This poor kid. [Photo: Danbury News-Times]
In a ceremony where the decor took away what little suspense there may have been heading into the announcement, three-star Newtown (CT) Sandy Hook ILB/FB Ben Mason committed to Michigan. Mason picked up a scholarship offer while on an unofficial visit in April, and a subsequent offer from Wisconsin didn't sway him from the Wolverines.
Mason projects to either inside linebacker or fullback at the next level; after his Michigan visit, he told TMI's Brice Marich he was open to either:
“(My parents) loved the college town feel of Ann Arbor and impressed with the academics. They also loved the opportunity I have defensively at linebacker or offensively at fullback with Coach Wheatley. I just want to play football. I really don’t care what position.”
Mason and Chase Lasater give Michigan two ILB/FB types in the class. Of the pair, Mason seems more likely to stick on defense—it's worth noting Don Brown saw fit to offer him when Brown was at Boston College. Michigan now has 12 commits in the 2017 class, including another linebacker prospect in four-star Josh Ross.
|3*, #32 ILB||3* ILB||NR OLB||
3*, 85, #28 ILB,
3*, #35 ILB,
Mason is a middle-of-the-pack three-star to Scout and 247, while Rivals hasn't given him a position ranking and ESPN hasn't bothered to scout him at all. Mason plays two positions that don't generate many four-star prospects (ILB and FB) and he comes from a state that doesn't produce much in the way of football talent; he's likely to stay a three-star.
Mason's size has some suggesting he could grow into a defensive end role down the road. 247 has the most updated figures: Mason checked in a 6'2.5", 247 pounds at last weekend's Opening regional. That's big enough to step in immediately at either inside linebacker or fullback.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the commitment post.]
Scout has a full evaluation posted to Mason's profile:
EvaluationMason brings versatility because he can play middle linebacker, or add weight and move to defensive end. He could also shed some weight and play outside linebacker. But his best spot is middle linebacker because he reads plays quickly and can accelerate to the ball carrier. He is built to be a run stopper. He needs to improve his acceleration at the start of a play, but he possesses closing speed. He moves his feet properly when dropping into pass coverage, where he is comfortable. Mason reads his keys and can get through the gaps to blitz. He is rugged and strong. -- Brian Dohn
- Blitzing Ability
- Closing Speed
- Run Stopping
Areas to Improve
- Change of Direction
- Foot Quickness
Having "athleticism" as a strength with the weaknesses listed makes little sense; the tape backs up that Mason isn't particularly fast or quick, but he closes on runners in a hurry because of short-range acceleration and quick reads. If he sticks on defense, it's going to be as a MIKE, where his run-stopping ability can be put to good use without exposing him too much in coverage.
The other scouting report out there on Mason comes from last weekend, when 247 named him the #2 defensive performer at the Opening regional in New Jersey:
Sandy Hook (Conn.) Newton linebacker Ben Mason won MVP honors for his position group, doing well in drills, the Cat and Mouse setting and also moving well in coverage in 1-on-1s and 7-on-7s. It’s easy to call the 6-foot-2 ½, 247-pound Mason a throwback, and one wouldn’t think this would be a setting he’d shine in, but Mason did his thing and left with hardware.
That performance provides hope that Mason can hold up against the pass. Stout, run-stuffing MIKE-types don't tend to do well in camp settings.
“After every game we watch film together and go over what I’ve done wrong so I can correct it for the next game,” Mason said. “He gives me a lot of feedback.”
All Patriot fans, the three have spent countless hours watching college and pro football together over the years.
“It’s literally all we ever do on weekends,” Mason said. “We’re always hanging out watching football. The best advice he’s ever given me is just play as hard as I can because that’s really all you can do.”
If Mason doesn't stay on defense, he should be a very physical, coachable guy at fullback, and he could be more than just a blocker: he had an increased role in the offense as a junior and showed potential as both a short-yardage runner and receiver out of the backfield.
Mason holds offers from Army, Boston College, Cal, Columbia, UConn, Dartmouth, Duke, Harvard, Kansas, UMass, Navy, Pitt, Rutgers, Syracuse, Temple, Wisconsin, and Yale. While that list lacks high-end football powers, it's great to see so many Ivy League schools and a couple service academies; academics shouldn't be a worry here.
Connecticut isn't known as a major football state, and Newtown isn't much of an exception; according to the Rivals database, Mason is the first three-star to come out of the program. Newtown fell in the semifinals of last year's state playoffs.
Mason has been a remarkably productive high school player. He had 113 tackles (66 solo) with 11 TFLs, four sacks, and four interceptions (three returned for TDs) at linebacker in 2015, adding 231 yards on 43 rushes (5.4 YPC) and 416 yards on 24 receptions (16.2 YPC) with 15 combined offensive touchdowns.
As a sophomore, Mason tallied 110 tackles (76 solo) with 6.0 TFLs, 5.5 sacks, an interception, and a fumble return for a score.
FAKE 40 TIME
Mason recorded a 4.88 electronic-timed 40-yard dash, which gets zero FAKEs. As mentioned above, he doesn't have great straight-line speed.
Sophomore highlights and single-game reels can be found on his Hudl page.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Mason is the type of player who Harbaugh will happily deploy on both sides of the ball by the time he's done at Michigan. He could be a day-one starter at fullback, as Khalid Hill, Henry Poggi, and Bobby Henderson all are set to depart after this season. In that case, Mason, Chase Lasater, and a walk-on or two—most likely current junior Nate Volk—will compete for snaps.
Down the road, Mason can also compete at inside linebacker, where there's also set to be a lot of competition for open starting spots in the next couple seasons. His first opportunity to crack the two-deep should come after Mike McCray graduates following the 2018 season.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan is definitely set at fullback, and with three players capable of playing inside linebacker in the class (Mason, Lasater, and Ross), that position group may be settled as well. M is up to 12 commits in a class that the coaching staff apparently expects to reach the mid-to-high 20s. Top priorities going forward include outside receiver, tight end, and linemen on both sides of the ball.
Here's the 2017 class as it currently stands: