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.
4*, #15 QB,
|3*, #16 QB||3*, NR QB||
3*, #13 PRO-QB,
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'.
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:
|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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.