Michigan's latest commitment is about as Harbaugh as it gets. Ben VanSumeren, from the town of Essexville, Michigan, is not your normal high school prospect to get the "athlete" distinction; he's a fullback/linebacker-type athlete instead of the usual quarterback/receiver or receiver/cornerback.
That said, don't sleep on his athleticism. As you can see above, VanSumeren posted an excellent SPARQ score at this spring's Opening Cleveland regional, which eventually led to offers one doesn't usually field in Essexville. Initially ticketed for Western Michigan before committing to Iowa as a linebacker, VanSumeren fielded a phone call from Jay Harbaugh last week, and after an official visit he flipped his commitment to his childhood favorites:
"It was tough," VanSumeren admitted. "I have lots of respect for Coach Ferentz and their whole football staff there. Michigan is the only school that, if they came calling, could have drawn me away from what I had at Iowa."
A multi-talented athlete who was committed to the Hawkeyes as a linebacker, VanSumeren says the plan at Michigan is to "use me at fullback position and use me as an H sometimes. They said I can be in the passing game and run game, catch balls, and get in space hopefully."
VanSumeren is the 11th-ranked player in the state according to the 247 Composite. He's the 17th commit in Michigan's 2018 class, which ranks 12th nationally.
|3*, #37 ATH||3*, 78, #52 ATH||
3*, 86, #54 ATH,
3*, #49 ATH,
Each of the three major services has VanSumeren as a three-star with a fair amount of ground to cover before reaching four-star status, not exactly a surprise for a FB/LB playing small-school competition. If 247 changed his position designation to fullback, he'd be the #1 player at the position in the composite rankings.
VanSumeren measured in at 6'3", 215 pounds in April at the Cleveland Opening regional. It's quite possible he's added some bulk since then: 247 lists him at 228 pounds, Rivals at 235. 247 lists VanSumeren as an early enrollee; given he'll have a chance to contribute right away, that's a good plan, and he should be properly fullback-sized by the fall—he could be pretty close already.
[Hit THE JUMP for scouting, video, and the rest.]
As you might expect, there's not a ton out there on VanSumeren from a scouting perspective, so let's start with his senior film. Against clearly overmatched competition, VanSumeren makes it quite obvious that he's both way more athletic and way more violent than his foes:
Essexville lined him up all over the field to take advantage of his ability to, uh, do pretty much whatever he wanted.
While the competition leaves a lot to be desired, VanSumeren's athleticism isn't a mirage. He won the SPARQ title at the Cleveland Opening regional with a 4.76 electronic-timed 40, 4.03 shuttle, 39-foot powerball throw, and 40.3-inch vertical for an overall rating of 127.74. Those are explosive numbers for a fullback/linebacker; VanSumeren's overall rating is near the top among ATHs even though most of those players are twitchy WR/DB types.
He's also, as you can tell from the tape, not at all afraid of contact. When Scout's Allen Trieu evaluated VanSumeren after his Iowa commitment, he saw a prospect with some good potential as a thumping linebacker:
At that position, he can obviously run to the football and the kid will be able to cover as his ball skills are outstanding. We knew he was strong, but his senior film shows a real love of contact. He takes on blocks with aggressiveness and strength. For a kid who has not played there much, he naturally gets leverage and takes good angles to the ball too. The level of competition is only so much of a concern. None of Iowa's three starting linebackers played at a high school you'd call big.
He looks very much like an Iowa linebacker. That said, even after he committed to the Hawkeyes, his high school coach couldn't stop talking up his potential on the other side of the ball:
They are recruiting him as a linebacker. They love his athleticism, body type, and strength for that position. He wouldn’t have verballed if he didn’t believe he could play that position. His offensive skills are amazing, and he has great hands. He has some of the best hands and route running I’ve seen in my 22-years of coaching, but they like him a linebacker. He thinks he is capable of that and loves the school.
His coach also added that VanSumeren is a "tremendous" leader who's in the weight room twice a day. There's good reason Michigan is playing up the "Bash Brothers" angle with VanSumeren and fellow fullback Ben "Bench" Mason.
Trieu re-evaluated VanSumeren as an offensive prospect after he flipped his commitment:
His 4.76 forty at The Opening Regional in Cleveland was as fast or faster than some Big Ten skill position commits. He is physical, strong in the weight room, has good hands, and takes the game and weight room seriously. ... He will not be overwhelmed from a size and strength standpoint. He is right around 220 at the moment, so he will add some weight to play the position, but this is not a kid who has trouble finding the weight room. Expect him to be a threat in the passing game out of the backfield on wheel routes and short swing passes where he should have more open-field ability than Michigan's recent fullbacks and H-backs.
VanSumeren has the potential to be the best all-around weapon Harbaugh's had at Michigan at the fullback position, and he's had some good ones. He's got the all-around athleticism, physicality, and skill to be a moving piece who can make plays on the edge and in the passing game like Khalid Hill, provide inside running like Sione Houma, and thump on lead blocks like Joe Kerridge. This guy has future fan favorite written all over him.
VanSumeren holds offers from Air Force, Central Michigan, Cincinnati, Columbia, Eastern Michigan, Harvard, Iowa, Iowa State, Minnesota, Navy, Toledo, Western Michigan, and Yale. I don't think academics will be an issue. Various outlets reported interest but no offer from the likes of Mizzou, Notre Dame, Ole Miss, West Virvinia, and Wisconsin.
VanSumeren is the only player in the Rivals database (2002-present) from Essexville Garber. According to the Bentley database, the only Wolverine from Essexville was Frederick L. Westover, a freshman in 1964 listed without a number or position.
VanSumeren did a little (or a lot) of everything. As a senior, he completed 11-of-25 passes for 249 yards, three touchdowns, and two picks; rushed for 387 yards and six touchdowns on 54 carries (7.2 YPC); he caught 85 passes (!) for 1259 yards (14.8 YPC) and 13 touchdowns; he added 43 tackles, four TFLs, and a sack on defense; he averaged 36.3 yards on 23 punts, pinning 12 inside the 20 with a long of 62 (!!!).
Junior and sophomore stats can be found on his MaxPreps page.
FAKE 40 TIME
As mentioned above, VanSumeren runs a laser-timed 4.76, which is great for a fullback and merits zero FAKEs.
Junior highlights and single-game reels can be found on his Hudl page.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
With Khalid Hill and Henry Poggi both graduating, VanSumeren has a golden opportunity to see the field right away as part of a fullback tandem with Ben Mason. Mason is the designated thumper; VanSumeren can move around the field a bit more and provide more of a threat in the passing game. His role should only grow as the years go on, too.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
VanSumeren's offer came right before TE/H-back prospect Tommy Tremble committed to Notre Dame, so on the surface it appears Michigan is done with blocky/catchy types. There are rumblings Michigan may still pursue Temble, which (1) must mean they love him as a prospect, and (2) shows you just how much Harbaugh loves blocky/catchy types. We'll see if anything develops there.
Michigan is now at 17 commits in a class that should reach the low 20s. The coaches have mostly narrowed their focus to a short list of high-level prospects, including DEs Eyabi Anoma and Jayson Oweh, OTs Nicholas Petit-Frere and Jarrett Patterson, and DTs Tyler Friday and Rick Sandidge. They could also look to add another wide receiver, and ATH/RB Michael Barrett was on potential commit watch last week, though nothing came to pass.
Here's the class as it currently stands: