Hello: Alex Malzone

Submitted by Ace on May 12th, 2014 at 12:55 PM


Alex Malzone quarterbacking Brother Rice to their third straight state title (Photo: MLive)

A long and meandering search for Michigan's quarterback of the class of 2015 ended back at home. Birmingham (MI) Brother Rice rising senior Alex Malzone committed on the spot after receiving his coveted Wolverine offer while unofficially visiting campus today. Malzone becomes the sixth commit in the '15 class and just the second on the offensive side of the ball, joining OL Jon Runyan Jr.

GURU RATINGS

Scout Rivals ESPN 247 247 Comp
4*, #15 QB,
#236 Ovr
3*, #16 QB 3*, NR QB 3*, 86, 
#21 PRO-QB
3*, #13 PRO-QB,
#353 Ovr

As you can see, Malzone's rankings are all over the place. Scout gives him four stars and ranks him inside their top 300, Rivals has him two quarterbacks away from four-star status, ESPN has their not-unusual disconnect between glowing evaluation and not even bothering to rank the kid, and 247 has him well below the four-star cut. I'm guessing some of these rankings will change now that he's committed; ESPN and 247 have him behind prospects generating very little in the way of major college interest.

The scouting services list Malzone as somewhere between 6'1" and 6'3", and other than a bizarre Rivals outlier of 166(!) pounds—stick-figure skinny—they all peg him in the 200-pound range. The general consensus is 6'2", 200, which looks about right based on photos and film. Maybe Rivals accidentally flipped the first '6'.

SCOUTING

Malzone first made his mark as a sophomore, when he began taking snaps away from Brother Rice's returning senior starter as soon as he took command of the playbook:

"I was the quarterback on JV last year and then got moved up for the playoffs," Malzone told Scout.com. "This year, [starting QB] Cheyne [Lacanaria] was always there to help me. Halfway through the regular season is when I started to get the offense down. Whenever I had a question, he was there. He wouldn't push me to the side. He would help with the defenses and which receivers he looks for, and it helped me a lot."

After attempting just 24 passes heading into the state title game against Muskegon, Malzone connected on 8 of 11 passes for 167 yards and two TDs to lead the Warriors to their second straight MHSAA Division 2 state championship.

As the unquestioned full-time starter last fall, Malzone faced Muskegon once again in the state title game, and he had an even better performance the second time around, completing 20 of 24 passes for 263 yards and three passing TDs and adding 33 yards and a score on the ground in a 38-21 victory.

It shouldn't come as a surprise, then, that Malzone's big-game prowess and mental makeup earn consistent mentions in his scouting reports. Scout's Allen Trieu:

After flashing big time talent last season, many wanted to see how Malzone would do as the full time starter. He has answered that question to date, leading his team to several big wins and several last minute wins, exhibiting poise, calmness under pressure and a strong, accurate arm

The free report on Scout, also written by Trieu, takes it a step further:

STRENGTHS
 Accuracy / Consistency
 Arm Strength
 Mental Toughness
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT
 Size
Has the arm to make all the throws. Mechanics can still use polishing, but he has good velocity on his passes, shows excellent timing and is very accurate. Shows the ability to make tough throws into coverage and has great touch down the field. Shows calm under pressure and lead several late game winning drives and has been in big game situations. May not have ideal dropback QB height, but is a gamer and a winner. - Allen Trieu

A gamer and a winner. /crosses off two boxes on quarterback evaluation bingo card

Also, as is tradition, "size" for any non-prototype QB is listed as an area for improvement. /crosses off another box

The mental aspect goes beyond winning big games; ESPN's evaluation details Malzone's advanced command of a Brother Rice offense that seems like it'll translate well to Michigan's pro-style (for whatever meaning that phrase still holds) offense:

Really shows good command of the scheme. Plays in a traditional, multiple set from both under center and out of the shotgun. Is it good ball handler and sees a heavy dose of play action. Is quick to flip his hips around gets set and work through progressions. Plays with confidence and also plays within the scheme. Does not take a lot of risks with the football, but his arm strength allows for him to. Can work through progressions get shows anticipation off the first read to get the ball on time.

ESPN also praises his arm strength, "gifted rhythm and timing," and accuracy, mostly brushes off worries about any mechanical issues, discusses how he'd be a more coveted prospect if he'd been this productive in another region, and... leaves him unranked.  
¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The main knocks on Malzone are his height—at 6'2", he's not the pocket passer prototype—and some mechanical issues derived from a youth focused more on being a baseball pitcher than a football quarterback. As mentioned, ESPN largely dismisses the mechanical concerns:

Release is quick and over the top. Does show a slight draw back where the bottom point of the ball points backwards as he pulls back to deliver. It's not alarming, but is evident. Similar to Kerry Collins, but nowhere near as pronounced.

Trieu seems relatively unconcerned, as well:

The two knocks on Malzone were his baseball style release and his lack of prototypical height at 6-foot-2. Mechanics are something he has steadily been working on. He throws well on the roll, but is not a running threat, although he shows good presence and ability to climb the pocket and keep his eyes downfield. He also stands in tough and will deliver passes in the face of pressure.

Tim Sullivan caught him at a game against a very overmatched team from Canada last October, and it seems Malzone occasionally let old, bad habits creep back into his release:

At times, Malzone reverts to a long baseball-style throwing motion, bringing the ball low, and delaying his release. However, he puts good zip on it, and continued work on his mechanics will straighten that out. His accuracy is excellent, despite the long release. It can be even better (and quicker) by tightening things up.

By the Elite 11 camp in Atlanta this March, however, Malzone seemed to have worked those problems out of his system, according to Scout national analyst Scott Kennedy:

Alex Malzone made his way to the South from Brother Rice High School in Michigan. Malzone was selected as one of the Final Five participants in the final drill as well. Malzone has a lightning quick release in large part because of a short windup that almost gives the appearance that he’s pushing the ball. He still gets good velocity on his throws and without needing to bring the ball back, he gets it out quickly.

At last month's Rivals camp in Detroit, Josh Helmholdt ranked Malzone as the #5 offensive performer, noting his outstanding arm strength and accuracy:

Malzone came into the camp as one of the most recognizable players and he really lived up to the hype. The most noticeable thing about him was his rifle arm. The ball really pops off his hand and gets to his target in a hurry. Malzone's good footwork helped him throw a very accurate ball. He was able to hit most of his receivers in stride throughout the day.

Perhaps most importantly, Malzone shined when it came time to earn his spot in the quarterback pecking order during his throwing session for Doug Nussmeier:

“My conversation with Coach Nuss went very well,” Malzone said. “He’s been all around the country seeing guys throw. I think he has one more, maybe two more on his list. He told everyone from the beginning he was going to see everyone throw. And then see what happens from there. And that’s pretty much what he told me. He said he was very impressed.

“Coach (Fred) Jackson actually came to the school at the end of the day. He just wanted to let me know he talked with Coach Nuss. And that Coach Nuss said I did great job.”

To sum it up, Malzone displays excellent arm strength and accuracy, has good footwork and pocket presence, is working through mechanical issues with apparent success, and has a track record of producing at a high level. His height, in conjuction with his lack of game-breaking mobility, seems to be holding him back from higher ratings more than anything else.

OFFERS

Malzone also held offers from Pitt, Wake Forest, Western Michigan, and a slew of other MAC schools. Penn State, among several other more prominent programs, showed serious interest; they were at his throwing session as well, then ended up pulling in one of the highest-ranked QBs in the entire class last week in dual-threat Brandon Wimbush.

HIGH SCHOOL

Brother Rice is gunning for their fourth straight Division 2 state title this fall, which will be their first season in 57 years with a new head coach after the legendary Al Fracassa retired on top following last year's championship.

The Rivals database search function is currently broken as all hell, so I can't bring up a list of notable Brother Rice products (I'm sure I'll get plenty of help in the comments); the most recent big-time prospect from BR is current MSU linebacker Jon Reschke.

STATS

After completing 27 of 35 passes for 474 yards, seven touchdowns, and no interceptions while taking snaps away from a title-winning senior QB during his sophomore season, Malzone excelled in his first year as a starter. He finished second in the Mr. Football voting in 2013, connecting on 190 of 281 attempts for 2,782 yards, 25 touchdowns, and nine interceptions, according to MaxPreps.

FAKE 40 TIME

247 lists a 40 time of 5.13, which is one of the least FAKE 40 times I've seen for a non-lineman. A token one FAKE is awarded due to the fact that I can't find the source of the time.

VIDEO

Junior highlights:

Single-game cut-ups, sophomore highlights, and a longer partial-season junior reel are available on his Hudl page.

PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE

Shane Morris is the apparent successor to Devin Gardner after this year, and with freshman Wilton Speight already having a session of spring ball under his belt, Malzone should take a redshirt year barring the unexpected. If we assume Morris is a two-year starter, Malzone and Speight should compete for the starting job in 2017, when Malzone will be in his third year in the program.

UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS

Michigan has their quarterback, at long last, and expect Malzone to be an active recruiter much like the signal-callers in the classes preceding him. Based on the current depth chart by class, which hasn't yet been updated for the commitments of Malzone and Garrett Taylor, Michigan has six spots left for the 2015 class, though that number will almost certainly grow by Signing Day.

The main positions of need moving forward are running back, receiver, tight end, offensive tackle, weakside DE, and both inside and outside linebacker; the Wolverines are in on several prospects at each of those positions.

Comments

reshp1

May 12th, 2014 at 1:11 PM ^

My first thought when he didn't get an offer after throwing for Nuss was "Do you want a Sparty? Because that's how you get Spartys." Glad he finally got his offer and is part of the Michigan Family now.

Best of luck to the kid, may he have a healthy, productive career.

bighouse22

May 12th, 2014 at 10:34 PM ^

I had not seen him throw before, but he looks like a nice pickup.  I am pleased we didn't let him slip away.  That is the type of recruit you would wind up playing later and he would make you pay for passing on him.  I know it is a highlight video, but he seemed to be very accurate downfield.

turd ferguson

May 12th, 2014 at 1:14 PM ^

I think the coaches handled this pretty well. They gave a few top guys a chance to decide, did their homework on Malzone, kept in close touch with him, and then offered at a time when they were ready for a Malzone commitment (after what they learned about him and their other options).

Kudos to Malzone for staying patient, too. Something tells me that he'd have gotten more offers if teams weren't worried about an eventual flip to Michigan.

Space Coyote

May 12th, 2014 at 1:21 PM ^

But that does not mean that he doesn't have the potential to be a very good QB for Michigan. In my opinion, he's just a little further off and will have to work harder to get there than some others. But the coaches saw him throw, they saw his mechanics in person (something I haven't done, forcing me to make some conclusions based completely on film), and determined he was a guy that could help them going forward. I'll trust their judgement and their belief in the things that can be fixed to get fixed so that Malzone reaches his potential.

I think Kellen Moore is the upside here. Luckily, arm strength isn't as necessary in Nussmeier's offense, which relies more on open throwing lanes and underneath passing rather than a more complex architecture. In this way, Malzone is a better fit for the current OC than he would be for Borges. For instance, McCarron lacked great arm strength, but his mechanics were such that he got the most out of his arm and was able to adequately and accurately get the ball to his playmakers. If that's where Malzone gets, I'm fine with that.

I'm happy Michigan got their QB and I'm happy for Malzone, a kid that clearly worked hard and really wanted this offer. I hope he proves my criticisms wrong

uminks

May 12th, 2014 at 3:11 PM ^

I think a lot of to recruits will avoid Michigan until Hoke can start winning more games. Recruits kind of know stable programs and Hoke is now on the hot seat. He could turn things around this season but the odds are we will lose at least four games. I think 2015 will be  make or break season for Hoke and the uncertainty in our program to top recruits will get even cloudier until the results are in from 2015. If Hoke can win 10 games in 2015 and get a contract extension, and of course the team is playing well, recruiting should really pick up again in 2016.

Blue In NC

May 12th, 2014 at 4:19 PM ^

But not too much uncertainty for the #2 player in America (Peppers) to sign with Hoke? He could have easily switched at the last minute but he bought into the program.  Sorry, that line of reasoning only goes so far.  Maybe the switch in OCs hurt us a bit, I am sure that some uncertainty may have a role but still that does not preclude Michigan from landing top guys.

reshp1

May 12th, 2014 at 4:47 PM ^

Al Borges was Harris's primary recruiter, so the OC change was definitely a big reason for his decommit, if not the primary reason.

I don't doubt that on the field performance is part of the problem, but I think people do underestimate the impact of the OC change. Yeah, Al might not have been many players' primary recruiting contact, but it's silly to think a change in OC isn't going to have a big negative on offensive recruiting until players know what kind of system the new guy is going to run and what it looks like on the field.

Don

May 12th, 2014 at 6:48 PM ^

Harris's HS coach is a personal friend of Borges, so you have to figure that Borges's firing would have ruffled some feathers. You'd like to hope that Borges wouldn't have negative things to say about the Michigan program under Hoke, but it would be human nature for Al to be a bit bitter.

With Campbell, it's reasonable to think that our struggles last season didn't help things, but a big factor (according to Sam Webb, who has covered Campbell's commit/decommit extensively) is that his family wanted him closer to home.

Blue in Yarmouth

May 13th, 2014 at 8:10 AM ^

because honestly, who the hell really knows why D. Harris decommitted. But I have to think it was a culmination of multiple things. 

For me though, if my child was a top flight recruit and had their choice of any university and they had aspirations of making the pro's I would be helping them make the right decision and the criterea I hope they would put forward would be a program that: 

1) has a recent track record of winning

2) has a recent track record of developing players at my position

3) play a style that will best highlight the kids strengths

4) has a recent track record of getting players to the nfl

5) has a coaching staff that I trust will look after the kid (family atmosphere)

6) values academics and has good acedemic support for their players

7) proximity to home

8) past exposure or relationship with coach

I could carry on because obviously you want to look into everything but those would be some of the more common things players and families look for when choosing a school. I also know that everyone is different and will value things in a different way, but if a program really ticked all those other boxes for a recruit I don't think the fact that a coach leaving who his HS coach has a friendship with would make much of a difference. I mean, it isn't like DH was old friends with AB.

Now look at the other things on that list and see if there might just be other factors that could have caused the decommittment? 

Again, I don't doubt that AB had some role in his decommittment but from what I have come to learn about his family it seems this young man has a good enough head on his shoulders to have based his decision on more than that, and if he is as smart as he seems to be I think that numbers 1 through 4 played a much bigger role than 8.

Again, this post is no more based in fact that anyone else talking about why he exactly decommitted, but again, what I have witnessed from him thourgh this porcess is a bright young man with a solid upbringing and I can't see him making this choice with that as the primary reason. 

Magnus

May 13th, 2014 at 5:23 AM ^

I think the point is that Nussmeier is a young, up-and-coming offensive coordinator who has designs on being a head coach at some point. He will almost certainly get that opportunity in the not-too-distant future.

Nobody is guaranteed to have a job in 4-5 years, but in the case of someone like Al Borges, he probably would have been at Michigan for as long as he could have been. Unfortunately for everyone involved, the offense was underperforming and he was sent packing.

If you told me sometime in 2011 that Borges would be here for five years barring a crappy offense, I would have believed you. He had been with Hoke for a while, didn't appear to be trying to land an NFL gig, was too old to be s serious HC candidate, and fit the style. If Michigan had performed consistently like they did against Indiana, Ohio State, etc., he could absolutely have been at Michigan for 5 years or more.

maize-blue

May 13th, 2014 at 9:27 AM ^

The Borges/Nussmeier switch still seems slightly weird to me, in that it happened fast and with little info coming out. And we still don’t quite know if it was Brandon or Hoke behind the move.

I think it could entirely possilbe that he was brought in to have a shot at the HC position at UM if Hoke continues to trend downwards.

If Hoke turns it around this year then Nussmeier gets some credit and strengthens his resume’, stays maybe 2 or 3 seasons, gets a handshake and thanks and then is on his way to a HC position somewhere else.

maize-blue

May 13th, 2014 at 10:38 AM ^

That’s a valid point.

I guess what I am trying to state/ask is that if Hoke gets the axe after this season, they wouldn’t consider Nussmeier at all? I don’t really know.

Either way, I’m guessing that that Nussmeier will not be in the OC position at UM for a very long time (2-3+ years).

I’m a Hoke supporter and believe that 2014 will be a turnaround season and that Hoke is here for the long haul.

NoMoPincherBug

May 12th, 2014 at 5:25 PM ^

Agreed. I see more Dreisbach in Malzone's game than Jimmy H.  Harbaugh was more of a runner in college and didnt have the turn on the ball that this kid appears to have.  Dreisbach did have that slinging ability...and should have had a better career if not for the injuries.

I see a kid here who squares his feet to throw, has a nice hip rotation and quick release... he also seems to throw very accurately.

This kid could be a sleeper steal...I like his tape better than Morris and better than Wilton Speights too.  Malzone is more accurate than Morris...and has nearly the same arm strength.

badjuju81

May 12th, 2014 at 1:26 PM ^

He didn't get an offer when he threw for Nuss because others had yet to throw. He knew the offer would come, or not, after everyone threw. If they offered others who turned them down, I think we'd have heard about it. So I take it this means he's their favorite of the group they wanted to see throw.

BlastDouble

May 12th, 2014 at 1:29 PM ^

Bold Prediction For The Day: Malzone will take UofM to a Rose Bowl Championship!

The kid has nice diagnosis skills, quick release, pocket pressence, add the fact that he bleeds blue and I can see him helping us win a championship!

Welcome Mr. Malzone!

Bodogblog

May 12th, 2014 at 1:36 PM ^

Congratulations to Malzone and his family, I'll look forward to checking out a few BR games this Fall. 

Nuss checklist:
1. Get QB - check
2. Get Damien Harris back - inc.
3. Gameplan against that expletive Sparty defense - inc.
4. Gameplan to win in Columbus - inc.
5. Gameplan to go 10-0 in remaining games - inc.
6. Actively troll Al Borges for why he could not get this OL or QB to win B1G - inc.
7. Send autographed photo to Nick Saban when AL offense loses game against Ole Miss - inc.
8. Light cigar - inc.