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.
|Cheshire, CT – 6'4", 210|
|Scout||4*, #90 overall
|Rivals||4*, #76 overall
#11 WR, #1 CT
|ESPN||4*, #225 overall
#33 WR, #1 CT
|24/7||4*, #194 overall
#28 WR, #1 CT
|Other Suitors||ND, Bama, UCLA, Auburn, Stanford, Harvard, Yale|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace.|
|Notes||Twitter. Man, it's a hot one.|
Tarik Black has been sanded. He was mixed thoroughly before being placed in the pan. He was the subject of that one Sade song. You do not need ice to consume shots of him. You will not get splinters from Tarik Black. His coefficient of friction is remarkably low. Give Tarik Black your heart, make it real, or just forget about it.
Don't take my word for it. Take almost everyone who's ever talked about Tarik Black. ESPN:
long and smooth … quick feet and smooth stride … elusive in traffic flashing the ability to make first tackler miss while his smooth stride and tough finishing effort can eat up chunks of yardage.
"… very smooth runner and you can’t tell how fast he really is. His long stride and smoothness is deceptive. … long-striding, smooth runner.
Nick Baumgardner, taking in one of Michigan's Italy practices:
…no one looked as smooth as Black.
Scout is the king of smooth, though, applying that descriptor to black in no fewer than six different articles, many of them from the Army game. He is a "smooth kid who creates separation." He is a "smooth and cerebral receiver." He is a "smooth athlete with a big catch radius." He's a "smooth route runner for a bigger framed kid." He's a "big, smooth receiver who surprised us with his long strides and suddenness for a big guy." Also—finally—he is "smooth in the open field."
Now I have read the word "smooth" so much that it looks like it's pronounced like "tooth." Good god y'all. Let's take a break from this and what it all means, and talk about the other obvious Tarik Black thing: he, too, is a large man.
A lot of this is going to sound like Nico Collins, because Black and Collins are both gents out of the same loping downfield-contested-ball archetype. Collins is bigger, because Collins asymptotically approaches the theoretical limit of wide receiver size. Black is a bit quicker, a bit thicker, and… well… smoother. They're more alike than different, though, so a lot of these scouting reports could be for either guy. Tim Drevno:
"When you have a player of his size and stature, one advantage is that the quarterback is able to see that big target down the middle of the field. Tarik runs really good routes, has really good hands, and plucks the ball out of the air well, so he has great ball skills, too. He really fights to grab the ball out of the air and we just love his competitiveness."
Bits of ESPN's evaluation that do not include that word:
…wide wingspan and long legs. … could [be] a really physical presence down the road. Top end speed is adequate-to-good …subtle and very effective when pushing off and muscling his way through coverage. …ball rarely gets to frame. Times jumps well and high points the ball better than most. …fields over the shoulder throws naturally. … Will make his fair share of big plays particularly in the red zone. … terrific measurables, he is sneaky athletic and rangy and he catches the football very well in the vertical passing game. Shows toughness.
Scout's eval of Black:
…big target who tracks the ball well and high-points his catches. He goes over the middle and can also get down the field. He has big hands to secure the ball and tucks it quickly. He gets off the line well and is quick in and out of breaks. He knows how to use his size.
The "quick in and out of breaks" is the main differentiator here. Collins comes with some concerns about his ability to separate; Black draws a lot of praise for his skills in that department. Exactly how much depends on when the scouting report was written. ESPN's early fire and forget wasn't too enthused…
…still developing as a route runner. Rounds off cuts, gears down into breaks and must become more precise.
…but over the year or so after that it appears he made a lot of progress. Sanded down his rough edges, if you will. Rivals acknowledged that Black had some work to do in that department, and then he did it:
"…very technical route runner too and gets separation in underneath and intermediate routes … rounded out into this great, overall receiver. He has the skills to excel all over the field. He’s become a much better route runner and that’s something that we harped on earlier in his career but he’s really got it now. He’s explosive off of that plant foot and gets open a lot. … can really make tough catches over the middle."
Many later evaluations marvel at his ability to get open at his size. Former ND QB Evan Sharpley:
"I would love, love, love to be able to throw to Black. Big time, physically developed specimen. … He runs quick and clear routes. … He possesses exceptional balance while adjusting to ball flight and positions himself to high point the catch. Impressive catch radius."
He was outstanding at various camps as a rising senior. He participated in the Rivals Opening analogue, where a reporter asserted he "glides down the field and is very clean in and out of his breaks"; a second take found him the "second most-consistent" WR at the event because "his crisp routes allowed him to create gobs of separation."
By the time the Army game rolled around you couldn't throw a brick without hitting the word smooth, and here we can talk about what that means. His coach provides the clearest translation from scouting jargon to English:
It was clear to me two weeks into his freshman year how special he was going to be. Unbelievable ability to catch the ball, run routes. … I think his route-running ability is freakish, to be honest. He has an innate ability in and out of a cut and create separation, no matter what you're doing.
“Tarik is as natural a wide receiver as I have ever seen. He's just got an incredible ability to run routes and find ways to get open. He gets in and out of breaks like he's a slot guy and yet he's 6-4 and has the ability to go up and be a true X receiver.”
Black doesn't waste movement, or let his footwork put him in a bad spot, or drop balls. He puts defensive backs in panic situations—just ask Benjamin St-Juste. He outperformed his ranking at the Army game:
…has been a major standout. Whether running by defensive backs or jumping over them, he has caught almost every ball thrown his way. He has just been too much physically for some of the best defensive backs in the country. A few Scout analysts suggested he was the top performer regardless of position for the East team on day one.
Other Army-related articles praise his "good, reliable hands and ball skills," "long strides and suddenness," and "ability to get off the line to top gear quickly." Rivals gave him an honorable mention in the "best hands" category—DPJ won it, FWIW—and noted that he got open deep repeatedly.
Black appears to be a player who improved rapidly over his last year of high school, camp season included. By the time he committed Scout was calling him a "complete player":
His size makes him a matchup problem for cornerbacks, he is quick off the line of scrimmage, he has the speed to stretch the field, he gets into and out of his breaks well and he is a red-zone threat. When getting off of the line of scrimmage, Black knows how to set up the cornerback and stick his foot into the ground and make a cut.
While he rose in the rankings you can make the case that he didn't rise enough.
That's in part because Black's stock continued to improve through spring practice. In the spring game he tormented St-Juste on a late drive that was all fade routes; this site got some insider information saying "he's a tough cover with his size and physicality" and used its own eyes to say he's "bouncy, 6'4", and adjusts well to balls in the air."
Reports from the open practices in Rome bordered on effusive. Webb called him "impressive" and noted that the coaches had already started talking about the details that you need to get to great after you're already good:
At this point the coaches are really working him hard on route precision. Rounding off routes... standing up at the top of routes... things that he will improve upon in time. …he's too good right now to not see the field. He'll play. A lot.
And Nick Baumgardner shed his usual grumpiness to near Dick Vitale levels of enthusiasm:
I saw Black work for basically a week of practice. And every time, I kept waiting for him to come back to Earth. Kept waiting for him to drop a ball. Kept waiting for him to botch a drill. Kept waiting for him to miss a route. Kept waiting for him to be a freshman. That moment – at least in the roughly 10 hours of work I saw – never came. …
My biggest takeaway – and probably the best compliment I can pay a receiver – is that he looked absolutely reliable. …he has great hands, great technique, great feet and a great football IQ/knowledge on how to work a route and how to get open.
That is a lot of data, all of it pointing in the right direction. From the moment ESPN put up a positive but not top 100 evaluation Black has gone straight up, resulting in a couple of re-ranks that were insufficient to capture his improvement and a spring session in which he blew Michigan's most experienced returning WR to defense. Dios mio, man.
Etc.: *Santana guitar solo*
Why David Terrell? Terrell's the best combination of size, downfield chops, and the ability to pop open underneath with quickness you would not expect him to have.
He was the #1 WR in the country back in the day before there was a composite and played like it during a three-and-out career that saw him picked 8th overall, whereupon he was a terrible bust in part because of WR diva behavior. Black is bigger and not the #1 WR in the country; he looks to be about as plug-and-play as Terrell. He displays zero diva tendencies.
Other comparables include Adrian Arrington, if Arrington was less of a stick, and Amara Darboh, if Darboh was a couple inches bigger. Greg Mathews if he doesn't quite work out.
Guru Reliability: High. Army game, camps, no projection. Some spread and early takes appear to be outdated. On the other hand, significant agreement. Especially on that word. You know. That one.
Variance: Very low. Black's already the #3 outside WR at worst. Zipped right past every veteran not named Kekoa and allowed Drake Harris to flip to CB.
Ceiling: Very high. Because he's so smooth. *second, superfluous Santana guitar solo*
General Excitement Level: Very high. Black has the profile of a guy who didn't rise enough because he's from CT and has competition-level issues, and he detonated those issues in spring. That puts him on another level from the rest of the (again, astounding) WR class.
Projection: Probably starting against Florida and not looking back. He and everyone else vying for outside WR snaps is going to be in a fight. Even if a couple guys wash out you're probably going to see a 2016-DL like rotation at some point over the next three years, what with Crawford and McDoom and Schoenle seemingly panning out from the previous class.