|Montreal, QC – 6'3" 188|
|Scout||3*, NR overall
|Rivals||4*, #229 overall
|ESPN||3*, NR overall
|24/7||4*, #94 overall
|Previously On MGoBlog||Bonjour post from Ace.|
|Notes||Twitter. Pronounced "Saint Joost."|
Some camp stuff from Rivals:
Benjamin St-Juste was literally unknown to football when he showed up at Michigan's camp two years ago, angling for an offer from a MAC school or something. Instead he got the big one. People scrambled to figure out what this guy's name even was, let alone who he was or how he played.
"You see him and it's kind of like, 'is he a receiver? A quarterback? If he fills out, he could probably play tight end,'" Howard said. "Then when we finally break down for positions, he comes over to the DBs and I'm like, 'man, are you sure you're in the right line?' He said, 'yep.' "
That was the recruiting world's reaction at first as well: ATH or S rankings in the who-dat range. 24/7's first ranking was an 82, solidly in the MAC-or-Michigan-State range.
There he would have stayed if St-Juste had enrolled last year as was initially planned. Instead he delayed to 2017 and hit the camp scene hard. (Canadian primary schools have 13 grades, so most players emigrating to the US to play have a choice to skip that last year.) His performance there validated Howard's initial take, which seemed ludicrously optimistic at the time:
"He's a legit corner," he said. "He got out there, got into drills and got after it and showed tremendous footwork. He's ridiculously coordinated for his size, and that's the thing … I kept saying for his height, and yet he's got good feet for a 5-7, 5-8 kid. It's something to watch, just to watch him move.
"You need those big corners to battle the 6-3, 6-4 receivers, but he handled guys that could particularly be called slot receivers. He was all over them," he said. "If that kid got beat on anything it was a perfect throw, one on one with no pass rush or DL and the ball was barely squeaked in."
Michigan fans (read: your author) who remembered the late Carr tendency to take a bunch of mediocre prospects just because they were at camp were skeptical.
Nike Combine this morning ‼️‼️ pic.twitter.com/ECYnipyGgB
— Benjamin St-Juste (@Benj_Juice) May 1, 2016
There is far less to be skeptical about after St-Juste ran a sub-4.0 shuttle at an Opening regional—his 3.93 was 7th nationally and bested only by the kind of WR generously listed at 5'11"—and then blew up at the event itself. He ran an even faster shuttle (3.86), the second best time in a loaded field. He was named to the 24/7 Opening dream team for his play on the field. He was definitively, obviously a cornerback.
Many of the following takes from St-Juste's 2016 camp appearances echo Howard's from a year prior:
- Adam Friedman, Rivals: “…great height and length, and really flies around the field. Bigger wide receivers were not a problem for St-Juste, but it was surprising how well he did covering the smaller, quicker receivers."
Barton Simmons, 24/7: "…may have been the best big cornerback at the [Oopening]. He moves so well for a guy of his size and was the most impressive cornerback physically as well. He was challenged a lot but was rarely beaten."
Simmons, again: "you're just not going to find a more impressive looking cornerback … really good at staying hip-to-hip with wide receivers and then finding the ball … ideal physical outside cornerback."
Adam Gorney, Rivals: "…spent a lot of time during the one-on-one portion of camp defending slot receivers and he did a fantastic job of getting his hands in there to poke the ball away. The three-star Michigan commit has length and great timing to not hit the receiver but still get his arms around receivers to deflect the pass."
Sam Webb, Scout: "incredible length … readily apparent on a jump-ball he knocked away from four-star wideout Tee Higgins in the end zone in game two. Later in the same game he showed his great quickness when he was beaten off the line across his face, recovered with a quick burst, then dove to break up a pass at the goal line. Then later in game three he showed his good speed (4.58) running stride for stride on a nine-route to Higgins before breaking up a pinpoint pass deep down the sideline. The kid has a lot of tools."
Higgins is nearly 6'5" and was #34 on the composite, FWIW.
You'll notice a paucity of Scout and ESPN takes from that section; unsurprising then that those two services were more or less unbudged in their evaluations. Scout did move him a to high three-star; ESPN was unmoved. The range of opinions here is truly vast. He is top 100 to 24/7. ESPN slots him in behind a dude going to Rutgers and one of Michigan State's desperate late pickups, not to mention three different guys headed to Arizona.
There is a distinct whiff of ESPN's fire-and-forget tendencies in St-Juste's evaluation, which spends a great deal of time talking about him as a safety or potential tweener. An eval after multiple sub-4.0 shuttles and the Opening probably omits those. The corner related bits:
Terrific height and length for a cornerback prospect. Runs and closes well with very good overall range. … Makes up a lot of ground with his length and stride. Shows he can press, reroute and defend the 50/50 ball. Some rigidness when mirroring quicker receivers out of their breaks. … Adequate tackler; lunges a bit as opposed to running through his tackles. College upside is at safety in our opinion.
That was not good enough to get him a ranking higher than the #84 CB.
So recruiting sites still don't know what to do with him, and for good reason: I'm almost certain this is the first time that this series has embedded Canadian football highlights—like, 12 a side, three downs, rouges and everything—for a player.
There are a couple other reasons to be cautious about St-Juste. His electronic 40s from camp season were 4.64 and 4.58, which are only okay in context. (Opening 40s may be electronically timed but it still feels like they're tweaked down.) Tim Sullivan noted a "lack of elite top-end speed"; various evaluations had something along the lines of "not exactly a burner." He's fast but not super-fast.
Also, that brief aside from ESPN about his "adequate" tackling was part of a larger section on his run support that came off as dubious. All of St-Juste's evaluations are based on no-pads camps and passing-mad Canadian football played against guys who are not exactly Leonard Fournette. His run D is almost certainly very bad right now.
Like Thomas, St-Juste enrolled early. With relatively little cornerback chatter from insiders takes were mostly limited to parsing coach quotes…
"He's a big kid who can go up there and get the ball, and he can be aggressive playing press-man coverage. He has good feet for a guy his size, and he can turn and run with receivers. … extremely long, very talented, has great hips, great movement."
…and observing him in the spring game, where he played fairly well for three quarters before the Tarik Black Runs A Fade show repeatedly victimized him in the fourth. St-Juste got beat a few times, picked up one of those unfortunate underthrow PI calls, and looked like a dude from Canada who needed to spend some time marinating. Brown in the aftermath:
“Ben St. Juste, really solid through three quarters. Struggled with a couple fade balls at the end, which a lot of times it’s focus and concentration for a young guy. You’re grinding, grinding, grinding, and just the mental fatigue of competing at a high, high level kind of gets to you, but I’m very confident as to where he’ll end up. He’s 6’3”, he’s long, he’s athletic, he’s fast."
Steve Lorenz did get some intel during winter workouts:
Michigan is looking to cap his weight off at 195 in an effort to keep him quick and agile at the cornerback position; he's currently sitting at 192 from what we've been told and has shown the fluid hips and quickness that pushed him into a Top100 player according to 247Sports.
St-Juste is physically ready to play. Technically and mentally? Never say never but dude is playing a different dang sport; I'd imagine an adjustment period is in order.
Etc.: Speaks French.
Why Ahkello Witherspoon? You may remember Witherspoon as the other Colorado cornerback (ie, the one who didn't kill Speight). He is an enormous person capable of running with guys like Darboh.
When he gets in that trail position on a fade route he provides little window.
Witherspoon offers elite length at the cornerback position with his 6-foot-3 frame and 33-inch arms. He uses his long arms to disrupt the receivers route and stay on top of him. Even if he is trailing the wide receiver by a step on a vertical route his height, long arms and vertical leaping ability all combine to help him disrupt passes other cornerbacks might not be able to make a play on. His length also reduces the size of passing windows and allows him to still wrap his arm around and break up slants where he has already given up inside leverage.
This is the kind of thing St-Juste will offer if he works out. It'll be interesting to see if St-Juste's shuttle ability translates, because every serious eval of a guy like Witherspoon mentions redirect issues despite a 4.13 combine shuttle. They also call out his run support as "not for the weak," specifically pointing to two TDs against Michigan. We have zero information about St-Juste as a run defender but that might be an issue for him since he is all arms and legs as well.
Other comparables include Jeremy Clark, the only 6'3" corner in recent Michigan history, and… drumroll… Richard Sherman. FWIW, Witherspoon was a third round pick.
Guru Reliability: Low. Huge spread, Canadian football, most scouting off camps.
Variance: Very high. List of Michigan guys from Cegep De Vieux is a sobering one: Dubuc, Sagesse, Kashama, Casseus. Kashama was the only guy to play much, if at all. Flameout always possible when grabbing a guy straight from Canada.
Ceiling: Very high. On the other hand, dude has Richard Sherman size with slot receiver change of direction.
General Excitement Level: High. St-Juste is a great lottery ticket to have when you've recruited Long, Hill, and Thomas in the last two years. If he works out he has nearly unmatched upside, and if he doesn't Michigan is probably fine, and he's got a shot at safety.
Projection: Have to figure a redshirt is in the offing here with probably five CBs (Long, Hill, Washington, Watson, Thomas) in front of him and what must be a shocking uptick in the level of competition, Opening notwithstanding. Maybe a 25% chance he pushes through a couple of those guys onto the two-deep, though.
Like Thomas, St-Juste is either going to blow up and be outstanding immediately or he's going to have to cool his heels for longer than you might expect. If he does end up on the bench this year he's got at least one more year of waiting and probably two since the only CB graduating in the next two years is Watson.
The first time there will be a clear opportunity to win a job will probably be when he's a redshirt junior, whereupon he could be just about anything from All American to ghost.