2017 Recruiting: Ben Mason

Submitted by Brian on August 9th, 2017 at 11:48 AM

Previously: Last year's profiles. S J'Marick Woods, S Jaylen Kelly-Powell, S Brad Hawkins, CB Ambry Thomas, CB Benjamin St-Juste, LB Drew Singleton, LB Jordan Anthony, LB Josh Ross, DE Kwity Paye, DE Luiji Vilain, DE Corey Malone-Hatcher, DE Deron Irving-Bey, DT Donovan Jeter, DT Phil Paea, DT James Hudson, DT Aubrey Solomon, C Cesar Ruiz, OT JaRaymond Hall, OT Joel Honigford, OT Andrew Stueber, OT Chuck Filiaga, WR Oliver Martin, WR Nico Collins, WR Tarik Black, WR Donovan Peoples-Jones.

Newtown, CT – 6'3", 250

920x920 (1)

Scout 3*, NR overall
#57 ILB
Rivals 3*, NR overall
#35 ILB,v #6 CT
ESPN 4*, NR overall
#30 OLB, #3 CT
24/7 3*, #933 overall
#36 ILB, #6 CT
Other Suitors Wisconsin, BC, UConn, Duke, Cal, Harvard, Navy
YMRMFSPA Joe Kerridge
Previously On MGoBlog Hello post from Ace.
Notes Twitter. Man, it's a hot… nah j/k.

Film

Junior:

Senior:

 

Ben Mason is a big thumping guy who would have been middle linebacker classic 30 years ago. Under Don Brown his tenure there lasted one spring practice before he became the MLB's ancient enemy: a fullback. Jim Harbaugh is, to say the least, enthused:

"I’ve never seen anybody go forward and hit somebody better. I think this guy was just made to be a fullback.”

“That would be a great way to be described, right? That's grit, right there. Going forward and hitting somebody better than anybody I've ever seen – I'd like to be described that way. That's somebody's gravestone!”

That was an appearance during Pardon My Take's "Grit Week," and he'd repeat that nearly verbatim a few days later on WTKA:

“Ben Mason goes forward and hits people better than anybody I’ve ever seen and what a great thing to say about somebody that they go forward and hit people, and that’s the fullback position. Your identity is a lot on offense with the fullback. If there’s one guy that you say what’s our identity as an offense, the fullback’s carrying a lot of water there.

“Who would you rather have than Ben Mason? It looks like he was born to play the position. A lot of the running backs are clamoring for it, too. Chris Evans, ‘Can Ben Mason be a fullback? We want Ben Mason as a fullback.’ Other guys see it, too. He’s got a real enthusiasm for the game. He loves football. I’m excited to see where that goes. “

Michigan's need was obvious and… well, sometimes there's a man. I won't say a hero, cause what's a hero? But sometimes there's a man… and I'm talking about Ben Mason here… sometimes there's a man, well… he's the man for his time and place. He fits right in there. And that's Ben Mason. At fullback.

Unfortunately, recruiting sites all but refuse to scout folks at fullback so the great bulk of information on Mason is about his play at linebacker, with the occasional evaluation throwing in an aside about how he's a "very good blocker." You will be unsurprised to learn he is a Hard Nosed Old School Throwback:

Mason is an extremely hard-nosed, old school throwback type of linebacker.

And an Old School Big Ten Linebacker:

Mason is an old-school, Big Ten middle linebacker.

Those are backhanded compliments these days; reports are accompanied by worries about change of direction, flexibility, and coverage:

…had his ups and downs. … clearly more comfortable playing downhill at this point. Mason did struggle in pass coverage … needs to continue to improve his flexibility and possibly drop some weight to play linebacker at the next level. …probably not done growing.

That last bit is a key one. He was already 247 pounds around the time of his commitment. What is he going to be in two years? Probably not a linebacker. Definitely not a linebacker you want chasing slot receivers or, like, Akrum Wadley. Wisconsin did offer him on defense, but they run a 3-4 and probably envisioned Mason as a standup quasi-DE. Either that or they were planning a bait-and-switch because of Mason's potential on O. (Wisconsin knows their way around a fullback.)

He has quite a bit of that potential. At fullback Mason's drawbacks are minimized and his strengths come to the forefront. Like his, er, strength. Don Brown:

"Ben, yeah, shoot -- strongest guy on the team. A tough guy, but -- if you ask me, I wouldn't want to face him in the B gap, coming at me at 60 miles an hour at 247 lbs. So, is that good for our team? I think it's very good for our team."

And his ability to diagnose holes and come downhill. The stuff he's really good at as a linebacker translates precisely to his job as a fullback, both when it comes to meeting someone in the hole

“He’s an absolute thumper in the middle of the field," Friedman said. "He brings a physical presence, especially against the running game. He comes downhill, sheds blockers, and makes plays in the backfield."

"The one thing that separates me from all the other linebackers is the way I come downhill and fill the hole," Mason said. "When a running back tries to run through the hole, you don't want to meet me."

When Mason hits a ball-carrier, there will be no yards after contact. He brings plenty of force to his tackles. …a true, old-school run-stuffer, who is decisive and doesn’t lose ground with false steps."

…and identifying where that hole is going to be:

…game is predicated on technique and instincts. His ability to diagnose run plays and get through the offensive line to meet the running back in the backfield is outstanding. He doesn’t take false steps and goes 110% once he makes up his mind where a play is going to go. His pre-snap reads and alignment put him in the right spots and he takes the proper angles to the ball. His size and physicality really stand out at the high school level.

…able to dominate because of his strength and explosive power. …could also play the fullback position at the next level with his ability to take on blockers and win in tight spaces. … a very good pass-catcher out of the backfield.

ESPN:

Savvy and disciplined … Fast downhill filler on full flow backfield action. Quick enough off the spot to beat blockers to the point of attack and makes stops with inside out angles. Can lineup at a variety of spots and is a very instinctive football player. A strong stack and shedder who can take on bigger linemen and hold his point. Shows great scraping ability in staying square to the line of scrimmage and keeping leverage to the ball carrier. A knock back thumper who limits yards after contact. … big, physical, football fast and has great game IQ.

That's a LB evaluation that sounds like an amazing fullback evaluation. "Savvy and disciplined" might be the best bit there. Even gap-blocked plays will frequently get disrupted by defenses slanting, forcing the fullback to make an instant, instinctual decision to move to another gap. Back when Harbaugh got hired I went back to poke around the Stanford offense and was extremely impressed by their fullback's ability to roll with the punches and insert himself into a useful spot no matter what chaos was going on in front of his face.

Not coincidentally, Owen Marecic was also a thumping middle linebacker.

FWIW, Mason did play fullback in high school, and productively. He had 67 touches as a junior—43 carries, 24 catches—for 647 yards and 15 touchdowns. As a senior he ran for 719 yards and added another 15 catches. His senior tape above is split about evenly between offense and defense, with the offensive tape featuring a couple of Khalid Hill destroy-and-destroy-again edge blocks and a lot of rampaging amongst the villagers. Dude was the Owen Schmitt of Connecticut high school football. His coach:

“Ben is an unusual kid because he has a lot of skills. We’ve used him everywhere on both sides of the ball. He’s very versatile, he has great hands, he blocks well, he tackles everything, he’s smart — he really understands offense and defense.”

How much of that translates to college is an open question—some of his opponents were tiny—but there's a decent chance Mason adds some value as a runner, a la Sione Houma. The traps that fell out of the offense last year because neither Poggi or Hill was a good target for them should return in force.

Even if he's not a plus runner on the college level, if Harbaugh says you're the thumper to end all thumpers that's something to hold onto.

Etc.: Spurred a great Don Brown-ism:

"Ben Mason at the MIKE position -- I mean, if you look in his eyeballs there’d be water in there because he’s swimming."

Why Joe Kerridge? I'd actually written this bit up before a reporter covering the Green Bay Packers exclaimed that Kerridge had "no regard for human life," and now feel vindicated about that. Kerridge was physically ready to go early in his career, starting as a redshirt freshman, and functioned as an all-purpose thumper for the duration of his career. Kevin Dudley and Houma are other options.

If Mason had stuck at linebacker comparables would be Johnny Thompson and Desmond Morgan. Obviously the latter is much more optimistic.

Guru Reliability: Low-plus. Connecticut, nobody ranked him at his college position, nobody cares about fullbacks. Consistent takes, at least.

Variance: Low. Lot of experience at his future position, already big enough for it, high-end football IQ.

Ceiling: High at fullback, low on D. Mason looks like a potential triple threat FB—block, run, catch—and is a plus athlete relative to the walk-ons and the like who often man fullback slots. Likely to be a man without a country on the other side of the ball.

General Excitement Level: Moderate-plus. I mean… fullback. Michigan probably has a bunch of walk-ons who are candidates to hammer people in the face and would do so adequately. Mason does represent an upgrade on those guys physically. I will say this: usually I'm irritated about taking scholarship fullbacks but Mason is an exception.

Projection: Will be the third FB this year—watch out, Rutgers—as Michigan preps him for a three-year starting gig after Poggi and Hill graduate. Only real question about his career is whether any of the walk-ons will be rough and tough enough to be worthy of splitting snaps with him.

Comments

YoOoBoMoLloRoHo

August 9th, 2017 at 12:08 PM ^

30 plays apiece against AF, UC and other lower competition. Just pounds the middle into a pulp so the O can repeatedly run base plays. Then let him create some holes against tough competition when we really need 2-3 yards.

If this O can control the clock late in games, UM should win 10+ games every year.

Whole Milk

August 9th, 2017 at 12:18 PM ^

His senior highlihts are wild to me. His high school ran a crazy mixed bag of offensive packages. Which I guess you can do when you have a versatile man-child who can do it all. 

SteelBrad

August 9th, 2017 at 12:38 PM ^

The most telling comment here is that RBs were asking for him. I'm taking it that they'd rather have leading blocks rather than tackling them in practice.

dragonchild

August 9th, 2017 at 3:09 PM ^

Everything worked against Rutgers.  By the third quarter they were trying to find things that didn't work.

The trap certainly wasn't a go-to play in tough games.  For that matter, Henderson wasn't a go-to player in tough games.  Partially because the trap was on film so it'd have lost some of its effectiveness one way or another, and partially because our current FBs aren't quite on the same level as Kerridge and Houma were.  I mean, trap or no trap, I predicted that we would see less FB-centric plays last season, and saw that prediction vindicated.

True Blue Grit

August 9th, 2017 at 1:04 PM ^

stage at Signing of the Stars (or whatever they called the event this year).  He looked around the small crowd like he was searching for someone to hit.  Right away, I loved this guy.  FB would be great as would a short yardage down run stopper.  I see him potentially on special teams this year if they decide not to redshirt him.  I picture him as that X-Men character, a mutant that runs through walls and whatever is in front of him.  

BlueMan80

August 9th, 2017 at 1:26 PM ^

Mason, Hill, Wheatley, Bunting, Gentry....Double FB, Double TE, and big WR.  Add Nico Collins, too.

We've got a Howitzer lineup of big guys to deploy inside the 10 yard line.  That should be entertaining.

74polSKA

August 9th, 2017 at 1:50 PM ^

I'm really impressed that he kept his feet under him on the interception at the 0:56 mark. He will surely bring plus athleticism to the FB spot.

A2toGVSU

August 9th, 2017 at 1:58 PM ^

Needs more Fred Jackson

Joe Kerridge, but bigger and more athletic.

On a different note, I think this is the guy Brady Hoke was always looking for. The guy who will graduate "two inches shorter" than when he enrolled from repeatedly smashing people.

dragonchild

August 9th, 2017 at 2:11 PM ^

Courtesy of harmon98:

https://brorlandi.github.io/StarWarsIntroCreator/#!/AKkvILM7Z5RValKdrYTl

As for scholarship FBs, I think that has more to do with supply vs. demand than anything else.  It's thankless work so people with talent want to play at other positions like MLB.  Not many high school or college offenses utilize a fullback.  So the best fullbacks tend to be mediocre athletes = walk-ons.

But don't underestimate the impact of athleticism at fullback.  The image of Aaron Shea single-handedly paving a path to the endzone on an outside run comes to mind.

bronxblue

August 9th, 2017 at 2:16 PM ^

Oh man, he's going to wreck some redshirt freshman LB against Rutgers, isn't he? And an MSU corner is going to get an earful too late in that game.

But yeah, plus athlete at a position where Harbaugh will actually try to utilize it. He probably won't be a star, but I don't have a big issue giving him a scholarship with the upside he's shown.

Logan88

August 9th, 2017 at 3:10 PM ^

At 0:25 of his senior highlight, it sure looks like Mason intentionally bulldozes into that kid being blocked by one of Mason's teammates. He could have run around the block, but chose to blow that poor kid up instead.

 

Mp1228

August 9th, 2017 at 4:20 PM ^

I grew up and played football like 2 towns over from Newtown (where Mason played), they were one of our main rivals. The best game I ever played (which really wasn't that great lol) was against them at their field, which at the time was named "Bruce Jenner field", as he went to school there at one point. This was early 2000's, before the kardashians and all that crap was on tv. I always wondered if it's still named that, or if they changed it to "Caitlyn Jenner", or just completely changed it to something unrelated. Anyways, it's pretty awesome to see him at UM. I live in Michigan now, but my dad still lives in Connecticut and follows high school football in the area pretty closely. I asked him about Mason when UM came into the picture, and he immediately knew all about him and said he'd be a great FB in a Harbaugh type offense. The league newtown and my old H.S. play in is for sure not very talent rich, and not very much size either, so I'm so pumped to hear he's been doing so well already. Can't wait to watch him the next 4/5 years.

Malum In Se

August 9th, 2017 at 5:11 PM ^

I played fullback in high school, so I especially appreciated how he just lit defenders up blocking.  I was content to occupy defenders.  He hits them hard enough to make them questions their life choices that led to the moment of impact.  Kudos.

Showed more wiggle running the ball than I expected from reading the write up.  Shades of Houma.  Appeared to catch the ball well too.  

Coldwater

August 9th, 2017 at 6:29 PM ^

I knew from the instant I saw his game film there was no way he could keep up athletically as a linebacker at the high D1 level....he a fullback period. And he'll be a damn good one.