seems like he’s been here a couple years. I’m not talking from a football standpoint, but just a guy that being around him, he’s at ease with everything. Maybe a little bit of the Pagano background: grandfather a football coach, uncle a football coach. He’s very mature. Very smart; a 4.0 type of guy. He just looks like he’s in the groove.”

Around the same time Steve Lorenz was hearing that Kemp stood out as "someone who fits the Harbaugh culture." With his background and intelligence, Kemp is a heavy favorite to hit his ceiling.

That ceiling depends largely on finding a solid positional fit. Despite his size he played MLB last year; Michigan gave him a run at the spot in spring practice. That didn't last long. By the spring game he was back at end. If you watch his film, which is his junior year, you might wonder why Michigan bothered to try him out there—that is an end, and a relatively large one. The plan under Durkin was to play him at the "buck" spot, which is hypothetically a LB/DE hybrid but played much more like a standard weakside end even when a Kemp-sized guy was manning it. That might still be the plan. Mattison:

…fills two voids for us as he plays a linebacker position and outside rusher position in passing situations. He has great size and strength and his upside and we are excited about what he brings to the Michigan program.


Carlo is very versatile. He will be a guy who can line up on the edge and go, or drop into coverage, stand up and play linebacker or put his hand down and get the quarterback. Carlo is going to be able to do different things because of his size and his ability to move his feet and use his quickness. He’s a very smart, headsy football player.

On the other hand, Kemp was paired with Rueben Jones in the spring game. Jones, who also moonlit as a linebacker this spring, is a WDE all the way; Kemp was playing SDE. Kemp has reasonable size for a hybrid weakside end right now, which means that in a couple years he's probably outgrown the position. 247 projects him at SDE for this reason, and also issues him the sole three-star ranking he got. It's a concern: Kemp is a tweener who could end up too big for WDE and not big enough for SDE.

Unfortunately, much of the scouting about Kemp talks about BUCK and standing up and dropping back and etc., etc., etc. Buck doesn't exist anymore (and it never did) and your author thinks the extent of Kemp's hybrid role will be short drops on zone blitzes. Meanwhile Kemp avoided the camp scene—he had no need for exposure—and some of the other scouting is contradictory. ESPN says he does bring athleticism to go with the pedigree:

nice combination of size and bulk at this stage with some room to still develop his frame. Demonstrates very good playing strength and a good get-off. … Flashes good speed to power and can knock and drive blockers back when he keeps pads down. Can bring a hard up-field charge, but can lack a plan and needs to continue to develop his pass rush arsenal to fit his strengths. … Athletic player for size.

Clint Brewster's evaluation is in conflict with the get-off statement above; he doesn't seem to believe Kemp has a ton of pass rush upside in college:

…big, tough player that can rush the passer off the edge or drop into space. Kemp’s effort and want-to on the field really pop out at you when evaluating his film. He chases the ball downfield and doesn’t give up on plays. … When he makes contact with people they feel it. Has the leverage and strength to get under pads and bull rush tackles.

Kemp isn’t the most talented prospect as far as first-step quickness or explosiveness and from a frame standpoint he’s not a long and rangy player. … Kemp makes heady plays and is really good with his hands shedding blocks and scraping to the ball carrier. He can really anchor down the edge and control the line of scrimmage against the run.

Scout has "athleticism" as an area for improvement and "suddenness" as a positive, which… uh. Those are more or less the same thing when it comes to a DE. The evaluation itself

…physically very strong, and can overpower multiple blockers and make a play. He shows a quick first step and can beat an opposing lineman off the snap. He's a good athlete for a big man, can move laterally and covers a lot of ground. Depending on how much weight he puts on, we could see Kemp playing on the edge of even moving inside and playing as a tackle.

…says he's a good athlete. Scout doesn't have much else, but they did mention they believe he'll grow into a full time end or "even a tackle" when they put him at the tail end of their top 300 last April.

Rivals's Blair Angulo is enthusiastic—Rivals is an optimistic outlier amongst a bunch of evaluations that are right on the 3/4 star borderline—and helpfully dismisses the LB/BUCK talk to focus on a more realistic college deployment:

"I think he's really good. He's very physical at the point of attack and he's a really hard worker. He plays with a good pad level [ed: !!!] and is football sound as far as gaps are concerned. I think his work ethic is going to carry him to great places in college. … Looking at his film and his skill set I think, if he can keep the speed and keeps the aggression he has now, he doesn't have a lot of weaknesses… [he does need] to get better at getting off of blocks. … he does well to contain gaps, engage blockers, and recognize plays but if he's going to rush the passer almost exclusively, getting off of blocks is a big part of that.

Good pad level! I have been doing these forever and this may be the first time ever that a high school player has had his pad level mentioned as a positive. I mean… if this is not evidence that Carlo Kemp is from a football lineage nothing will convince you.

Anyway. Angulo's evaluation is another one that points to Kemp evolving into a good, maybe slightly boring starter. These reports contrast with Ron Johnson's. Johnson had all four services say something about his explosion and rawness. Kemp's evaluations occasionally mention something that should translate into pass rush; mostly they focus on the fact he's going to be in the right gap and play with good technique. That sounds like a high-floor, low-upside player.

There are a couple of evaluations that think Kemp could be a college star. One of them comes from the Michigan coaching staff. Lorenz:

Michigan pushed for [Kemp] very hard late in his process to beat Notre Dame for his services. Kemp had a solid offer sheet, but one that those around the Michigan program thought should have been even bigger. They believe he can become an elite pass-rusher in any (Don Brown) defense and could be one of the higher impact signees in the class.

Michigan was coming from behind in Kemp's recruitment. Kemp's grandfather played at ND and was indoctrinated young.

"With Notre Dame, it's been rooted in my family for such a long time," Kemp said. "My grandmother started me at a young age always wearing Notre Dame clothes."

The push there was a real thing. Notre Dame's involvement also spurred the other highly positive evaluation, this from former ND QB Evan Sharpley:

Kemp flashes brilliant athleticism, the versatility to play multiple positions, and potential to be developed into an elite collegiate player. Kemp shows ample speed as an edge rusher, the physicality to play inside, and coverage skills to matchup with hybrid tight ends. … Kemp is a smart pass rusher. Impeccable ability to read the quarterback’s eyes will moving upfield.

Sharpley is usually positive, as team-specific evaluations tend to be, but this evaluation is an effusive outlier. Kemp does have some moments on his highlight film where he absolutely wrecks a dude; it could happen.

Etc.: Commitment prompted Harbaugh cartwheel. Middle name is probably Devin. Not real familiar with wolverines:


Yo guy has picture of prestigious award.

Why Jibreel Black? Black was a 6'2" guy who came in as a WDE; he was pretty thick as a high school recruit and ended up a 280-pound defensive tackle. The DT bit was in large part because Michigan was desperate at the tail end of the Rodriguez regime; he infamously was forced to play nose tackle in an OSU game, and that went about as well as you might expect. His best fit was at SDE.

Kemp is probably going to be better than Black because of his background and the slightly better defensive coaching he'll receive. He's also a better-regarded recruit than Black, who was a late pickup and something of a flier. ND was not pounding Black's door down. 

Another couple guys who are potential comparisons: Brennen Beyer and Craig Roh. Both moved from LB to WDE to SDE over the course of their careers as they got bigger; both ended up undersized for SDE but managed to make it work with smarts and excellent technique.

Guru Reliability: Moderate-minus. Rankings mostly agree; significant conflict amongst scouting reports and some positional question marks.

Variance: Low-minus. 4.0 kid with football coaches out the wazoo who's already Harbaugh-approved. The only thing that'll disrupt his career is an injury.

Ceiling: Moderate. I think he'll end up like Beyer or Roh: a solid multi-year starter who grades out well in UFR and maybe gets an honorable mention All Big Ten.

General Excitement Level: Moderate-plus. At the very least he's a guy who gives you a ton of quality snaps. Michigan is going to need bodies on the line in 2017 and 2018 and Kemp's high floor is important.

Projection: Unlikely to redshirt given the Pagano stuff and his early enrollment. Similarly unlikely to have a major role given the many persons on the DL this year.

Future will depend on his weight. If he sticks as a WDE he'll be in competition with Chase Winovich, Lawrence Marshall, and some other guys. If he moves over to SDE, which I think he will, he's going to spend his sophomore year backing up Gary before a two-year run as an upperclassman starter. Shelton Johnson is the only other guy currently on the roster who projects to SDE in 2018 and 2019.


Oregon Wolverine

June 10th, 2016 at 2:37 AM ^

By the end of his career I'll bet 'ya a stay cold 12 pack he'll be 1st team all B1G and honorable mention All-American. His smarts, gap filling, and solid frame scream, I'm appalled to write this, Chris Spielman-light, in a good, non-Buckeye, solid player kind of way.

While over all Buckeyes are sub-human, sometimes decent folks like Spielman make bad decisions as 17 yr olds, and we can forgive them.

Carlos made the right decision and I'm glad we have him.

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Space Coyote

June 9th, 2016 at 1:58 PM ^

And immediately start working on getting his weight up. Like Brian, I agree that he is at least a SDE. But I think he has the frame to be more than an undersized SDE if he gets headed that direction now instead of waiting until he's an upper-classmen. Build his frame similar to Henry's frame, make him a SDE/3-Tech, and then his upside gets drastically higher as a very good athlete for those spots.

At just a DE, he just doesn't have the ability off the edge to be a huge upside guy, and likely does grade out like Roh and Beyer; that is solid but not great. On the interior, he could be very disruptive, could make a much larger impact given his skill set. But he's got to get his weight up; that should start just about yesterday (and I think it probably did as he was already playing SDE in the spring game; a place where I don't think bodies were really needed if they didn't plan on playing him there). Get him to 290-300 by his second year on campus, which I think is feasible without him losing much athletically, and we're looking at good things, IMO.


June 9th, 2016 at 2:05 PM ^

Having a high floor/moderate ceiling guy in this class is a really good pickup with Ron Johnson as the boom/bust guy on the other side. It's a nice hedge - if Johnson busts, you've got Kemp there as a solid player. If Johnson booms, he's got a really solid backup.


June 9th, 2016 at 2:26 PM ^

I would love to see a video of every recruit committing to Harbaugh so that we could compare and contrast.  Anyway, Harbaugh is the kind of coach who can identify talent where others can't see it, and I think he sees something that most do not see.  This guy could be a key player to the defense in 2017.

I like the Craig Roh and Brennan Beyer comparisons. Jibreel Black makes sense inside a vacuum in terms of size and talent level but a comparison from that era for some reason evokes thoughts of our defense getting shredded like a block of cheese by every offense we play.


June 9th, 2016 at 3:32 PM ^

I don't see this comparison.  Wormley was listed as 6'6" and 270 in high school, an utterly large human being.  He was also noted as someone who didn't exert enough effort and would disappear in terms of production.  This kid is as an effort baller from all sites.  Very seriously doubt Wormley played any LB in high school, and the coaches certainly never tried him out there.  

Wormley has incredible strength, like not just a strong guy, but like the strength of 10 men.  Even his most lithe form he would have been an SDE at most.  Kemp is coming the other way, from WDE to SDE if he grows.   


June 9th, 2016 at 2:51 PM ^

to two ranking services. That surprised me.  I know Colorado isn't a huge state, but it's got Denver and a few other cities. It's total population is more than half of Michigan's.


June 9th, 2016 at 6:00 PM ^

FWIW, Colorado's population is about 55% of Michigan's so I'd expect, all else being equal, for them to have half as many kids in the top 300. Going into 2017, the state of Michigan has 7 kids in the top 300 while Colorado has 2, which is almost 2.5. I guess with small sample sizes, things like having 0 Coloradoans ranked happens.


June 9th, 2016 at 3:35 PM ^

I was impressed by Carlo in the spring game.  For a kid who is supposed to be still in HS getting ready for his prom....he did a great job.  He held the point of attack vs. Newsome and got off and made a couple of tackles too.   He is going to be a good player at Michigan.


June 9th, 2016 at 3:46 PM ^

I'm always more optimistic about players than these posts are, but I suppose that's what makes me a fan and not an impartial writer.  When RR came in I was hopeful his guys would be more explosive than Carr's.  When Hoke came in I thought he'd bring in tougher and bigger guys than RR, building from the lines out.  And now I believe Harbaugh has a better eye for talent than his predecessor and see guys who are actually bigger and stronger.  Let's hope the third time is the charm. 

Very small sample on Kemp, but I see Marcus Rush from Sparty.  Nearly the same size, very tough, very smart and gap sound.  Wouldn't mistake either for LB, though you'd be tempted to.  Held the edge until death.  Had some athletic ability to make some plays when they were there.  Neither have elite explosion or athelticism, and I don't think either can get to the passer consistently on his own.  But pair them with others who are making the QB move and leave the pocket, and I think Kemp can clean up a lot of broken offensive plays.  Rush was a great college player, Kemp can be the same if he reaches that ceiling. 


June 10th, 2016 at 3:28 PM ^

Yeah, "slightly better"....?!?!

I think that was an example of Brian & the staff not having to employ the "/s" for us to get it, wasn't it?

And how come no one has said Ryan Van Bergen? Or Mike Martin, in the Space Coyote version of moving Kemp inside to disrupt.

i'd be pretty Damn happy with players like that!