Image via FridayNighOhio.com
After pretty much letting the cat out of the bag on Twitter yesterday, Massillon (OH) Washington cornerback Gareon Conley confirmed today that he has committed to Michigan ($). He becomes the 15th commitment in the class of 2013—the 13th to earn a four-star rating on at least one recruiting site—and the second cornerback, joining Cass Tech's Jourdan Lewis.
4*, #20 CB,
|NR CB||NR CB||3*, 88, NR CB|
Conley is flying under the radar to every service save Scout, though it's worth pointing out that Scout has updated their rankings most recently of the four. The sites are evenly split as to whether he's 6'1" or 6'2", and all agree that he's between 165 and 170 pounds. Considering Michigan wanted a bigger cornerback to add to the class and complement Jourdan Lewis, that's a pretty solid frame.
Bucknuts ranked Conley as the #16 player in Ohio for the class of 2013, one spot in front of Taco Charlton and two spots ahead of Mike McCray (this means you can probably expect him to move up when 247 updates their rankings). A concern about taller cornerbacks is usually their overall athleticism and fluidity in the hips, but neither is an issue according to Mark Porter ($):
“I think he may be the best pure corner in Ohio. His ball skills are second to none. His range and athletic ability are second to none. He can match up with the number one receiver. The trait that Cam (Burrows) has over him is he may be more physical. But Gareon is ‘twitchier’ in the hips.”
Scout's group of Midwest analysts also has Conley ranked as the #16 player in the state, and Allen Trieu had some high praise in his evaluation ($):
I may disagree with Bill's statement on Munger [that he's the best player in Ohio nobody has heard of], because this might be the best kid in Ohio no one's talking about. He's long, smooth, can run, and shows good ball skills and smarts. He makes plays in zone and in man coverage, and although he definitely needs to add weight, he's a solid tackler as well.
Scout's Bill Greene questions Conley's size—though I assume it's about his weight; his height is an unquestioned positive—but echoes the sentiments about his athleticism and coverage ability ($):
A fine basketball player as well, Conley has the skill set to succeed at the next level. Although not blessed with great size, he has shown the willingness to come up and hit in run support. His best strength would be his coverage ability, and his speed. Very similar player to Canton McKinley's Jermaine Edmondson, who signed with Michigan State.
Finally, Massillon Washington assistant coach Jamie Palma notes that Conley's coverage ability is exemplary considering his height, making him an ideal matchup against larger receivers ($):
“One thing you don’t see a lot of is guys that can defend and can play corner at 6-2,” said Palma. “Most corners are 5-9 or 5-10… maybe six foot. He is a good 6-2 with a real long wingspan. So what I think he does is he brings that size out there at corner that you normally don’t see. You think you are going to have a mismatch when you see a lot bigger wide outs. He matches up better with those types of players.”
As you can see, Conley's biggest assets are his athletic ability and coverage skills given his size. Once he adds some weight, he should be able to match up quite well against bigger receivers while still having the speed and agility to hang with quicker players.
When he committed, Conley also held offers from Northwestern, Toledo, and West Virginia. According to 247, Cincinnati, Indiana, Ohio State, Virginia, and Wisconsin also showed interest.
In 2011, Conley recorded 26 solo tackles, three TFLs, a sack, nine pass breakups, and four interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown. He put up those numbers despite playing a large portion of the season while wearing a cast due to a wrist injury.
FAKE 40 TIME
Bucknuts credited Conley with a 4.5, which I'll give three FAKEs out of five—he's reportedly pretty fast, but that sounds like just an estimation or hand-timed run.
Junior highlights [RATHER LARGE PUNTER ALERT AT THE :15 MARK]:
I've seen this pointed out elsewhere, but it bears repeating: his long stride bears an uncanny resemblance to Steve Breaston's.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Conley brings somethat that no other corner on the roster will by the time he shows up on campus, and that is size. Of the CBs on the current roster, only J.T. Floyd breaks the 6'0" barrier, and he'll be gone after the 2012 season. If Michigan wants a taller cornerback—and somebody who can come up in run support—to play the "field" corner (wide side of the field, as opposed to the "boundary"), Conley could see action early in his career.
That said, he's going to have to add some weight first. 170 pounds is quite skinny for a 6'2" frame, and if Conley is going to match up with bigger receivers, he's going to need to add some muscle. He has two years to do just that, so we'll see how he looks when he shows up on campus. If he takes a redshirt year, he should be right in the mix for a starting spot across from Blake Countess in 2014, likely competing with a trio of Cass Tech grads in Delonte Hollowell, Terry Richardson, and Jourdan Lewis.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan is now almost certainly done recruiting at cornerback for 2013, barring a player like five-star Kendall Fuller deciding to come on board. They may be done recruiting the secondary entirely, as taking another safety to go along with Dymonte Thomas isn't imperative; again, however, a top talent like Su'a Cravens would have a spot available.
The Wolverines can now focus on bringing aboard a second tailback, one or two receivers, a nose tackle, and a strongside DE. After that, IN EARLY MARCH, the coaching staff can focus almost entirely on targeting the top players in the class and shifting their focus to the class of 2014. Jebus.