Michigan has broken the seal on the class of 2012 with a big in-state offensive lineman. Ben Braden hails from Rockford, and the informative portion goes like this:
|3*, NR OT||NR OL||NR DT|
It's early in the process, so prospects that start a little under-the-radar rarely have a whole lot of info out there. We'll start with size. Rivals is the most optimistic, measuring him at 6-6, 285. Scout isn't far behind at 280 pounds, but ESPN calls him a mere 6-5, 250 - while simultaneously calling him a defensive tackle. I'd say ESPN, as both an outlier and the absolute worst at evaluating prospects in a reasonable time, is least likely to be accurate. Braden's probably a shade under 6-6, and around 270-280 pounds. 24/7 Sports calls him 6-7, 295, which seems like an exaggeration given all the other evidence at our disposal.
Braden has gotten some message board comparisons to erstwhile Michigan commit Jake Fisher, but based on pictures alone (from the same game, at least), Fisher looks to be a taller, leaner player - unsurprising given he was listed an inch taller and anywhere from 10-30 pounds lighter - than Braden. Of course, that could just mean Braden has done more work in the weight room to this point.
Based on measurements and appearance alone, I would guess Braden could play either inside or outside. In high school, he's a right tackle:
“He’s just a big boy and hard worker, very unassuming, very coachable and very aggressive,” Munger said. He also coached current San Francisco 49ers offensive lineman Joe Staley.
“He’s been blessed with size, strength and speed. He’s the right kind of guy. He’s been raised by a wonderful family and believes in the values his family taught him. For us, he’s an awfully good offensive lineman and he’s raw. He’s coming into his own.”
Size, strength, and speed are probably the three most important qualities for an offensive lineman, and it's a bonus to see he has a good head on his shoulders.
Braden held a Wisconsin offer, which you should know by now is the automatic sign he's a serious prospect - much like Ohio State for safeties or USC for Pro-Style quarterbacks. He also held offers from Syracuse and Michigan State.
Not only is Braden an under-the-radar prospect (at least in terms of news out there on the internets), he's also an offensive lineman. They don't have stats, so nothing to see here.
FAKE 40 TIME
None of the premium sites have a listed 40 time for Braden, so I'll take the liberty to give him an automatic five FAKEs out of five.
I couldn't find any free video of Braden anywhere out there. If you come across any, let me know.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
With the new coaching staff putting a serious emphasis on size rather than agility, a redshirt to bulk up is all but guaranteed (and it probably would have been under RichRod and co. anyway). As a redshirt freshman, Braden will be entering a lineup that loses Patrick Omameh, Ricky Barnum, Elliott Mealer, and Rocko Khoury, so a two-deep position is practically guaranteed, with a starting position possible.
The question becomes what position he plays. He has a good body for tackle if the 6-6 number is accurate (and especially if 6-7 is the right height), and the Wolverines are likely going to have a pair of senior starters in Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield. On the other hand, the interior OL will be decimated by graduation.
Although "it's too early to tell" is basically accurate for all Hello posts, without knowing who else will end up in this class of linemen, we can't even peg a definitive position for Braden.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Needs MOAR linemen. The Wolverines will probably take 5 or 6 on the offensive line in this class, thanks to the above-mentioned graduations on the way. Braden is a combo player, which means the maize-and-blue can still take many more interior AND exterior OL.
From a less pragmatic standpoint, the commitment of Braden breaks the seal on the class of 2012, and makes fans feel a lot better about recruiting early in this cycle. Hopefully, it'll get the ball rolling for other commits as well.