|Rochester, MI – 6'2" 180|
|24/7||3*, #796 overall
#77 CB, #20 MI
|Rivals||3*, NR overall
#60 CB, #14 MI
|ESPN||3*, NR overall
#85 CB, #25 MI
|Composite||3*, #702 overall
#63 CB, #18 MI
|Other Suitors||Mizzou, WVU, UCLA, Cal, UVA, BC, UO|
|YMRMFSPA||Tall Brandon Watson|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace.|
|Notes||Twitter. Mizzou decommit.|
Michigan already had four 6'2"-ish DB commits when they started pursuing instate Mizzou commit Vincent Gray just before the early signing day. The wet fart that was Michigan's finish to the class necessarily depresses optimism about any of the guys Michigan picked up late, but Gray has a few positive arrows. Foremost amongst them is that Michigan absolutely did not need another DB and still thought Gray was worth the pursuit and the slot.
Second is that Gray's senior season garnered him a lot of interest, a few solid-to-impressive offers (Oregon, UCLA, and coulda-shoulda ND per this Mick McCabe article), and may have gotten him some other big time offers if he wasn't a formality for Michigan as long as they checked the boxes down the stretch. Allen Trieu reported that Penn State and Stanford were asking after him. Michigan did check the boxes, and Gray ended up in the class.
Like a couple other mid-level commits in the secondary, scouting is pretty thin. ESPN has zero. What does exist is all from team-specific sites. Mizzou's effort after his initial commitment:
…long, lanky corner with good ball skills. Has excellent height and arm length and uses both well, as he is physical with opposing receivers. …good speed, but not a burner. Has very good feet and hips and accelerates well.
My biggest concern with him is his change of direction. He has to do a better job getting out of his backpedal. Is a sound tackler downfield, but doesn't step up and make plays around the line of scrimmage.
His ability to play the ball in the air is exceptional. Has very good hands and instincts, should come up with his share of interceptions. …raw prospect, but has a ton of upside because of size, frame, and athleticism.
The good news for Gray is that "backpedal" is a thing virtually unknown at Michigan, what with their near-constant press. Gray isn't going to be a slot corner.
An ND site thought he was notable at an Opening regional:
…pleasant surprise on the day. …still missing that marquee, top-tier offer. Physically, I like where Gray is at. He’s a legit 6-2, 180 pounds. He’s put together well. He showed good coverage skills and an ability to get up in the air and high point the football. He’s someone to keep an eye on moving forward.
The Wolverine pinged Josh Helmholdt, who said Gray is tall and then bagged on tall cornerbacks before asserting he is "one of those rare cornerbacks who possess both height and fluidity." Rivals does have Gray higher than the other two sites, but still in the three-star range because he's a project:
"When we saw Gray go against other Division I prospects in the off-season, I expected him to stand out more. While he is fluid, his break on the football was not as explosive as I had hoped. He is also very thin and will need to add weight."
You'll note that's a camp take. It's entirely reasonable to use camp takes for cornerbacks but it appears that Gray broke out a bit during his senior season and that may not be something Helmholdt saw in person. Helmholdt also did one of those videos when he committed to Mizzou:
[After THE JUMP: Ron Bellamy! Johnny come back it's Ron Bellamy!]
They also caught up with Ron Bellamy—yes that Ron Bellamy—who is the guy coaching AJ Abbott and Taj Mustafa. Both are Wisconsin commits and Bellamy was impressed with his ability to match up against them and 2019 three-star Tre Mosley, who has a bunch of legitimate mid-tier P5 offers.
“They made some plays, but Gray matched up with them very well for the most part, and was a great competitor. Let me say that one more time — we had three Big Ten-caliber receivers, and he was able to match up with all of them. I had the utmost confidence in our quarterback and receivers, but with that being said, we just decided not to throw to his side very much. We went after some of the other guys on his team." …
“He was under recruited,” Bellamy asserted. “I always thought that when I saw him. He’s about 6-1 or 6-2 with long arms, great footwork and good speed. He’s an absolute steal for Michigan.”
But the most frequent and detailed Gray chatter comes from his quotable and detailed high school coach, Tony Pattrito. He has meaty quotes at 247, Rivals, and the Free Press. All of them are fairly similar. Pattrito pointed out Rochester's matchup with West Bloomfield, in which Gray held Wisconsin-bound AJ Abbott to one catch despite playing both ways on a 93-degree day. The Rivals version:
"When we needed him he really stepped up and locked guys down. He brings a lot of talent when it comes to covering guys especially in man to man and that’s exactly what Michigan does and that’s what they were looking for. …
"He’s a legit 6-2, not a program 6-2 if you know the difference," Patritto said with a laugh. "He’s probably in the high 170s or around 180 but his waist is tiny, tiny — he’s one of those guys. …He’s got the kind of frame that he could be in the 190s and not lose any of his speed or agility. He’s a long legged guy with high hips and that’s what everyone wants in cornerbacks.
"He’s still growing and is one of those late bloomer types so I think he’ll really take off once he gets to college and hits that weight-training program."
The Free Press version:
“A couple of guys told me because of supply and demand he is a match corner — he’s 6-2 and everybody wants to play cover zero again,” said Adams coach Tony Patritto. “The day of the zone is going away. Everyone’s trying to play man-to-man, so they can bring pressure. That defined the Michigan’s defense.”
“It’s kind of a marriage made in heaven because that’s his strength,” Patritto said. “Because he provides a very particular niche-need — he can play man-to-man on the ‘slot’ or the ‘X’ — he became very marketable to everybody.”
"We like to play fast on defense and he is an integral key to that, because we can put him on any team’s best wide receiver and felt good about playing him man to man the whole game. He was very selfless. He played offense this year and became a real good dual threat. We did not throw the ball a ton, but as a blocker, he was really, really good, and that selfless nature really stood out for me as a coach. Whoever gets him is going to get what everybody wants, a long, matchup corner. …more defenses want to play combination coverages and man coverage, and it’s hard to find 6-foot-2 corners with feet and hips like Vince has, that’s what’s so attractive to everyone.”
He also told Land of 10 that Gray was "almost 6-foot-3." He is a Large Corner.
Gray's ability to run is in some question. Upward mobility in the rankings was all but impossible after a 4.76 40 at an Opening regional last April, especially when it came paired with a 4.27 shuttle. FWIW, last year's spring combine leaders at DB were at 4.52 (Long and Hill) and 3.9 (St Juste). What with a lack of boots on the ground, especially in Michigan, that threw him in the generic three-star bin for good.
Gray makes the case that his numbers were more about a lack of specialized preparation than his true ability…
Some coaches questioned Gray’s speed, but he hadn’t been timed in two years and it is obvious he is fast enough.
“I haven’t run a 40 since a couple of summers ago,” he said, “but I can run with anybody. I’m really, really fast.”
…and maybe that is the case. Touch The Banner didn't see that on tape:
What Gray lacks is great athleticism. His 4.76 forty isn’t inspiring, and he doesn’t play much faster than what one would assume from that forty time. He struggles to pull away from mediocre competition at Adams, and he doesn’t have great acceleration. He’s a bit of a glider and doesn’t seem to be going all out when he sprints, although I have no reason to believe he’s not going 100%.
40s aren't the be all and end all and for a guy like Gray who was not a frequent camp attendee it is a sample size of one. Michigan is banking on that being a bit of a fluke.
Etc.: Does not have a twin. Interview in which Harbaugh is referred to as a Different Dude.
Why Tall Brandon Watson? Watson's listed at 5'11" on the roster and is probably an inch shorter than that, given the way rosters are, but he was a similarly low-ranked corner who specialized in press coverage and had—has, honestly—questions about his athleticism. Watson is unlikely to be on NFL radars after his final year but has rounded into a solid college corner capable of pressing guys off the field.
Gray's bigger, which will help him defend the fades that everyone sends up against Watson. Their roles are likely to be near-identical.
Guru Reliability: Moderate-minus. There is virtually no national scouting, and the interest from various mid-to-high-ish level schools contradicts the meh rankings somewhat. The shape of his recruitment doesn't make the low rankings absurd, and the testing numbers aren't great.
Variance: Moderate. Unlikely to be a star, could fail to catch on entirely.
Ceiling: Moderate. Seems like a guy who can be a good college corner and tops out at that, potentially struggling against the elite.
General Excitement Level: Moderate-minus. Gray's a solid late pickup and Michigan already has two headliner types at CB; it does seem like he was a gettable guy late when Michigan had few fish on the hook and is unlikely to be a late find who demanded a slot.
Projection: Redshirt lock, especially since he's so slender. Probably not going to break through in year two since Gemon Green and Myles Sims are probably going to stay ahead of him. Down the road he could fill out and break out if his speed turns out to be all right, or he could get lost in the shuffle. Or he could split the difference and be a useful nickelback a la Watson; that's the most likely outcome.