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, DE Carlo Kemp, OL Ben Bredeson.
|Detroit, MI – 6'3", 370|
|Scout||4*, #140 overall
|Rivals||4*, #147 overall
#7 OG, #4 MI
|ESPN||4*, #130 overall
#8 OG, #2 MI
|24/7||4*, #36 overall
#2 OG, #1 MI
|Other Suitors||OSU, MSU, PSU, Bama|
|YMRMFSPA||Chance Warmack or
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace. Onwenu featured in two editions of FBO as well.|
|Notes||Twitter. Cass Tech (many persons). Army AA.|
Ace and Dave compiled a single-game reel from the Cass-Southfield game last year:
Mike Onwenu is a cyborg made of a super-dense alloy who arrived on this planet via atmospheric re-entry. I mean… probably? That seems as good an explanation as any. He had already been on the radar for a while when he arrived at one of the many, many camps he did over the course of his high school career and weighed in at 370 pounds. Around here we assumed this was in error and the enormous dude was in fact Juan Harris, the planet-sized Iowa DT commit. That's because Onwenu does not look like a 370-pound man.
Speaking of mass, Onwenu has a deceptive, compact 370 pounds that he moves extremely well. When he gets all that weight going in the right direction, the Michigan commit is a scary sight.
Nor does he move like one, but scale don't lie.
"There are not many offensive linemen I like more in this 2016 class that … Onwenu," [Steve Wiltfong] said. "Onwenu struggled a little bit with learning the new offense, but what he doesn’t struggle with is strength. No question he was the strongest offensive lineman on the field and he was also perhaps the quickest."
In addition to Onwenu's sheer improbable mass, he has tackle-sized arms. Onwenu had the biggest hands and second-longest arms of anyone at The Opening, which is a who's who of guys with big hands and long arms.
That helps his pass blocking, which was excellent in camp settings. Onwenu took a ton of one on one snaps against high-profile defensive ends. He held his own in an environment that's OL-unfriendly–especially so for man-mountains who get stuck on the edge for funzies. At the Opening he was repeatedly matched up with top-tier OSU DE commit Jonathan Cooper. Cooper eventually nosed ahead after a bunch of reps, but Onwenu got his too.
Michael Onwenu stuffed Jonathon Cooper. Michigan vs Ohio State https://t.co/7alrVMG8wD
— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) July 10, 2015
The reports coming out of these camps are unsurprisingly raves.
- Barton Simmons, 247: "…almost immovable at 371 pounds… very few offensive linemen have had the success Onwenu has had in the pass-rush one-on-ones."
- Greg Biggins, Scout: "…our top guard of the day and had some extremely impressive reps in the one on ones. …an absolute load but moved very well and had the best punch of any of the linemen we saw."
- Mike Farrell, Rivals: "…showed off amazing feet for a massive interior lineman and he reset as well as anyone. He washed opponents across the middle when they tried to go inside him and he extended his arms well and got his feet right when they tried to go outside. His balance was very good and he was solid inside and even outside at tackle."
- Steve Wiltfong, 247: "…played three different positions and was dominant at all three. … a force at the point of attack, showing he could handle different styles of defensive tackles throughout the day, whether it was a big, quick prospect like four-star Naquan Jones, or the shorter, more powerful Brice Brand. …took snaps at offensive tackle, showing his athleticism and feet, stoning Top247 defensive end Austin Robertson on one rep."
- Also Wiltfong: "one of the surest bets to be a producer on the next level….as usual good in pass protection drills and pass blocking, but he was at his best in the zone blocking drills, obviously looking really powerful in his 6-foot-3, 365-pound body, explosive firing off the ball and attacking defensive linemen in the run game as well."
- Dave Berk, Scout: "Keeps pad level low and uses quick feet, great hand placement and strength to fend off defenders. …moves like a player weighing 280-pounds but can he play four quarters of football at the next level at a high rate with the extra baggage."
- Josh Helmholdt, Rivals: "…dominated throughout the spring and summer….a big body, but he is also very light on his feet. He has a devastating punch and gets immediate extension, but he can also engage and move with defensive linemen."
Camp evals are more about potential than production and the above are ample evidence that Onwenu's got rare, once-in-a-generation upside. Cass Tech coach Thomas Wilcher has seen his share of top flight prospects and even he's never run across another Onwenu:
“We’ve never had a kid like him before. Never had a kid like that. That’s a gift to have a kid that big that can move and run. You don’t have kids like him all the time that can do that. He’s low contact, to the ground, good pad level, quick, can run outside zone, sweeps, he can play guard, he can play tackle, it’s hard to find kids like that. We’ve never had a kid at our school with his height, weight and his size.”
Nor has anyone else, at least not in a while. As discussed towards the end of this post, finding anyone vaguely comparable to Onwenu was a struggle.
Ownenu still has a long way to go. He was a defensive tackle early in his career, only moving to the offensive line as a junior in high school. Despite this the technique evaluations he gets are at least on par with most highly-touted OL. He's not Bredeson in this regard, but he's a lot closer than you might think. Clint Brewster:
…fluid body movement for a big player and can move and bend his body to combat rushers. He's able to find and hit opponents out in space. He can anchor down in pass protection and absorb contact. … work in progress with hand placement and proper steps. … generates torque through his hip-snap and has a violent upper body punch.
Naturally strong and wins when he gets his hands on defensive linemen. Would like to see him play at a little lower weight, which would improve overall quickness and mobility, but he bends well, plays with a great base and is technically sound. Could play guard or center in college.
ESPN continues its trend of extremely reserved evaluations, noting that Onwenu has "nice size for play in the trenches" without a single superlative or exclamation point or anything. They tend to like him if you can get past the usual suite of qualifiers:
Good height, with a thickly built and wide frame. … very good playing strength and adequate lower body flexion for size. … good, powerful initial punch. … just average initial quickness in coming out of his stance and getting set and can at times get top heavy and lean and expose himself to rushers moves. … Displays adequate pull ability once in motion, but can be beat slow out his stance. … not a real consistent finisher.
There are some technique issues in there but no more than your average OL prospect, and he has some positives in that department.
It's those 370 pounds—the very thing that makes Onwenu a uniquely enticing prospect—that also bring some doubt into his evaluations. A lot of people mention a lack of finishing from him on blocks. Son of a Coach:
What I hated to see was him not being a consistent finisher. He would put himself in good body position, but not sustain his block. This happened far too often and it looked a bit lazy. The other thing is that I expected someone his size to be a lot meaner.
Onwenu is slow out of his stance, sometimes steps with the wrong foot, does not use good hand placement, and does not finish plays on a consistent basis. Even on his highlights, it's rare to see more than a few steps with any kind of purpose. Once he reaches his assignment - a guy who's unlikely to move around the mountain - Onwenu essentially stops to watch the play.
The only thing I'd like to see more from Onwenu is finishing his blocks. For a guy with his size and strength, he doesn't knock a ton of opponents on the turf, and there were a couple plays when he caught himself not playing through the whistle—he got through the game fine at 370 pounds, but at the next level he's going to need better conditioning.
I'm a little skeptical about how much that matters since opportunities to truly "finish" a guy are rare on the college level. The lack of effort some people perceive is probably an endurance issue—Onwenu is delivering consistent good-enough blocks because he's easily tired. Because he's enormous.
Rivals also docked him once they saw his senior season, but the reasons they offered didn't entirely make sense:
…light on his feet and controls everything in front of him, but further evaluation this fall reveals that he is limited and the top 100 is a little high. Onwenu will be an interior lineman in college, but playing left tackle for Cass Tech this season he has trouble reaching defenders who are not lined up directly in front of him and second moves catch him far too often.
Those are both edge problems that won't apply when he's not playing left tackle, as Josh Helmholdt acknowledges. That downgrade brought Rivals down to about the level Scout and ESPN have him at so it's not outlandish, but I'm not sure what they expected.
Nose tackle is also a possibility. Onwenu mentioned he'd have an opportunity to play defense just before Signing Day, and Onwenu was on D-I radars as an underclass NT and drew praise at his various camp stops when he moonlit on that side of the ball:
Off the snap defensively, Onwenu can beat interior offensive linemen, and he's nimble on his feet.
showed he is a powerful, space-eating, run-stuffing defensive tackle.
TTB was actually a bigger fan of Onwenu as a defender:
The place where Onwenu shows a sense of urgency is at nose tackle on defense. He looks like a totally different player. He's quick off the ball, uses good technique, and finishes plays. He probably won't be much of a pass rusher because it's tough to contort 365 lbs. in enough ways to wiggle around offensive linemen, but he can be a run-stuffer in the middle, especially if Michigan is going to run any 3-4 looks.
There's already been considerable chatter about Onwenu moonlighting on that side of the ball when an opposition positively cannot be afforded a single yard, and this is Jim Harbaugh we are talking about here: they'll explore his two-way possibilities. Given the state of the roster, a full-time move is not likely unless there's a roster crisis.
Etc.: MLive interviews him, asks him what his favorite food is. He says lasagna and then clarifies: Sam's Club lasagna, the kind you need a forklift to buy.
Why Warmack/Watson? There is not a successful Michigan guard in Onwenu's weight class. Michigan took a swing with borderline 3/4 star monster Chris Bryant at the tail end of the RR regime; he saw a bunch of hype and scattered playing time before injury problems ended his career. Bryant was not in Onwenu's league as a recruit and offering him as a comparison isn't useful since nobody really saw him play. So we must venture further afield.
The problem with doing that is you don't find much of anyone with Onwenu's size. Best I can do is former Alabama OG Chance Warmack, who is around Onwenu's height and gets NFL bonuses for getting under 330. Warmack was listed at 320 coming out of high school, which is a very big difference unless that number was massaged downward. Warmack really, really panned out, getting picked tenth in the the NFL draft, and while Onwenu is not likely to repeat that just because of the way Gaussian distributions work that's the best I've got.
If Onwenu ends up on defense Gabe Watson is your go-to comparison. Watson was a humongous NT-only prospect who played at around 340 pounds. He was a five-star or near it, and a lot of people were disappointed at how his career turned out… for some reason. Watson was first team All Big Ten twice and got drafted in the fourth round. People are weird sometimes.
Guru Reliability: High-minus. Close to consensus but 247's heart-emoji eyes provide a bit of uncertainty.
Variance: Moderate-plus. Onwenu's potential, weight, and relative rawness make him a highly variable prospect. OL get taken out with injury frequently, and jumbo-jumbo types are at particular risk. Barring injury I can't imagine he's not at least useful as a run-stuffing nose tackle in a scenario where he doesn't work out as a guard.
Ceiling: Vast. Guy could seriously play at 330-340, which would make him a guard prospect unique in Michigan history. (Alex Mitchell does not count for purposes of this discussion.) If he hits his ceiling should be one of the rare guards who gets his name called during the first round of the NFL draft.
General Excitement Level: High. The Warmack comparison is useful in another way because it offers a feel: Onwenu is the type of guy who is a linchpin in the kind of offense that can deliver some good but not incredible tailbacks a Heisman trophy.
Projection: Is 370 pound OL, redshirt. Will have a shot at starting the year after, with three openings and not a ton of options. It's still probable that Bredeson and a couple of the veterans are ahead of Onwenu; 2018 is a more likely time frame for him to emerge as a starter, as there will be at least one opening and possibly more if the fifth-year seniors-to-be emerge. By that time Onwenu will have dropped significant weight and hopefully adds that ferocity to his game that is currently lacking.
And you know Harbaugh is going to have him play some defense. Expect him in short yardage packages in 2017 and possibly beyond.