This week, the Creeper Van made its way to not one, but two local games, catching Cass Tech's Royce Jenkins-Stone and Terry Richardson as they took on Cody, and then visiting Orchard Lake St. Mary's standout James Ross as he faced U-D Jesuit. Both teams featuring Michigan recruits rolled to easy victories, with Cass Tech taking the afternoon matchup, 36-6, and OLSM winning under the lights (NTUTL) with a 34-0 shutout. Here are exclusive (high definition!) highlights of Michigan's commits from both games:
On to the scouting reports...
Royce Jenkins-Stone: By my count, Jenkins-Stone had four tackles through three quarters before the van made an early exit to catch the second game. Much like the last time I saw him play, there was a concerted effort by his opponent to run away from him, but I must admit I was still disappointed by his performance overall. RJS has all the physical tools you'd like to see in a BCS-caliber linebacker, but it appeared either his effort or instincts were lacking at times (my, er, instinct is that the latter is more the issue, since RJS appears to be very into the game emotionally at all times)—this is no more apparent than in the third clip from the video, in which he bites hard on an end-around fake and leaves a huge gap for the quarterback to take off up the middle.
This is not to say that I don't think Jenkins-Stone is a good player—when he's aggressive, he does a good job of finding a way to the ball and either making a play or forcing the ballcarrier into the rest of the defense. I like the way he's able to shed blocks to get to where he wants to go, and his athleticism and size combine to be a huge asset, and if anything, he's just got to harness that athleticism and play more under-control—overpursuit was an issue on a couple plays, and I think he just needs to slow down a little to become a bigger playmaker at linebacker.
Terry Richardson: Friday's game was not exactly a showcase for Richardson, as Cody mostly ran the ball and when passing did not throw it in his direction—I didn't count a single play in which he was challenged through the air. Richardson blanketed his receiver, using his superior speed and quickness to stay step-for-step with his man, and there really wasn't an opportunity to pass on him at all. If a cornerback is practically invisible in the passing game, I'll take that as a good sign.
I was also encouraged by Richardson's physicality, considering his rather small stature. The first clip in his section above shows him playing bump-and-run and driving a wideout a few yards out of bounds without drawing a flag. Richardson also picked up a flag for holding when he got a little too aggressive in chucking the receiver more than five yards past the line of scrimmage, and while you don't like to see defensive backs drawing penalties, the fact that he was so effective in the bump-and-run was good to see.
Richardson's biggest impact came on offense, as there wasn't a returnable kickoff or punt in the time that I watched. His recorded his only tackle after a Cass Tech fumble, when he chased down a Cody defender from behind to mitigate the damage. Later in the game, he torched a defensive back from the slot for an easy 24-yard touchdown—his speed was on full display on that play. This wasn't an easy game to get a solid evaluation of Richardson, but I thought he played well.
James Ross: Ross, in stark contrast to RJS, was all over the field for OLSM, tallying 11 tackles and two QB hurries through a little more than three quarters of play. Ross was never caught out of position and did a fantastic job of diagnosing plays, using his instincts and athleticism to stymie Jesuit's running and short passing attacks with apparent ease.
From the middle linebacker position, Ross covers the field sideline-to-sideline in a fashion that reminds me (lofty comparison alert!) of former Michigan beast-backer and current New York Jet David Harris. No matter where the ball ended up on the field, Ross was there at the end of the play, either making the tackle himself or cleaning up the pile. He plays up on his toes at the beginning of the snap, as you can see on the video, and this allows him to easily go in whatever direction the play takes him with speed.
When Ross got his hands on a ballcarrier, it was over—his open-field tackling was very solid, especially on a screen pass in which he avoided three oncoming blockers and wrapped up the running back for a minimal gain on a play that should've gone for at least ten yards. His low center of gravity allows him to take on blocks and either knock his man back or simply use his quick feet to slip by entirely, the latter being his preferred method for wreaking havoc in the backfield.
Ross also played occasionally as a back in OLSM's wing-T, and while he didn't carry the ball he did deliver a few punishing blocks, including one that took out two Jesuit defenders and sprung his running back for a touchdown. While this didn't help in evaluating him as a linebacker, Ross was able to show off his strength, always knocking defenders backward when he made contact.
My one concern with Ross is his size. He's listed on Rivals at 6'0", but I think that's generous by at least an inch or two, and it will be interesting to see how much weight he can pack on to his 209-pound frame before he starts losing some speed and agility—he already looks like he's beginning to max out his frame. Otherwise, I thought he was the most polished prospect I've seen so far on the recruiting trail, just edging out Matt Godin in that regard, and I think he'll be a big-time player at the next level.
Apologies for the lack of action photos, as I was scouting these games solo and spent most of the time taking video before my camera died at just about the time that OLSM began putting in their backups. Here are a few shots from Cass Tech vs. Cody...
...and here's my set from OLSM vs. U-D Jesuit:
This Week: The van heads down to the Toledo area to see Allen Gant's undefeated Southview squad take on Maumee (3-1).