Jaylen Kelly-Powell gets coached up by Mike Zordich at SMSB 2016. [Bill Rapai]
Four-star Cass Tech safety Jaylen Kelly-Powell committed to Michigan this morning live on Sam Webb's WTKA radio show, fulfilling a long-awaited expectation that he'd join the 2017 class—an expectation that may have gone back to birth, as Kelly-Powell was named after Jalen Rose.
Kelly-Powell is the 19th commit in the class and the second at safety, joining three-star AL S J'Marick Woods. His commitment could help Michigan reel in his cousin, four-star Detroit King CB Ambry Thomas, and his five-star Cass Tech teammate, Donovan Peoples-Jones; Michigan is already considered the favorite for both prospects.
4*, #23 S,
|3*, #31 S||
4*, 81, #18 S,
4*, 93, #17 S,
4*, #21 S,
Kelly-Powell is regarded as a four-star prospect by every outlet save Rivals, which has him two spots outside of four-star status in their safety position rankings. Rivals is balanced out by 247, which is the most bullish on JKP, and his composite ranking ends up right in the area of his Scout and ESPN rankings.
There's a strong consensus on Kelly-Powell's measurables: he's listed at 6'0" and either 175 or 180 pounds by all four sites. While JKP has mostly played safety at Cass Tech, he's also moonlighted at corner, and he's got enough cover skills that he could be either a safety or nickel at the collegiate level. In Don Brown's system, he should wind up at safety, where he'll be utilized much like a fellow Technician: Delano Hill, another safety who the coaches are comfortable putting head-up on a receiver at the line of scrimmage.
As you'd imagine for a highly regarded Cass Tech prospect, there's quite a bit of scouting on JKP, including plenty from this here site.
The earliest scouting report I've got open is from MGoAlum Tim Sullivan, who watched JKP participate in Ohio State's Friday Night Lights camp in July of 2015:
Kelly-Powell looks very impressive physically, boasting a build that looks chiseled with no fat. He doesn't have great size overall though, coming in under 6-0 and 190 pounds, looking more like a cornerback with up close observation than a safety. However, he showed that his skill set is well-suited to safety, with an understanding of large-concept defensive ideas. He doesn't quite have the hips to play corner (other than in a pinch), and will continue building up to be the bigtime safety that he has the potential to become.
That fall, I watched Cass Tech take on Southfield, and in a game featuring a number of high-level prospects, JKP stood out:
Kelly-Powell has good size and athleticism and he plays with the type of controlled aggression you want from a strong safety. That aggression got the better of him on an early missed tackle when he overran an outside run play; otherwise, he tended to end up around the football, and the play tended to end when he got there. He had one especially impressive trackdown from the opposite hash of a ballcarrier going down the far sideline, laying a lick that knocked the ball free when he got there—unfortunately the ball flew out of bounds. When he tackles he does a good job wrapping up and he reads plays well.
Kelly-Powell was generally solid in coverage, even holding up well in man coverage against slot receivers. He got victimized on a corner route when he got caught peeking into the backfield instead of playing the receiver. Otherwise he displayed quick feet and good hips for a safety.
In the summer, Kelly-Powell went all-out to get to The Opening. When he didn't get an invite despite making Scout's top ten defensive performers at the Columbus regional, he took part in the Chicago regional the following week and punched his ticket to the finals:
Detroit Cass Tech four-star safety Jaylen Kelly-Powell came to Chicago with a mission: to be invited to The Opening Finals after not being invited in Columbus. Mission accomplished as he was once again a physical presence in coverage and challenged himself against the best receivers at the camp. While he did not win every single rep, he won a lot of them and proved himself worthy of the challenge.
JKP made it clear he deserved his spot with his performance at the finals. His one-on-one coverage stood out to 247's Tom Loy:
The Detroit (Mich.) Cass Tech four-star safety was one of the top performers when it came to one-on-one drills. In a three-play stretch, Kelly-Powell had two pass breakups and an interception. He had a strong week in Beaverton.
Kelly-Powell, the No. 27 safety in the nation and top safety in the Midwest, demonstrated an ability to drive on the ball and he tracked the ball well.
In addition, Kelly-Powell has the length to match up with bigger receivers down the field, and he plays physical in the secondary. He reads plays well in front of him.
Although I didn't see JKP take as many reps of as I'd hoped, his play at Sound Mind Sound Body was a cut above the other safeties in attendance:
In the early drill session, Mike Zordich pulled JKP and a couple other safeties aside for a separate drill that had them start off the line, go into a backpedal, and then close on the ball. That was the spot in which JKP stood out the most to me; despite being the biggest of the three prospects, he had the quickest feet and most impressive closing speed.
Kelly-Powell isn't as smooth an athlete as [Ambry] Thomas, and on the first rep I saw of him in one-on-ones he allowed a catch after getting a solid jam at the top of the route because he stopped moving his feet. He's fast and physical but doesn't look totally comfortable in man coverage; from what I've seen of him, he's better suited to full-pad settings—as a safety, he's not usually alone on an island like he is in camp one-on-ones. With some refinement in technique, however, he could become a solid cover safety, and he's already excellent playing the run.
TMI's Brice Marich got an illuminating quote from Cass Tech coach Thomas Wilcher after CT's victory over Oak Park at this fall's Prep Kickoff Classic:
The Technicians headman turned to his senior safety Jaylen Kelly-Powell for that defensive adjustment, moving him over to cornerback.
Said Wilcher, "that's something we've got to do... we've got to try to figure out how to get the best guys in the best positions so we can get control of the game,” said Wilcher.
It’s a switch he’s not afraid to make because of Kelly-Powell’s unique versatility.
"He moves around. He is the only one that knows the defense well enough to move around. He is like a person that goes from spot to spot to spot. He's just got to do that.”
Oak Park QB Dwan Mathis had two early touchdown strikes before JKP shifted to corner; he didn't have another after the switch.
Adam scouted the marquee Cass-King matchup in this season's PSL title game, which CT won 27-25 as JKP took on multiple roles in the defense:
His awareness extended beyond recognizing plays as they developed (which he did really well) as he seemed to be the one responsible for making checks and getting his teammates lined up on every play.
Cass likes to line Kelly-Powell all over the place. They’ll have him walk down into the box and play near the level of the linebackers in run support, play man over the top as a safety, and play press man in the slot or on the outside. He can cover almost anyone; in Cass’s first meeting with King this year, Kelly-Powell won most of the times he was covering [Ambry] Thomas (more on that in a Future Blue Derivatives post sometime down the road). That wasn’t the case in this game. Kelly-Powell flips his hips quickly and can stick with Thomas for a bit, but once Thomas gets downfield he’s usually able to gain a step or two of separation. That’s what happened at 00:49, and a closer matchup can be seen at 1:23. It didn’t make the highlight reel for the sake of avoiding repetition, but that same jam-turn-trail happened over and over again that night.
At 1:27 Kelly-Powell moves laterally for a split second before he realizes that Thomas didn’t get the ball, at which time he reverses course, loops around King’s blockers, breaks down, and misses in the open field. At 1:36 he’s still directing traffic when the ball is snapped, but he reads the handoff, bounces a gap over, and sticks the ballcarrier. When I’ve watched him play, I’ve seen much more of the latter. Kelly-Powell is agile enough to weave through traffic and fast enough to get from sideline to sideline in a hurry, and he also takes good angles to the ball. He’s generally an excellent run defender, and I don’t recall seeing any open-field struggles in the earlier Cass-King game. It’s a concern as a safety, but the (extremely) small sample size caveat definitely applies here.
Speaking of agility, Kelly-Powell’s was on full display on offense. He sticks a foot in the dirt and explodes past defenders at 1:43 and 1:52. He had his best game as a running back against King, but his collegiate future is likely at safety, where he has all the tools needed to succeed as one in a Don Brown defense.
Thomas is nearly as good a wideout as he is a cornerback; that JKP could stay competitive with him in man coverage is an excellent sign for a safety, even if he lost some of those battles. His command of the defense, meanwhile, is a consistent theme across several scouting reports. ESPN's underclassman eval called him a "savvy defender," and while their senior-year eval says he's a little undersized, they mention that he plays bigger than his listing, and they have high praise for his run support:
Not consistently smooth with footwork but transitions quickly in and out of pedal. Shows good burst coming forward jumping routes. Sharp in his redirection skills mirroring receivers tightly out of breaks. Quick to recovery and make up ground when ball is in the air.
Aggressive box player who will set the edge. Plays with some pop and edge to him. Lacks size behind him but will stick his nose in the mix and work leverage maintain force. Runs the alley with proper angles when aligned at safety. Understands fits and retaining leverage on ball. Tackles high with some pop but slides off some tackles as well.
Kelly-Powell has some playmaker qualities to his game. He plays fast, competes hard and has great recovery quickness. Lacks some size and and at this time may project best as a Nickel corner with safety still being the position with the highest ceiling with continued physical development
Finally, Scout joins the chorus of those praising JKP's football IQ in their free evaluation:
EvaluationNot considered 'big' for safety, but not small either as he's at right about the average for height and is well put together as far as his build. Can play man to man and has been out on an island at cornerback before. Changes directions well and has good coverage technique. Aggressive both at the line of scrimmage jamming and when in run support. Solid wrap-up tackler more than he is a striker. Very smart and disciplined and gets himself in the right places. Would like to see him make more plays on the football as far as turnovers, but he is a good, smart, productive football player.Strengths
- Change of Direction
- Coverage Awareness
- Jamming AbilityAreas to Improve
- Ball Skills
Kelly-Powell doesn't have prototype size and he's not quite fluid enough to be a full-time corner, but he makes up for that with his intelligence, instincts, and physicality. I expect him to become a very good safety, even if his size prevents him from being considered a big-time NFL prospect. He possesses the well-rounded skill-set and football IQ required to succeed as a safety playing multiple roles in Don Brown's complicated defense.
Kelly-Powell has an impressive offer sheet that includes the likes of Alabama, Auburn, Cal, Colorado, Michigan State, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Oregon, Penn State, Pitt, Stanford, Tennessee, Virginia Tech, UCLA, and Wisconsin, among many others.
I don't need to tell you about Cass Tech, Michigan's most important in-state pipeline program.
I couldn't find complete stats for JKP; MaxPreps only has bits and pieces from his sophomore year.
FAKE 40 TIME
Kelly-Powell has a SPARQ-verified 4.66 40-yard dash, which gets zero FAKEs out of five.
Regular season highlights from this season:
Clips from The Opening:
Junior highlights and single-game reels can be found on his Hudl page.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Kelly-Powell should get an opportunity for immediate playing time with Delano Hill and Dymonte Thomas both graduating after this season. Tyree Kinnel looks to have one safety spot locked down; Josh Metellus has the inside track at the other, but there will be snaps to go around between him, Khaleke Hudson, and the incoming freshmen. JKP is likely to find his way into the rotation, either as a slot corner or backup safety, and he should be an integral part of the secondary by his junior year.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Kelly-Powell fills a big need at safety, and Michigan may be done recruiting that spot—while they have other offers out to safety prospects, none stand out as likely to join the class, and Michigan can also take an extra corner and move somebody back. (Darnay Holmes, for instance, is a corner who's also a promising free safety prospect.)
Michigan now has 19 commits in a 2017 class that should reach the low 30s. Biggest needs going forward include wide receiver, a few more offensive linemen, defensive tackle, and linebacker.