Hello: Freddy Canteen

Submitted by Ace on June 29th, 2013 at 1:59 PM

Michigan offered Elkton (MD) Eastern Christian Academy teammates Freddy Canteen (WR/SLOT) and Brandon Watson (CB) during their technique camp a couple weeks ago, and this morning the duo decided to accept, becoming the 12th and 13th commits in the 2014 class.

We'll start with Canteen, whose commitment—and, in retrospect, original offer—signals bad news for anyone holding out hope of Michigan landing Top-100 FL WR Artavis Scott, who announces this week at The Opening (likely for Clemson). While losing out on Scott would obviously be bad news, Canteen is not some cheap consolation prize — as you'll see below, there's plenty of evidence to suggest that he's poised for a leap up the rankings.

HIGH SCHOOL

I'm moving this section up to the top because it'll help explain everything below. I'll also be lazy and blockquote what I posted in a previous recruiting roundup:

Both prospects attend Elkton (MD) Eastern Christian Academy, which is essentially this sport's answer to hoops factory Oak Hill Academy—the academy itself is built entirely around the football program and attendees take their coursework through a larger online program. Their quarterback is David Sills, whom you may remember as the (then-)13-year-old who committed to USC, and now you exactly why USC offered such a player so early: his father, David Sills IV, is the founder of ECA. The program only played three games in 2012, as five opponents cancelled planned matchups, so what you see above—serious technique work (that's Canteen talking at the start of the video)—is what largely constituted their season, and now they're hitting the camp circuit very hard.

As ECA coach Dwayne Thomas explained to ESPN's Chantel Jennings after his players' commitments this morning, their under-the-radar status can be attributed to factors even beyond the lack of a real season last year:

So while the headquarters for Eastern Christian Academy is in Maryland, the two boys are actually from Delaware, which has been a reason why the two prospects haven’t had a ton of attention, according to their coach.

Being that we’re from Delaware, a lot of coaches don’t get a chance to see them in the spring because there is no spring football,” Thomas said. “So as they get out and get to camps, schools get a chance to see what their talent is.”

Camps have been the only real chance these players have had to get themselves noticed, what with the mostly-cancelled season and no spring ball.

GURU RATINGS

Scout Rivals ESPN 247 Sports 247 Comp.
3*, #80 WR 4*, #43 WR NR WR 3*, 86, #103 WR 3*, #69 WR,
#552 Ovr

The rankings for Canteen are all over the place for now. Rivals has him just within four-star range (the #48 WR, PSU commit Chris Godwin, is the last four-star at the position). Scout and 247 have him well outside of four-star range, while ESPN hasn't got around to ranking him yet.

There's also disparity regarding Canteen's height: Rivals lists him at 6'3", while the other three services peg him at 6'0" or 6'1", with all four listing him around 170-175 pounds. Reports out of Michigan's camp suggest Rivals may be giving him a couple extra inches — onlookers posited that he's in the 6'0" range.

SCOUTING

What do you do when your team doesn't really play a season? If you're ECA, apparently work on technique. A lot. The captivating video of ECA players going through footwork drills has made the rounds in this space; here's a sampling (Canteen is the guy going through on his own):

Once you've broken out of your trance, you may go "wow, that guy has really quick feet," and you would be right. It's near-impossible to come across an evaluation of Canteen that doesn't mention his excellent route-running. Here's Adam Friedman on Canteen's performance at an April Rivals camp in New Jersey ($):

There may not have been a better route-runner on the field than Canteen. If he gets a clean release from the line, the defensive backs were rarely able to catch up and make a play on the ball. One of the things that stood out about Canteen was his explosiveness out of his breaks. One multiple occasions, Canteen fooled the defensive back with a hitch-and-go route and ending up with a wide open touchdown catch. Two things Canteen can work on are breaking press coverage and getting stronger so that he doesn't get bumped off his route.

247's Tom Loy from a Pennsylvania 7-on-7 tourney, also in April of this year ($):

Sills and Canteen connected often during this weekend. The 6-foot-0, 175-pound receiver was very difficult to defend and his routes were some of the best out of the entire camp. Canteen did plenty of talking on both days, but he backed it up every time.

Unnamed Rivals evaluator from the same tournament ($):

Canteen got the job done on both sides of the ball during the tournament. During the first day, he was one of the defensive leaders as his Flash Training squad did not allow a score. On Day 2 during the playoffs, Canteen excelled in finding openings across the middle and his impressive route running was highlighted by a few double moves that led to easy scores.

Canteen's high school coach:

Freddy Canteen is, in my opinion, the best route runner in the country. I think every camp that he goes to, people get a chance to find that out,” Thomas said.

I think you get the picture. Canteen's slight frame means he has trouble getting off the line against more physical corners—adding strength, as with all recruits, is a big priority—but if he gets into his route cleanly, it's very difficult to stick to him in the open field.

While his route-running gets most of the attention, Canteen reportedly has a good pair of hands, too. Scout's Brian Dohn praised his catching at the NLA 7-on-7 tourney in April ($)...

Canteen is smooth and quick, and he got out of breaks quickly. ECA is usually a well-drilled 7-on-7 squad, so the ball is shared a lot. But when Canteen was given a chance, he got open and made several nice catches, including a beautiful one in the corner of the end zone in which he was pushed and still got his foot down and secured the catch. If ECA’s season didn’t end in the first month last year, Canteen would easily be a double-digit offer player.

...and again at last month's IMG 7-on-7 regional ($):

Canteen, who said Rutgers is his leader, may have been hurt more than anyone by ECA’s season being suspended last year after three games because he would likely be sitting on a ton of offers. Canteen is smooth, and comes out of breaks well. He also showed good hands once again.

Note that Dohn is very much among those saying Canteen should have a higher recruiting profile — that may signal a future jump in his ranking on Scout.

As for Canteen's speed, Rutgers' Rivals outlet was very impressed with that facet of his game after the aforementioned New Jersey camp ($):

Freddy Canteen - Eastern Christian Academy (Md.)
Canteen may be a little slight of build but he makes up for it in speed. He can cover a lot of ground in a hurry and had no trouble getting separation on deep routes. Canteen is a definite home run threat, who proved he could go deep on the best defensive backs at the camp.

Canteen also showed he takes well to coaching at Michigan's camp, according to GBW's Kyle Bogenschutz ($):

Still developing from a technique standpoint with his hands, something that can be said for all high school wide outs, Canteen took some coaching and implemented it right away in the top group for the afternoon 1-on-1’s, blowing by corners attempting to press, sprinting across the field on quick slants. Canteen is around 6-0 and has the frame to add some muscle but maintain that speed of his, undoubtedly earning his Michigan offer and one of the true highlights on day three at camp.

Finally, 247's Clint Brewster evaluated some of Canteen's film and came away with a couple areas for improvement ($):

Canteen has excellent footwork at the line of scrimmage and can get past bump-and-run coverage. He has very good body control and does a nice job of adjusting to the ball when it’s in the air. Canteen isn’t afraid to go over the middle on square-ins or drag patterns. After the catch, Canteen shows he can make defenders miss and get positive yards. Canteen shows great effort to block in the run game, but it is not a strongpoint for him. Canteen has good short area quickness but not great overall speed.

It's not a surprise to see Canteen's blocking isn't at a high level given his frame; the comment about his speed is in direct conflict with other reports, worth noting considering the lack of exposure and extensive game film. Given that Brewster's evaluation is based on a short video clip, while the others are in-person reports, in my (admittedly biased) mind the reports that he has impressive speed carry more weight.

At worst, Michigan appears to have a very solid slot candidate — with his route-running acumen, Canteen is an ideal type of receiver to have operating in the middle of the field. If he's a home run threat on top of that, he could be very productive. Strength, obviously, is something he'll have to work on.

OFFERS

Michigan was Canteen's most prestigious offer; he also held offers from UConn, Hawaii, Maryland, Rutgers, Temple, and Tennessee. The Vols, like the Wolverines, offered Canteen after seeing him camp at their school, so Michigan's coaches weren't the only high-profile staff impressed by his talent in person.

STATS

According to his Scout profile, Canteen caught six passes for 114 yards and a touchdown in ECA's three games last fall.

FAKE 40 TIME

Rivals lists a 4.43-second 40 time, which is elite-level speed if that's an electronic time. I can't find the source of that time on Google; while it sounds like Canteen is quite fast indeed, that time gets three FAKEs out of five.

VIDEO

As you can imagine, there isn't much video out there on Canteen. Here's an interview with a few clips from a NUC camp back in 2011:

And I can't resist posting the entrancing footwork video again:

There are also a couple short cut-ups from 2011 on Canteen's Hudl page. Here's hoping ECA plays a full season this fall so he can put together a real highlight video.

PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE

Canteen is going to have a real chance to see the field early. When he gets to campus, only 2013 signee Da'Mario Jones is projected to be on the roster at slot receiver, and those two should battle it out to replace Drew Dileo in 2014.

It's impossible to make any sort of prediction about Canteen's potential impact without relying entirely on camp reports and the like, so I won't bother. If he's the speedy technician he's made out to be above, however, then I think the Wolverines got a major steal here.

UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS

As I said in the intro, Canteen's commitment is another sign that Michigan won't be landing Artavis Scott this week; given Scott's accelerated timeline after visiting Clemson, this was assumed anyway. The Wolverines could be done at receiver, especially with four-star K.J. Williams leaning towards Syracuse, or they may add one more if the numbers allow.

Needs in the class going forward include one more offensive lineman (probably a tackle), a couple defensive linemen (you all know the main targets there), another linebacker, and safety.

Comments

Ace

June 29th, 2013 at 3:00 PM ^

Norfleet may very well line up in the slot sometimes but I don't think he'll be used there full-time like Canteen and Jones. Borges wants big receivers—his ideal slot receiver is a few inches taller than RichRod's—and obviously Norfleet doesn't fit that mold.

JDVan

June 29th, 2013 at 2:36 PM ^

Well with Scott out of the fold and Canteen in the coaches keep their streak of only 6 ft+ recievers. Going to be a tall group of pass catchers between the TE's and WR's we are bringing in.

turtleboy

June 29th, 2013 at 6:47 PM ^

I was disconcerted at first, as well, until I read more into the linked article where it said: 

"Eastern Christian is not a school. It's a football training program that provides a site. National Connections Academy is the school. They're our team." Connections Education counts more than 45,000 students among its accredited private and public schools. Its students include everyone from prodigies at New York City's prestigious Juilliard School of Music to Olympic hopefuls, but Eastern Christian represents the company's first foray into team sports.

Read More: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2012/magazine/08/22/high-school-football-virtual-powerhouse/index.html#ixzz2XeFHopQD

ProfMurdoc

June 29th, 2013 at 3:11 PM ^

I was going to say, cue the handwringing. A direct jump from athlete-student & online classes (however much this may be the future) to UMich could be daunting.

And since were speculating wildly and baselessly: a lack of please-marry-my-daughter character quotes plus few big offers and little attention from scouts could make dudes from the school decommit threats come next season when they (presumably) finally get that attention.

 

On the plus side, until reevaluations happen we have a legit MGoSleeperOTY candidate.

 

Having very little information is fun. 

corundum

June 29th, 2013 at 3:22 PM ^

At this point Canteen sounds like a poor man's Mario Manningham. He's fast, a great route-runner, and burns defenders with the worst waldo double move.

Maizenblueball

June 29th, 2013 at 3:53 PM ^

Although after watching that footwork drill gif, I'd say he needs to work on his stride length. 

With a stride that short, he probably runs the 40 in over 30 seconds.

Jehu the Damaja

June 29th, 2013 at 5:26 PM ^

I read an article on SI about it and here's the real reason:

National Connections (online school) expects Eastern Christian to follow the same rules as members of the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association and applied to that governing body for "standards of competition verification"...

The MPSSAA only recognizes private schools that want to play state public schools, of which there are none on the Honey Badgers' schedule."

WestQuad

June 29th, 2013 at 4:25 PM ^

There are a lot of online charter schools popping up.  K12 is an example.  They have a lot of schools in PA.  The local tax dollars go to the online charter schools tuition.  The  CEOs of these companies have multi-million dollar salaries.  The whole thing is a little suspect.

ProfMurdoc

June 29th, 2013 at 5:53 PM ^

The SI article says the online Academy has credibility: "But the reputation of National Connections, and the fast-growing digitalization of U.S. education, affords Eastern Christian a degree of insulation from skepticism."

 

But the guy who does this:

"Over the past decade, Sills had bankrolled an overhaul of the athletics facilities at Red Lion Christian Academy in Bear, Del. But administrators at that school became concerned that the football program was gaining too much influence, and the two sides parted ways last year. That led Sills to create Eastern Christian."

 

Makes me nervous. 

One hand, yay for American industriousness finding solution to problems through being able to throw money at it. On the other hand, that problem is apparently a high school being too concerned about ensuring that education is a priority.

The casual lack of awareness in the reference "We've probably got 15 Blind Sides on this team." is cringe-worthy.

No doubt Sill's son will be fine regardless of the quality of his education. Hopefully Michigan can assure its ECA recruits the same.

But, we're all happy to have them aboard. Policy discussions of money, race, and privilege go elsewhere.

 

 

But really, Honey Badgers? A meme team? C'mon.

 

I've got a better idea: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolverine

EGD

June 30th, 2013 at 2:30 PM ^

At my high school, students could spend half the day taking off-site classes to learn things like auto mechanics, welding, and skills like that.  It almost seems like the ECA program is taking that kind of trade-school model and applying it to football--except that instead of being attached to a brick & mortar school it's attached to an on-line charter academy.

It seems to me like the "risk" part might be less of a concern for the Brandon Watsons and Freddy Canteens, and more for their less-talented teammates who might undergo a football-focused high school program and not wind up earning athletic scholarships.  As long as the education piece is legit though, and it appears that it is, I don't think that's too big a deal.  

3rdGenerationBlue

June 29th, 2013 at 8:42 PM ^

Please stop worry about ratings bumps and focus more on how each player projects to contribute when they get on the team. I know the staff of mgo and most of the loyal followers prefer charts and fantasy leagues but some of us are more interested in what happens on the field. We also spend most of our waking hours with pants on.

buddhafrog

June 30th, 2013 at 2:19 AM ^

I'm not worried about the school or online classes. Many elite atheletes in individual sports do the same. I'm sure they also have guidance counselors, etc. I've just completed my master's online and it was great.

What I am excited about is this new pipeline we are building with a true elite football academy. This may prove to pay dividends longterm.

NJblue2

June 30th, 2013 at 5:21 PM ^

I hope he, and Watson for that matter, are successful. I really hope he goes off against Rutgers, since many of them seem to believe they'll soundly beat Michigan in 2014.

dilwale

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