Another FBO, another game marred by unfortunate events. The night started innocuously enough, with David texting me about the excellent enchiladas he had and asking if I wanted to drive down and film (I wasn’t at this game, instead scouting from the video he captured) while he napped. It ended with Gabe Newburg hobbling, sitting on a table, and spending time in the injury tent. A huge 36-6 lead for Newburg’s Northmont squad was enough to keep him out of the game in the second half, and enough to keep us from getting a complete game’s worth of clips.
Even so, Newburg was on the field enough in the first half to get a good feel for where he excels and where he might fit in Michigan’s future plans. He was a disruptive force who flashed potential by way of excellent technique, the opposite of the usual potential by way of athleticism we see from other high school prospects. He tweeted the morning of the game that “an injured lion can still roar,” which in his case means an injured football player can still use proper hand placement and a disparity in arm length to disrupt the opposing lineman’s balance. The injury caveat is worth bearing in mind when judging his athleticism, but it didn’t detract to the point that you should avoid checking out the…
[…scouting and film after THE JUMP]
#99, either SDE or WDE
Newburg wastes no time getting involved, showing impressive arm length, strength, and hand placement while shoving back an offensive lineman, shedding him, and getting a piece of the back as he runs by, which is a good way to start a game, in my opinion. Newburg shows good hand placement throughout the reel, like the play at 00:25 in which he bull rushes and turns the tackle’s shoulders so that he’s off balance; I think you’d like to see him step harder with his inside foot around the tackle’s outside foot, but at this level his hands get him into the backfield anyway. Throughout the tape he consistently fires upward into offensive linemen and aims for the numbers. He wins a rep thanks to his hands again at 2:45, getting them inside and knocking the right tackle off balance; I’d bet Newburg gets to the quarterback if he isn’t shoved in the side by the pulling left tackle at the exact moment he’s dislodging from the right tackle. Says something about Newburg’s strength that he’s got the right tackle in a location where the left tackle hits him square in the side on his pull.
Newburg’s play recognition was generally good, and one of the examples on the positive side of things comes at 1:28, where he looks past the self-sacrificing tight end to see the tackle pulling, gets lower than the tackle mid-play, and uses a stab to the tackle’s chest to seemingly redirect his momentum outside and into the running back. He typically had his eyes in the backfield no matter what was happening in front of him, and the only instance I found where I thought he might have lost track of a play close to him was the one time he was double teamed (2:39). Arguably the worst play of his reel (00:56) and one where it looks like he’s not tracking the play can likely be explained away. He’s following what appears to be a coaching point (it happened in all similar situations) and trying to chip the tight end as he releases, which allows the tackle to gain lateral position. Newburg reaches the widening tackle with the tackle’s inside arm lined up right in the middle of Newburg’s chest, and the tackle latches on. It looks to me like there’s a jersey pull at 1:00. The quarterback is five yards downfield when Newburg turns to release, and from there he chooses to stay and get an extra shove in on the LT.
Newburg’s footwork is an area for improvement overall, though he shows good feet as part of the one non-bull pass-rush move he utilized. At 1:17 he runs in place and kicks up some turf pellets with his outside foot, which baits the tackle into lunging for him and allows him to use his inside plant foot to spin into the interior gap and get after the fleeing quarterback. Newburg also did a nice job short-stepping and letting the tackle hit the ground when he recognized the tackle cut-blocking at 00:47. He’s not the most athletic defensive end Michigan’s recruited of late (his change of direction at 2:08 being one example), but he shows good straight-line speed in closing on the quarterback on that same play. That said, even the impression left by his speed rush is one of power. The one time Newburg really had an opportunity to break it out (1:55) sees the quarterback release the ball before Newburg arrives-- and ends a split-second later with three purple jerseys on the ground in his wake.
Newburg keeps his pads lower than the opposing offensive lineman with consistency, and he uses his hands and arm length to great effect. He is the rare high school defensive lineman who doesn’t shoot up too quickly even once on his tape. Newburg also displays good strength, some of which is likely born of his excellent upper-body form. You can tell that Newburg has wrestled for years in his ability to use leverage to his advantage.
I like Newburg best as a strongside end (Anchor) at Michigan. He didn’t show anything to dissuade from heaping a good amount of play diagnosis on his plate (his high GPA is another indicator), and he could be a difficult block for B1G offensive linemen if he takes his already-good technique and continues to add strength (and subsequently weight) to his long frame. Improving his footwork will also help him, but I think that’s more likely to make him an SDE with upside than morph him into a pure pass rusher; I didn’t see explosive athleticism that would nudge him in the direction of weakside end, although his injury may have played a part in that.