2017 Recruiting: Luiji Vilain Comment Count

Brian June 26th, 2017 at 2:52 PM

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.

Ottawa, ON – 6'4" 245

                  Luiji Vilain 1

Scout 4*, #102 overall
#8 DE
Rivals 4*, #74 overall
#5 WDE, #3 VA
ESPN 4*, #69 overall
#6 DE, #1 VA
24/7 4*, #36 overall
#5 WDE, #1 VA
Other Suitors VT, USC, UGA, Tenn, UNC
YMRMFSPA Tim Jamison
Previously On MGoBlog Hello post from Ace.
Notes Twitter. Moved to VA for last two years of HS.




Luiji Vilain is a prototype edge rusher who packs the letter I into his name four times in eleven characters. Universally hailed by scouting services, Vilain's Army game surge nearly took him to five star status on 24/7. Not bad for a guy from the great white North who's only been playing the American version of football for two years.

The scouting here is very tightly bunched. There's no question about where he'll play or what his strengths are. Vilain gets off the line of scrimmage and attacks your face until he's making poutine out of the quarterback:

  • Greg Mattison: "He has tremendous speed, great size, and can really show his burst off the football. He is what you look for when you're recruiting a pass-rusher and outside player."
  • Michael Clark, Scout: "…explosive off the edge. …fires out of his stance and immediately puts a tremendous amount of pressure on his opponent. He is very physical at the point of attack and has quick hands, which allow him to consistently shed blockers. … changes directions fluidly and is relentless."
  • ESPN: "…lengthy and well-built frame that can continue to be developed and support additional good mass… excellent first-step quickness. Good initial burst and capable of quickly getting up-field and disrupting plays with penetration. … Demonstrates ability to fire out and shoot hands and maintain good football position … at times can catch blockers  …can do a nice job of being active and violent with his hands in attacking blockers. …displays some tightness and lacks great bend."
  • Adam Friedman, Rivals: "the athleticism and strength to make a difference on every down. He sets the edge very well and is an asset as a run defender. …extensive arsenal of moves." Also: "His ability to get off the line of scrimmage and blow past opposing offensive tackles is special. ….he can disengage from offensive linemen and set the edge when he needs to.  …a very, very athletic, solid player and is near elite rushing from the outside. His ability to come off the edge really commands a double team sometimes and you have to know where he is in passing situations.
  • Clint Brewster, 24/7: "…twitchy ball-get-off and an explosive first step …fluid bend-ability  … shows a variety of pass-rush moves, not just a speed rush. He's got the physical strength and the length to bull-rush offensive tackles or cross their face … nice swim move and arm-over move …aggressiveness and motor really stand out not only on passing plays but against the run ….run/pass diagnosis is impressive. … able to diagnose the read-option and come up with stops in the backfield."
  • Anon guy at Scout: "…explosive off the edge. He's extremely athletic and very strong. …changes directions well, has great speed and is good in pursuit. He is very good against the run and the pass. Vilain also has a high motor and plays very hard…very high ceiling.

Negatives are mostly the usual pad-level/is-in-high-school stuff. The main exception is Rivals, which was gung-ho about Vilain early (they had him #89), had a period of relative skepticism (dropping him to #180), and then hit the reset button after his impressive tenure at the UA game. Friedman explained the drop:

"He’ll dominate a lot of guys but when he comes up against the top-two or three offensive tackles [in camps] he has struggled a little bit. When he tries to go inside he can get washed down. … His hand technique caused him to drop a bit and then we saw a lot of other defensive ends that we really wanted to move up. They seemed to be more developed physically, No. 1, but also further along with their inside moves."

Those struggles against top level tackles were not present after his senior year. His week at the UA game saw him move up almost 40 spots on the 24/7 composite, moving him from fringe top 100 range to near five-star territory. And he got there by whipping up on guys like Trey Smith, Austin Deculus, and Jedrick Wills. Scout devolved into Jon Grudenisms as they named him one of the top five defenders in attendance:

If you want to know who was close to about half a dozen sacks, it would be this guy.  Vilain got around the corner and pressure the quarterback numerous times.  He also flushed the quarterback out of the pocket and set the edge against the run a couple of times too.

He had six hurries and three hits on the QB while playing maybe half the snaps. Rivals moved him back up, 15 spots higher than their initial take, because "he played with more power than ever before" and was constantly in the backfield. Mike Farrell went out of his way to say he's "not a five star talent" while naming him the guy with the most improved stock. I guess in Farrell's opinion Vilain is merely a very good, very well rounded, very athletic WDE prospect. He is not a Charlton-esque freak.

Vilain's late surge may be even better for his prospects than you'd expect from that rankings bump. Vilain went from chasing the top guys in his age group to crushing them. Scout:

…has taken his game to a new level this fall. He looks more explosive and stronger than a year ago. Athletically, he is still off the charts. He has great speed and changes directions fluidly. … refined his technique. Vilain is playing with better leverage, using his hands very well and has developed some moves.

He's only had two years in a serious program in the US, and the physical effects were clear:

…showed up yesterday looking like a million bucks. Several reporters from multiple networks commented on his build and overall appearance as a prospect. … When he first stepped onto the scene two summers ago for the Sound Mind Sound Body camp in Michigan Vilain was a long, lanky pass rusher. Now, he's a chiseled athlete with a much thicker overall build.

That was at the UA game, and when Vilain showed up for conditioning he was impressive in a college context. Lorenz:

Luiji Vilain and Aubrey Solomon look ready. While there was a clear dropoff from those players who have already been in the program, the two highly-rated true freshmen are looking solid right out of the gates. Vilain is up to 245 lbs., and you could see why they both were so coveted. They should be ready to contribute sooner than later.

Vilain is already a top prospect and it's possible that he's still got a period of rapid improvement in front of him. The story of his recruitment would be pretty encouraging if he was a potential sleeper; Vilain is already at a high level and may have tremendous upside yet to explore. Brandon Justice caught up with a coach who faced him and that guy said "he's got that Jevon Kearse look going for him," so… okay. Maybe he is a five star, like 24/7 just about made him.

If so, we should know quickly. Vilain has a ton of ability and opportunity.

Etc.: Five-seed in this year's Name Of The Year tourney but was knocked out in the first round by Demon Clowney, a name which 1) is probably not pronounced like a beast from hell, 2) was radically underseeded, and 3) belongs to the cousin of Jadeveon. Those 5-12s are gonna getcha.

Why Tim Jamison? Jamison was a highly touted WDE-only who came in around 50th nationally, like Vilain. He had a similar rep as an edge rush specialist and ended up a 6'4"-ish, 260-270-pound-ish WDE. He was a bit of a disappointment relative to his recruiting ranking, only emerging into a starter as a redshirt junior. He turned in two decent seasons (5.5 sacks in 2007 and 2008) and went undrafted; he did carve out a brief NFL career. Michigan hopes Vilain will be more impactful; he'll be the same kind of player even if he's the ten sack version.

BC's Harold Landry is the ten sack—or 16.5, whatever—version: a prototype WDE around 6'3" or 6'4" who Don Brown recruited. Vilain should seem a lot like Chase Winovich, as well. He's about the same size and Winovich was super productive in limited time last year thanks to his quick first step and relentless pursuit.

Guru Reliability: High. All star game, similar takes, very little projection. Still a little spread.

Variance: Low-plus. Already at or near a reasonable playing weight and slots easily into the WDE spot; some concern he didn't play great high school competition.

Ceiling: Very high. Everything you could want in a WDE except being a 6'6" superhero like Charlton.

General Excitement Level: Very high. Vilain's rapid improvement over the last two years culminated at an all star game where he shot past the best guys in his age bracket repeatedly. He's already very good and his lack of experience means he's got untapped upside even though he's a consensus top 50-ish player.

Projection: Most observers are projecting Vilain to hit the two-deep as soon as fall camp starts and this space is no exception. Michigan needs a Winovich backup. The odd Ron Johnson DT move, even if temporary, is foreboding for his future as a weakside end. Rueben Jones hasn't made much impact yet and looks significantly smaller than Vilain despite having a two year head start. There are no other veteran WDEs on the roster. Judging from their respective UA performances, Vilain is ahead of Kwity Paye and should remain there to start.

Vilain will have a second season as a rotation DE behind Winovich in 2018 and is the favorite to succeed him for a two year starting run thereafter.


Big Boutros

June 26th, 2017 at 3:15 PM ^

I might place a ten-dollar bet on Vilain breaking Mark Messner's career sack record. He will:

A) not redshirt

B) play in a sacktastic scheme

C) probably play in more total games than Messner did (49)

If Michigan makes some B1G title games and/or playoff runs in the next four years, Vilain will easily log 50+ career games. I suppose WDEs tend to declare earlier than other guys in the front seven, but if he's only played the sport for two years he will probably stay all four at Michigan.

Jamison isn't as pessimistic a comp as I first thought, either -- he is t8th in career sacks at Michigan and only 5 off James Hall in 3rd.

True Blue Grit

June 26th, 2017 at 3:24 PM ^

to beat, as good as Vilain might become.  Michigan didn't rotate through as many d-linemen during a game at that time as Michigan will likely do now for the foreseeable future.  So, Messner got an awful lot of opportunities to make TFL's.  Messner also played at a relatively lower weight compared to DE's of today.  I think this helped increase his endurance and play at a high level through most of a game.  Still, I'd love to see Vilain accomplish the task.  


June 26th, 2017 at 3:49 PM ^

maybe because he just committed and stayed committed with minimal noise? But I feel he's almost in sleeper of the year category because this is universally a top 75-100 guy coming it at a position of need and he doesn't really get talked about.


June 26th, 2017 at 4:22 PM ^

Nice to get some WDE recruits who actually look like they will stay there during their time at Michigan.  Too many WDE recruits under Hoke didn't have the speed and bulked up into SDE types.

Perkis-Size Me

June 26th, 2017 at 4:50 PM ^

Awesome to think about how he's only played the game for two years and was already that dominant. Now he's going to be under the watchful eye of arguably the best DC in college football. 

I'm sure he'll need some time to get adjusted to the college game just like everyone else, but his potential looks vast to say the least. Looking forward to seeing what he can do. 


June 26th, 2017 at 6:06 PM ^

It's sort of amazing how under the radar some of these defensive line recruits are. Fans knew about him, but you don't hear people talking about Vilain like the near 5* he was.


June 27th, 2017 at 12:15 PM ^

Last season Winovich was essentially a pure speed rusher, spelling Taco who was the every-down WDE, the ideal combination of discipline, speed, power and aggression.

The hope is that Winovich has put on more weight, improved discipline and added some "speed to power" game during the offseason to be the every-down WDE, if not quite the beast that Taco was.  For passing downs and other situations Vilain would spell Winovich as a pure speed rusher.  It's the circle of life.