|Los Angeles, CA – 6'0", 175|
|Scout||4*, #64 overall
|Rivals||4*, #81 overall
#9 CB, #15 CA
|ESPN||4*, #104 overall
#5 CB, #13 CA
|24/7||4*, #96 overall
#8 CB, #12 CA
|Other Suitors||Stanford, UW, ND, USC, UO, OU, UCLA|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace.|
Jim Harbaugh really wanted David Long in this recruiting class. You know this because Harbaugh famously climbed a tree at the behest of Long's little sister on his in-home. You may not remember that Michigan liked Long so much they recruited him for multiple positions. One was cornerback. The other was ambassador. Per Steve Lorenz:
"Coach said I can be a "do it all" guy for Michigan," [Long] said. "What he said he meant by that was that I can be a difference maker for them on the field, and can be a difference maker for the Michigan brand and the program as a whole. It was really surprising to hear that from someone like Coach Harbaugh because I never really even looked at myself that highly. The staff as a whole just seems to be really excited about me and excited about what I could potentially bring to the program."
As a man who occasionally watches recruit interview videos—it's my job, don't judge me, judger—I was intrigued. I watched a David Long interview, and I can tell you that regardless of the outcomes of the various presidential primaries going on, Long has my vote this November.
He also has the vote from all four recruiting services, which all rank Long in a narrow band in or just outside of the second half of the top 100. Guys with that kind of consensus outside five-star range are generally low-risk prospects who have hit the camp scene, and Long is no exception. He was invited and competed at both the Opening and the Army game, where he was consistently mentioned as a major talent:
- Allen Trieu, Scout: "…has the quickness and feet to play man to man and his ball skills are excellent. He made several plays on the ball in practice and a couple in the game. He's a natural. …probably the most impressive pure corner this week. He has some of the same skills that Jourdan Lewis flashed at the Army Bowl."
- Keith Niebuhr, 247: "made play after play after play. He broke quickly on the ball, turned well in coverage and made plays, often batting a pass away from a receiver."
- Brandon Huffman, Scout: "…West's top-rated cornerback and showed during the week exactly why. … great ball skills and closing speed and did a good job of breaking up a number of passes."
- Adam Gorney, Rivals: "…tested against some great receivers this year and usually won more than he lost. … fine playing press coverage at the line or giving some cushion and then snapping up to knock down the ball. … tremendous athleticism and this keen sense of where the ball is going to make a play."
- Barton Simmons, 247: "Long is one of the most fluid prospects among all the defensive backs during position drills but when the ball was in the air, he made more plays than any other defensive back."
- Greg Biggins, Scout: "all the physical tools you could want in a next level DB including size, quickness, top end speed, instincts and toughness. He's a smart player with a high understanding of how to play the game and always competes at a high level. He's smooth in his backpedal, shows explosiveness getting in and out of his breaks and has excellent recovery speed."
You get the idea. Long was well-known entering those events because he went to a bunch of camps over the summer. B2G: "tremendously quick feet and his ability to change direction allows him to shadow receivers." RCS LA: "excellent footwork and he's super smooth in his backpedal." Socal Elite: "Double moves don't affect him at all and maybe more than any cornerback at the event, Long did an excellent job in press coverage sticking right with receivers."
Long is very well scouted, and thus low-risk. He's is also low-risk because of the ambassador stuff. Long was a Stanford commit for a number of months. He's probably not going to have any issues adjusting to college. Even more enticingly, when David Long first popped up on recruiting radars he was regarded as a wide receiver. While he's played both ways for much of his high school career, Long only emerged as an elite corner prospect over the past year or so. It's possible he's just scratching the surface of his potential.
It is in fact difficult to find someone willing to say a bad word about Long. Scout literally begins its Areas For Improvement with "there really isn't much in Long's game that you can describe as a weakness." There are occasional assertions that his speed is only good, or that he's not quite the height you want, but often these come with inbuilt disclaimers. Rivals's Blair Angulo provides an example:
Angulo says there is absolutely nothing to worry about with Long’s size.
“He’s listed at 6-feet, but he plays bigger than that,” Angulo said. “I think his arm length is a plus because he creates some really tough windows for quarterbacks to throw the ball into.
“His explosiveness isn’t off the charts but he’s fast enough to adjust and react to certain movements at corner. We’ve seen him for a few years now and he’s so steady and so consistent. He hardly ever gets beat and just knows how to make plays.”
I know bigger corners are in vogue thanks to Richard Sherman, I wasn't aware that anyone was even a little concerned with Long's size. That feels like an answer to a question about areas for improvement, as they say, that finds the responder grasping for a thing to say. FWIW, this "Son of a Coach" site I've come across that does a bunch of scouting believes he's actually 5'10" based on an Opening Regional, which would explain the above. They also believe he's an "elite athlete," "super fluid," and possesses "great top end speed." That latter is confirmed, as Long has a 10.6 100 meters to his name and ran an electronic 4.4 at that camp.
ESPN's evaluation has another example in the first and last sentences here:
…plays much bigger than his height. He is feisty and competitive with quickness and top end speed to boot. Shifty, sudden and explosive in a short area. Is a guy that can win footraces and run people down. … Has tremendous ball skills. He has soft, reliable hands and plucks with ease. … has the physical tools you look for in a corner: hips, feet, change-of-direction and the ability to make up ground if caught out of position. … Short area quickness and man-to-man cover skills are very impressive. … lacks ideal height, but the skill-set is very impressive for an island player outside on defense.
All right then. If Long's height is the main concern and he plays much bigger than said height, the amplitude of that concern is not exactly huge. Angulo is so high on the guy that he said he "expects" Long to be an All Big Ten player. This is also my expectation based on what everyone else is saying, but it's one thing for me to say it and another for a recruiting analyst to do so.
What about the other stuff you have to do at corner? Like, you know, tackling? I was reading up on various Don Brown things over at James Light's site recently so it's fresh in my mind: Brown has a bunch of calls on which he uses his cornerbacks as important force defenders against the run. You don't get a lot of scouting about those sorts of things at 7-on-7 camps and practices with little contact, but Angulo watched a lot of him in high school and provides some insight:
“I think another thing that could get him onto the field is his ability to tackle,” Angulo said. “He’s a great cover guy but he can be physical and he plays near the line of scrimmage very well. He really knows how to get off of blocks and that makes him valuable on all downs."
Long isn't going to be Marlin Jackson if only because of his size, but it sounds like he could be a capable run defender early in his career.
That checks the last box, then, when it comes to a guy contributing as a freshman. Michigan doesn't need Long to do that since they get the entirety of last year's very good corner corps back; if they were forced to put him on the field early it wouldn't actually bother me that much.
Why Leon Hall? I'm saving Jourdan Lewis even if Lewis is a very good comparison if Long is actually 5'10". So let's turn back to Michigan's most recent highly touted NFL first round corner who was very good at everything but not overwhelming at any one thing. That would be Leon Hall.
Guru Reliability: Exacting. Lock-step agreement, high profile guy, All Star appearance, was at Opening. Zero grades/character concerns. Corner is a position that's relatively easy to scout as well.
Variance: Low. Has my vote for president. Also has the combination of head and speed to make it unlikely he busts.
Ceiling: High. Six-foot-ish corner with long arms is the kind of player it's easy to see in the early rounds of the NFL draft.
General Excitement Level: Very high. Long is as close to a sure thing as it gets. Which is only like 80% sure because crootin, but I'd be surprised if he left Michigan without being All Big Ten.
Projection: Surprise: I believe Long will play this year because he will be needed next year. This is the case for every Michigan DB commit in the 2016 class. He should play a bunch on special teams and get whatever garbage time snaps are available in the expectation he will be called upon to start in 2017. He should also get some live-fire action a la Stribling and Lewis as freshmen.
That 2017 CB battle needs to find two winners amongst Brandon Watson, Keith Washington, Lavert Hill, Long, and whichever freshmen enter this year; Long is likely to be one of them.