|Detroit, MI – 6'0", 175|
|Scout||4*, #278 overall
|Rivals||3*, NR overall
#34 S, #8 MI
|ESPN||4*, #262 overall
#18 S, #6 MI
|24/7||4*, #156 overall
#19 S, #3 MI
|Other Suitors||Wisc, UO, VT, Neb, ND, OSU, Bama|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace. JKP featured in three different Future Blue posts and was scouted and interviewed at SMSB.|
|Notes||Twitter. Cass Tech (errybody).|
Single game highlights from the regular season Cass-King game (he's #1):
Jaylen Kelly-Powell was destined for Michigan in multiple ways. For one: Cass Tech. For two: hyphenated name. For three: he was raised in a Michigan household and named after Jalen Rose. For four: there were many assertions he will be a VIPER(!!!), which is still an unusual position for a base defense to sport. (Most Big Ten teams are rolling out a LB/S hybrid at that walkout linebacker spot, and both Jabrill Peppers and Don Brown's history suggest that the VIPER is pretty much a safety, period.) Despite Kelly-Powell's somewhat elongated recruitment, he was the biggest lock on the board until he committed.
Maybe hold up on that last bit, though: while Kelly-Powell is definitely a hybrid something, it might not be a LB/S. When Cass faced King this fall one of their prime concerns was stopping Ambry Thomas on offense. They did not turn to Kalon Gervin, a junior cornerback soon to be given a four-star ranking by every service. They turned to Kelly-Powell. King head coach Ty Spencer:
"We definitely looked at him a lot when we prepared for Cass," Spencer said. "We knew that he would be around the ball a lot and we saw that on film but we didn’t think he was going to be on Ambry. He did a good job on Bry and that’s tough to do. We were looking at him as a true safety but they did a good job switching that up and putting him on Bry like that."
Kelly-Powell played straight up corner against the best athlete in the state who wasn't his teammate. That is confidence. The individual results were iffy—Thomas had 6 catches for 156 yards and all three of King's TDs—but it was good enough for Cass to secure a comfortable 41-20 win.
Most of Kelly-Powell scouting reports feature his versatility prominently, with nary a mention of any linebacker business. I assume Nick Saban's word carries some weight:
“I was asked to camp and Nick Saban put me thru a vigorous personal workout with him,” Kelly-Powell said. “Then I did the 7-on-7 portion. He told me that my versatility stands out and to be able to play corner/nickel/safety at a high level is outstanding. He offered me as a corner/nickel.”
You have to figure that offer was at least temporarily legit since it was made at camp. The main thing for the thesis here is that Saban, the best defensive coach in the last decade of college football, was looking at Kelly-Powell as a hybrid corner. The UA coaches thought the same thing:
"He’s physical, can run, and has great ball skills. He’s really done a great job out in here two days. He’s been covering the slots for us and then today he got some work on the outside receivers," Daniels explained. "He can play a little corner but I think he’s a natural guy covering the slots.
Josh Helmholdt's evaluation is in a similar vein:
"He’s a kid who we list as a safety but could play corner and that’s definitely a plus for him. Versatility in the defensive backfield is a strength of his. ... He’s probably a little undersized (6-0, 180 pounds) for the safety position and maybe not as explosive as you want for a cornerback but I wouldn’t call him a tweener of those positions. He’s just not quite ideal for either one. He can play both adequately for the Big Ten level."
And Spencer elaborated some on Kelly-Powell's best attributes:
"As a safety he can cover well enough to be a guy that can stay in on every play. That’s a good quality to have. Most safeties you have to do some different things with them so they aren’t caught in a mismatch but you don’t have to do that with him.
"He’s ferocious against the run and can really tackle but he’s really good in coverage too. He’s a really strong kid. It’s great when you can have a guy who can cover in man, play in the zone, and tackle in the box and Kelly-Powell is that guy. Even at a place like Michigan he should be able to stay on the field all the time."
This site has repeatedly asserted that Don Brown safeties have to cover man to man, especially deep, and we saw that play out last year as Delano Hill was put in man to man coverage over and over again. Hill had to pick up new assignments on the fly as the opposition motion and frequently got singled up against slot receivers. He was certainly a strong safety. In the pre-spread era these guys were mostly covering backs or tight ends and there was a corresponding focus on their abilities as a run defender; these days the strong safety can be—often is—a nickelback. Hill was capable of that and a large and fast man and that's why he went in the middle rounds of the NFL draft.
Safety-as-nickelback is probably where Kelly-Powell fits in both the short and long term. Michigan's current vipers are listed at 205 (Khaleke Hudson) and 210 (Jordan Glasgow); Kelly-Powell is 30 pounds behind them. It's one thing to add that much weight as a lineman; in the secondary that is a truly radical transformation. Meanwhile straight-up corner is probably not in the offing. Adam took in that King game:
Kelly-Powell flips his hips quickly and can stick with Thomas for a bit, but once Thomas gets downfield he’s usually able to gain a step or two of separation. That’s what happened at 00:49, and a closer matchup can be seen at 1:23. It didn’t make the highlight reel for the sake of avoiding repetition, but that same jam-turn-trail happened over and over again that night.
He'd be at that same disadvantage against most college receivers.
Long story short, while Michigan was talking about viper with JKP for a chunk of his recruitment...
"They see me playing their viper position, which is what Jabrill Peppers played for them this year," Kelly-Powell said. "I'll be playing safety, nickel and corner. I don't have a preference."
...it didn't take long for that focus to shift, per Don Brown...
"I thought Jaylen Kelly-Powell jumped in there and did some good things. ...we have fooled around with him a little bit at nickel and strong safety."
...and that is good for both Michigan and JKP.
Kelly-Powell has another critical trait for the Don Brown safety: intelligence. There are a lot of things to get down in Brown's hybrid defense. Kelly-Powell should be able to assimilate things sooner rather than later according to everyone. Thomas Wilcher, his coach, notes his academic inclinations on and off the field:
He's into his books -- 3.8-3.9 student. He just does whatever it takes to get it done in the classroom. He'd be in a football meeting with schoolwork going at the same time as watching film -- in the dark! He'd be right by the light! That's the kind of guy he is.
What have you seen from him on the field?
... He's a person that'll direct players. Plays on information, like a captain or quarterback on the field in the secondary. ...very knowledgeable on both sides of the ball.
Brandon Brown asserts he's "extremely intelligent" and shows up "in the right place at the right time on nearly every play." Helmholdt notes he's "a very deliberate and thoughtful young man," and Adam reported that Cass would put him damn near anywhere:
Cass likes to line Kelly-Powell all over the place. They’ll have him walk down into the box and play near the level of the linebackers in run support, play man over the top as a safety, and play press man in the slot or on the outside.
Getting all that down is a challenge, one that Kelly-Powell is up for.
JKP's run defense is also a plus. He's not a thumping tackler at his size but he's reliable, responsible, and aggressive. Ace:
The four-star junior safety looked the part last week. Kelly-Powell has good size and athleticism and he plays with the type of controlled aggression you want from a strong safety. ... When he tackles he does a good job wrapping up and he reads plays well. ... put an exclamation point on his day by closing on a short pass to the flat and laying a huge hit on the receiver to end any hope of reaching the sticks on a third down.
ESPN's evaluation notes his "modest size" but asserts he plays bigger than that:
Aggressive box player who will set the edge. Plays with some pop and edge to him. Lacks size behind him but will stick his nose in the mix and work leverage maintain force. Runs the alley with proper angles when aligned at safety. Understands fits and retaining leverage on ball. ... plays fast, competes hard and has great recovery quickness. Lacks some size and and at this time may project best as a Nickel corner.
Aggressive both at the line of scrimmage jamming and when in run support. Solid wrap-up tackler more than he is a striker. Very smart and disciplined and gets himself in the right places.
We didn't hear too much about Kelly-Powell this spring. He played in the spring game but didn't end up making—or allowing—a big play. Like Woods, there were some scattered positive coach mentions. Brian Smith said he's "really technically sound" for a young player and praised his man-to-man skills; Steve Lorenz related that both early-enrolled safeties were "fierce competitors" and natural fits with Harbaugh's culture.
JKP is an unsung hero waiting to happen.
Etc: Ambry Thomas's cousin, which turned out to be a nice bonus. Oregon apparently has a throne you sit on.
Why Blake Countess? Finding a recent Michigan comparable is difficult. A lot of this post reminds me of Tyree Kinnel, but he hasn't played enough for anyone to remember how he plays. Other nickel types like Brandon Harrison are radically different players. (Harrison was a 5'8" flash.) Delano Hill, Michigan's best man coverage safety in a minute, arrived at Michigan listed at 200; Marlin Jackson is also a rough comparison for similar reasons.
So Countess will have to do. He was a pure corner out of high school who became an outstanding, heady zone interception magnet; when forced into a man press outside role he was a disaster. Played safety after a grad transfer to Auburn, where he was rather infamously not prepared for Leonard Fournette. JKP should be a version of Countess that's mostly the nickel corner Countess always should have been, though his run D should be much better.
Another potential comparison is OSU's Damon Webb, who arrived at OSU as a corner and will finish his career as a cover-oriented safety. JKP also promises to be the kind of big-play preventer and omnipresent defensive organizer that Jordan Kovacs was, but he should be way better as a slot corner.
Guru Reliability. High-minus. Heavily scouted Cass player; a sizeable spread.
Variance: Low. Major upset if he's not a contributor, A+ peripherals guy, does not appear to have a huge ceiling. JKP is very likely to get a bunch of snaps and very unlikely to be an All American.
Ceiling: Moderate-plus. As mentioned, ceiling doesn't seem huge. Size is middling, not a super-elite athlete. Plus because the kind of things he does will help glue together various hellbeasts around him into a coherent unit. Football version of Jordan Morgan.
General Excitement Level: Moderate-plus. Should hit his pretty good ceiling.
Projection: As with Woods, early enrollment, lack of safety depth, and special teams suitability point towards immediate playing time. Unlikely to immediately unseat coaches' fave-rave Metellus or the already-blooded Kinnel, and could get blocked for a while by both. Does have a path to the field even if not a starter as a dimeback over the slot, a role that would garner him a couple hundred snaps over the course of the season.
Will compete for a starting safety role upon Kinnel's graduation; Woods would be a more natural fit for a free safety spot but FS Metellus/SS JKP is another valid configuration. If he doesn't win that job would be heavy favorite to start as a senior with Metellus's departure.
The overall thrust of this section rather argues for a redshirt to gain an extra year of separation from Metellus. That might be the most beneficial effect of snagging a grad transfer safety.