After some minor technical difficulties, four-star Cheshire Academy (CT) WR Tarik Black committed to Michigan today in a ceremony at his school, choosing the Wolverines over offers from Alabama, Auburn, Notre Dame, and many others. Black is the second wide receiver in the 2017 class, joining Brad Hawkins, and the 21st commit in the class overall.
4*, #13 WR,
4*, #10 WR,
4*, 81, #31 WR,
4*, 92, #29 WR,
4*, #17 WR,
We have another prospect whose rankings fall into two distinct groups. Scout and Rivals both consider Black a top-100 prospect; ESPN and 247 still regard him as a four-star but place him in the ~200 overall range. There are multiple possiblities for why this split exists. Notably, Black participated in a bunch of the Rivals-only camps, which could mean Rivals has the best read on his game—or they could be rewarding him rankings-wise for participating in their camps. (This is why I hate the Rivals camps that only Rivals can cover.) There's hope it's the former, as Scout—the other site to rank him in the top 100—got out to one of his games this fall while ESPN and 247 lack much in the way of in-person scouting reports.
The four sites are in general agreement on Black's measureables, listing him at a strapping 6'3" or 6'4" (Scout splits the difference) and somewhere between 201 and 208 pounds. He's got great size for a possession receiver who can also be a contested-ball threat downfield.
Black is about as well-scouted as a prospect from Connecticut is ever going to be in large part because he's hit the camp scene hard since at least 2014, when mentions of him started popping up on Rivals. Black was an immediate contributor on varsity as a freshman in 2013, scoring nine touchdowns. Rivals named him one of the top underclassmen at the RCS New Jersey the following spring and invited him to their Underclassmen Challenge, where he also made the top performer list:
Black came all the way from the Nutmeg State and stood out with his size and route-running in a large group of wide receivers. He has very good size for his age and showed good hands as well. Syracuse and Temple have offered and he will be one to watch in New England.
Black impressed onlookers at Penn State's Junior Elite Camp that summer; he was one of three 2017 wideouts (Donovan Peoples-Jones was another) to earn mention from 247's Sean Fitz as one of that summer's PSU camp standouts:
The 6-foot-2, 183-pound prospect is smooth and adjusts well to the ball in the air. He's a natural athlete and should continue to improve his numbers as he adds explosiveness.
After a productive sophomore season, Black hit the camp circuit again. Josh Helmholdt ranked him higher than any other underclassman in a loaded field at the 2015 RCS New Jersey:
Of all the top wide receiver talent in attendance, Black may have as much upside as any of them. Another tall, fluid receiver who measures 6-foot-2 and 184 pounds, the class of 2017 four-star glides down the field and is very clean in and out of his breaks. Maybe his best attributes, however, are his hands, which were on display when a quarterback led him too far across the middle and Black had to reel in a fingertips grab while maintaining his balance.
247 concurred with this assessment, calling him a "smooth, gliding type who covers ground quickly" after the FBU Connecticut camp.
The rankings split appears to stem from last summer. Black got only passing mention from 247's Steve Wiltfong after the New Jersey Opening regional and he wasn't invited to the Opening finals, where all four of the recruiting outlets would've had a chance to scout him in depth against top competition. Black once again was a top performer at the RCS New Jersey, however, which earned him an invite to the Rivals-only elite camp, the Five-Star Challenge. Before the Challenge, he participated in Michigan's satellite camp in Connecticut, where he won the shuttle drills competition, per TMI's Eugene Hankerson.
At the Five-Star Challenge, Black's performance ranked behind only top-50 OSU commit Tyjon Lindsay's and ahead of the likes of five-star Alabama commit Jerry Jeudy's among pass-catchers:
Black was the second-most consistent wide receiver at the event and managed to shine in both the morning and the evening sessions. Black’s length allowed him to grab a couple of overthrown balls and his crisp routes allowed him to create gobs of separation on intermediate routes. There were faster wide receivers at the camp, but few were as consistent downfield.
He made Mike Farrell's all-camp team—which, hilariously, is called the All-Farrell Five-Star Challenge Team—and was honorable mention for Farrell's best hands award behind winner Najee Harris(!). When Rivals did their next rerank, they moved Black up 52 spots into the top 100, and he's stayed there ever since.
247, which didn't get to see Black at the Five-Star Challenge (or, obviously, at the Opening finals), moved him down from #119 overall to #186 in their July update. The perception of Black very much depends on which camp—and how many camps—a particular outlet attended where he was present.
[UPDATE: Tim Sullivan hopped into the comments to provide a helpful explanation for why Black didn't get many mentions after the Opening regional:
Black didn't do the full day of workouts at the New Jersey Opening camp (he skipped the testing, IIRC), but he did get picked to the elite group when they separated them out for the 7-on-7 portion of the day. He was solid there, but had a much more notable performance the day before at the New Jersey Rivals Camp.A lot of kids who were great at one of those two were just OK at the other - the nature of camps on back-to-back days.
That's far preferable to Black participating in full in the Opening regional and not making an impact, obviously.]
Scout, thankfully, got out to a game of his this fall, and even though the opposing defense gameplanned to keep the ball out of Black's hands, Brian Dohn found him worthy of his top-100 ranking:
Black is not targeted much because teams bracket him in coverage, but the Scout 100 receiver is still impressive to watch. He gets off the line of scrimmage in a flash, is smooth in the open field and high points the ball well.
Dohn expanded on that scouting report for Scout's free evaluation:
EvaluationBlack is a big target who tracks the ball well and high-points his catches. He goes over the middle and can also get down the field. He has big hands to secure the ball and tucks it quickly. He gets off the line well and is quick in and out of breaks. He knows how to use his size against the defensive backs. He needs to add strength to be more physical down the field and also to be a more effective blocker. -- Brian Dohn
- Ability To Beat Jams
- Hands and Concentration
Areas to Improve
- Blocking Ability
I'll give the final word to ESPN, which ranks Black the lowest of the four sites despite a relatively glowing evaluation:
Looks to have big hands and the ball rarely gets to frame. Times jumps well and high points the ball better than most. Above average body control opening up and adjusting to throws outside strike zone. Tracks deep ball well and fields over the shoulder throws naturally. Has upside as a jump ball or redzone pass catcher from a size advantage. Is a wide target capable of adjusting to errant throws.
Lacks top flight elite speed, but is very effective after the catch and fast enough. Is elusive in traffic flashing the ability to make first tackler miss while his smooth stride and tough finishing effort can eat up chunks of yardage. Is difficult to tackle and difficult to be on the jump ball. Probably at his best as a run and catch guy using his size to win downfield. Works hard to catch the football and is reliable. Will make his fair share of big plays particularly in the red zone.
Black is a quality guy. He's got terrific measurables, he is sneaky athletic and rangy and he catches the football very well the vertical passing game. Can play on the inside and outside which gives him value. Shows toughness and once he develops more savvy as a route runner he could be a polished guy. Will have to adjust to level of competition in college. A prospect for the top five conference programs.
Minor route running issues and a lack of elite speed are his main issues and his ability to catch contested balls helps make up for both of them. There could be concerns about consistency given his somewhat uneven camp performances—unfortunately there's little available detail on his Opening regional showing—but he looks like an excellent possession receiver with some big-play and red-zone upside. Amara Darboh with an extra inch or two isn't a bad comparison.
Black holds an elite offer sheet featuring Alabama, Auburn, Arizona State, Georgia, Louisville, Miami (YTM), Michigan State, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Stanford, Tennessee, UCLA, Virginia Tech, and Wisconsin, among others.
Black and classmate CJ Holmes, a four-star Notre Dame commit, are the second and third four-stars from Cheshire Academy in the Rivals database, following 2009 North Carolina signee Joshua Adams. The program has produced a healthy number of three-stars who usually wind up staying in the East; current Penn State safety Malik Golden is a Cheshire Academy product.
While there are complete stats on MaxPreps for Black's first two years of high school, there aren't for his last two seasons.
FAKE 40 TIME
Black's Hudl page lists an unsourced 4.48 40 time, which gets four FAKEs out of five. That would be a near-elite electronic time, which doesn't fit with the scouting reports. He's certainly not slow, however.
Junior highlights and single-game reels can be found on his Hudl page.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Like the other receivers who will be in this class, Black will get a chance to see the field right away following the departures of Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson. His ability to play on the outside or in the slot should get him more reps. As a bigger possession guy, I like his chances of carving out a role relatively early in his career; he's a very different receiver from this year's freshmen.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Black is Michigan's 21st commit in the class and their second at wide receiver, joining Brad Hawkins, who was originally a member of the 2016 class before taking a prep year. The Wolverines should take two more receivers in the class; we'll find out Thursday night if they get in-state five-star Donovan Peoples-Jones, which is the expectation, and four-star AL WR Nico Collins is a Signing Day decision.
Other positions of need include offensive line, defensive tackle, and linebacker. The pace of commitments should pick up considerably in the very near future: DPJ, as mentioned, announces tomorrow, and that's followed in quick succession by decisions from offensive linemen Isaiah Wilson (Friday) and Cesar Ruiz (Monday).