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.
|Camden, NJ – 6'3", 315|
|Scout||4*, #98 overall
|Rivals||4*, #41 overall
#1 C, #10 FL
|ESPN||4*, #28 overall
#1 C, #6 FL
|24/7||4*, #55 overall
#1 C, #8 FL
|Other Suitors||UF, Bama, UNC, Auburn, OU|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace. Adam scouted him (remotely) against Centennial.|
|Notes||Twitter. Former teammate of Ron Johnson and Brad Hawkins. IMG, thus the state/rankings split.|
No senior highlights. Here's an every snap video by Adam:
And some Rivals bits:
Cesar Ruiz is a rare gent: a plug-and-play high school center. High schools generally shove any D-I OL prospect they get their mitts on out to left tackle for obvious reasons, but Ruiz's transfer to IMG allowed him to spend the last two years actually playing the position he projects to in college.
This was doubly important for Ruiz because he's not just a center prospect. He is The Ultimate Center, per his coach:
There was never a doubt, from day one, that he was going to be a center. … he’s made to play center. I don’t remember the kid ever having a bad snap. … He’s got the right mentality and the perfect personality for the position. … He’s a real student of the game and then he has the physical skills to go with it. … He’s been making line calls and he can really step and snap. … Most guys we bring in we try to cross train them as guard-centers but we didn’t really do it much with him because he was just the ultimate center and we knew he’d be there.
Squat, intelligent, and immensely powerful, Ruiz would have been wasting whatever snaps he took at tackle. Instead he focused entirely on center at IMG, which paid off in a big way. Ruiz hit the camp scene hard, showing at both the Rivals Five-Star Challenge and the Opening, and followed that up with an appearance at the UA game. After each he climbed the rankings until he was the composite #1 center and the top interior OL in the country. When ESPN moved him to #1 after the UA game they specifically noted his growth at his chosen position:
Cesar Ruiz not only solidified himself as the No. 1 center, but is also one of the most improved players over the past three seasons. Ruiz has become not just a big, tough lineman, but one who also incorporates better technique and exhibits football smarts and leadership skills.
This is an opinion with a lot of data behind it. Every time Ruiz hit a camp he crushed it:
- Brian Perroni at the Opening: "a force in the middle. With big defensive tackles trying to bullrush him after the snap, he set his base quickly and stood his ground."
- Sam Webb at the Opening: one of the top five linemen in attendance … After witnessing him nullify the quickness possessed by Jay Tufele in a one-on-one match up Saturday, we watched him stand up to the power of Marvin Wilson. Scout.com’s #1 defensive tackle was stopped cold in two of three reps. The third and final rep could have gone either way. By the end of the event Ruiz had shown that he is arguably the top center prospect in the country."
- Scout at the Opening: "…stoning defensive lineman after defensive lineman … great lower body strength … rarely pushed backwards" Also: "true center with a great base and balanced strength." Also: "When he locked his hands in, it was over. He showed great punch and the ability to uncoil coming out of his stance."
- 247 at the Opening: ""just couldn't be moved … such good leverage, such good hand placement, and such tenacity that he won almost every rep. Even massive bodies … weren't able to overpower Ruiz. More active defenders couldn't out-quick him either." Also: "looked like a total star… dominant … only lost a couple reps the entire weekend … in complete control with his hands, his feet, and the way he plays with strength and technique."
- Rivals at the UA game: “shined … displayed impressive extension and solid power."
- 247 at the UA game: "…stuffed five-star defensive tackle Marvin Wilson during one-on-ones to highlight his standout performance on Friday. … showed his power and his ability to play with leverage. …also showed good mobility when getting to the second level."
- Scout at the UA game: "good hand placement and a solid base during one-on-ones, and came out on the winning side nearly every time …flashed that pop at the point of attack by getting a good jump off the football. Intelligent and self-assured." Also: "a force throughout one-on-ones, and provides a solid base with his ability to sink the hips and get his hands inside to play with leverage. … intelligent kid that has no problem taking on that quarterback role in the trenches."
Ruiz repeatedly took on the best the country has to offer at DT and stoned them all.
Camps are camps and catch the eye. Sometimes they can be misleading, and that is especially true at intellectually demanding spots like center. That doesn't appear to be the case for Ruiz, who has two years of high level national competition under his belt thanks to his high school team. Adam broke down a full game against Centennial:
…blocks are powerful and driven by a very strong lower body … punch is usually well timed and effective when he does use it. … light on his feet … does an excellent job quickly sliding one gap over; his power step and slide steps are efficient, and he seemingly always keeps a solid base. … great at quickly getting to the second level. … his football IQ seems very high. He picked up twists and knew his assignment.… sometimes has an issue identifying the blitzer in pass pro. …technically-sound road grader … could see him coping with Big Ten linemen in year one before developing into a big plus.
ESPN's eval hits a lot of those same points:
Thickly built center… excellent playing strength and good initial quickness. …good awareness and looks to communicate well and do a good job of recognizing and picking up line stunts and blitzes…. strong punch … good base and balance with enough lateral mobility to stay in front of rushers … size and strength to anchor against power. … Can use angles and with size and strength to control and steer defenders … Can work to improve hand placement and keep feet moving, as can go dead on contact. … Tough and hard-working player … can be a guy who anchors a line for several seasons.
And Scout, despite being the only service to have Ruiz outside their top 50 (he was 98th) has what might be the most positive take of all:
He has a great frame. He is very strong. His punch is a real asset. He has shown the ability to get to the second level. He is very smart. He has great awareness. He likes to compete and finish. Michigan is getting one of the top offensive linemen in the country and Ruiz will give the Wolverines an anchor in the middle in the years to come. He, like most linemen, can improve his pad level, continue to works his hand placement better and improve his lateral movement against the quick defensive tackles.
For its part Rivals praised his "incredibly strong upper body with massive legs and great base" and described him as a "natural" when Mike Farrell picked him over top-rated 2016 center Baveon Johnson when asked to compare the two.
Ruiz enrolled early, furthering his chances at playing this year. Mentions from the coaches have been uniformly positive, with the occasional marvel about his readiness. Pep Hamilton said he's "really ahead of what you'd expect"; Harbaugh praised him as an "old soul" after talking up his maturity, talent, effort, and classroom performance; Drevno said he has a special variety of "football awareness," like he has a "videotape machine in his head, almost, where he can play back what just happened to him."
“He’s done it since he was probably in Pop Warner. Most the time in college football you’re getting a guy that has never played the center spot and you’re training the guy to play the center spot. This guy has done it. It is like riding a bike to him. He’s always had a ball in his hand and a guy breathing down his neck. He is able to do that absolutely.”
Practice observers have been hardly less effusive. Your author received a report that "the Ruiz hype is real" and that "people expect him to push his way into the starting lineup sooner or later." Webb singled out Ruiz and DPJ when asked about early enrollees standing out; Lorenz reported back that Ruiz is "college ready" a potential four-year starter.
The one potential hitch is Ruiz's conditioning. He arrived in Ann Arbor at 345 pounds and immediately set upon changing that. So far, so good. As of mid-June he was telling reporters that he was down to 317 and within spitting distance of his goal:
"I feel a lot faster, I wake up in the morning with more energy, they've really helped me get my body right," he said. "My goal weight is 315. Coach wants me to play wherever I'm comfortable. I think that's around 315 or 310.
"I can look back on my first conditioning workout here. We ran 12 gassers, I almost couldn't finish the workout. ... I was dying. The other day we did 16 gassers and I felt fine, I could've done more. I can tell my body's changing."
You'd rather have a guy who's settled into a weight and is changing it by a few pounds at a time. Minor nit. It might have kept Ruiz behind Kugler this spring, though.
Ruiz is a center long term but with Michigan's OL still a year or two away from true depth Michigan has been playing some guard. That's just in case he's the best option in case of an injury, I'd imagine.
Etc.: Gross story alert:
For the first time in two years, Wright thought the nation’s No. 1 center recruit per 247Sports would have to sit for a snap or two.
Ruiz had other plans.
A trainer popped Ruiz's finger back into place in the 2016 season finale, and the blue-chip recruit hustled back on the field to finish out IMG’s 16-6 victory over Bishop Sullivan Catholic.
Why David Baas? I'm not going to pretend that there are a lot of terribly memorable centers in Michigan's recent history. There's David Molk, who is the platonic opposite of Ruiz, Graham Glasgow, and… Mark Bihl?
Baas is the pick here because he was highly touted for an interior OL and hit the ground ready to go, getting one start at guard as a freshman and moving into the lineup for a three-year starting career that saw him named All Big Ten all three years. He only moved to center four games into his senior year, whereupon he won the Rimington. He was scooped up in the early second round by the 49ers and had an 8-year NFL career. He's also a 6'3"-6'4" guy who topped out around 315.
Ruiz should have a career shaped a lot like that, except mostly at center instead of guard.
Guru Reliability: Exacting. Yeah, Scout is a bit of an outlier but their take is in line with everyone else's take. Incessantly scouted at IMG and camps, zero projection.
Variance: Low. Hate hate hate using "low" for OL, but here we are.
Ceiling: Vast. Ruiz clearly has the ability to be the top center in whichever NFL draft he ends up in.
General Excitement Level: Vast. The Rashan Gary of centers? Can I say that? I mean, he's not Rashan Gary, but he whooped up on everyone at the Opening like he was. I probably shouldn't say it anyway.
Projection: 50/50 to be the starting center this year. Kugler left spring practice with a tentative hold on the job but Ruiz is no doubt closing fast as he gets more familiar with the playbook. Even if he does not win the job he's going to play since he appears to be a holy lock to start in 2018.
In 2018, appears to be a holy lock to be a starter, kicking off a three-year tenure.