According to multiple outlets, Trotwood (OH) Madison cornerback Reon Dawson, a high school teammate of Mike McCray, has committed to Michigan. Dawson, previously an Illinois commit, is the 26th commitment of the 2013 class, joining Ross Douglas, Jourdan Lewis, and Channing Stribling among cornerbacks. Informative update coming tomorrow.
UPDATE, of the informative variety:
|3*, #64 CB||3*, NR CB||3*, 77, #41 S||3*, 84, #82 CB|
Coming from a powerhouse program in Trotwood-Madison—in addition to McCray, the Rams produced Ohio State commit Cam Burrows and Illinois commit Jarrod Clements this year—means Dawson is well-scouted. The four services all have him squarely in the three-star range, with only ESPN evaluating him as a safety. All but ESPN (6'1", 175) list him at 6'2", 175 pounds—Dawson continues the trend of Michigan targeting bigger corners.
The general consensus on Dawson is that he's a talented prospect with a great frame, but also very much a project. Scout's Dave Berk gave a quick breakdown of his game last summer ($):
The first thing that jumps out about Dawson is his length. At 6-foot-2, Dawson needs to add weight if he expects to compete in the Big Ten. Nevertheless, he’s got above average feet along with the ability to flip his hips, turn and run with receivers out of his back pedal. He is raw, but his upside is extremely high to develop into a solid player at the college level.
Rivals's Josh Helmholdt saw similar potential last summer as Dawson improved at the more technical aspects of the position ($):
Dawson has come a long way since his junior season, even since last spring when we saw him at the VTO Cincinnati camp. Dawson has always had great speed, and at 6-foot-2, 175 pounds he has great length for the cornerback position, but now he is starting to show the instincts and fluidity to play the spot.
While Dawson's physical tools are widely praised, his technique and play recognition repeatedly appear as areas in need of improvement. Here's 247's Clint Brewster($)...
Improvements: Dawson is a raw/untapped prospect that has the athleticism to be a big time college football cornerback. Dawson might need a year in the weight room to add muscle, which will help him make plays in the run game. As Dawson gets more comfortable with the cornerback position, he will be able to react quicker to plays and recognize routes faster, which is an area of improvement.
...and Scout's Ryan Easterling ($):
Technique will be the main focus for Dawson. His athleticism can only take him so far, and he’ll need to refine the technical side of his game to become a more complete corner. With that, he’ll need to make more crisp breaks on the ball when jumping routes and adjusting to his receiver’s routes.
Dawson only started playing organized football a few years ago, which helps explain why he's still developing in these areas. ESPN's evaluation echoes those same concerns about technique and instincts, suggesting safety may be a better position for him at the collegiate level ($) [emphasis mine]:
What stands out about Dawson is his quick feet, smooth hips and very good top end speed. When you consider his height, you have an appreciation for how well he moves. Shows fluid, smooth footwork carrying vertical routes out of his pedal and zone turn. ... He is a strong and reliable open field tackler who breaks down well in space for a tall corner. ... High-points the football and flashes good leaping and ball skills. While he effectively presses receivers off the line with his long arms, he does lose a little in transition when opening to turn and run. Recovery speed is good, not great and he does better playing the ball in front of him with some cushion. Dawson could develop into a man-to-man cover corner at the next level, but his skills and speed are more suited as a zone defender. Still has some room for good physical development while keeping his excellent range making safety a strong possibility.
If Dawson proves he can turn and run with college wide receivers while also adding the weight he'll need to hold up in the run game, he should be able to stick at corner. If not, he could develop into a rangy safety, though his size won't be as much of an asset there as it would be at corner.
The evaluations paint a pretty clear picture of Dawson—he's got the athletic tools needed to be a good cover corner, but needs work to get there. If he puts it all together, at his size, he could be a big-impact player; the question is if he can progress quickly enough to work his way above more polished players on the two-deep.
Dawson held offers from Arizona, Cincinnati, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Pitt, Purdue, Vanderbilt, Virginia, West Virginia, and a handful of MAC schools. He camped at Alabama and Ohio State but did not receive an offer from either school.
Dawson tallied 22 tackles, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery in his senior season, per the Greater Western Ohio Conference. As a junior, he had 18 tackles, a fumble recovery, and three interceptions.
FAKE 40 TIME
Rivals lists a 40 time of 4.4 seconds, while 247 has him at a 4.39—given the praise for his athleticism, that gets three FAKEs out of five.
Extensive senior film and cutups from both his junior and senior seasons can be found on Dawson's Hudl page.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
As the least-heralded among Michigan's four cornerback commits, not to mention the concerns about technique, Dawson is almost assured a redshirt year to gain weight and learn the finer points of playing corner—or, as it may be, to figure out if he's a corner or a safety. Should Dawson stick at corner, his bigger frame suggests he'll play on the boundary. The path to playing time won't be an easy one, not with three other corners in the class, but Dawson's size and ability to play safety or corner give him a good shot to find a home somewhere on the two-deep.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
In all likelihood, Michigan will only take two more players in the class. One of those spots is reserved for VA RB Derrick Green, who's got Michigan as his leader and will choose a school on January 26th. Three other players hold offers and appear to have serious interest: CA OL Cameron Hunt, CO OL Dan Skipper, and TX TE Durham Smythe. Any one of those players could take the final spot, or—if the coaches decide they're set at O-line and Smythe goes elsewhere—we could see some late offers go out.