While the game itself didn't go as planned, last weekend was a success on the recruiting trail, as Michigan made significant progress with some high-profile visitors (more on that later this week) and added a pledge to the 2018 class. While on an official visit, Bradenton (FL) Braden River defensive end Taylor Upshaw announced on Friday night that he'd flipped his commitment from Florida to Michigan.
Upshaw is the son of Regan Upshaw, a first-round pick out of Cal who had a productive nine-year NFL career at defensive tackle. He's Michigan's 16th commit in the 2018 class and the second at DE, joining in-state four-star Aiden Hutchinson. Sam Webb reports Upshaw will enroll early.
|3*, #24 SDE||3*, 78, #65 DE||
3*, 86, #34 SDE,
3*, #24 SDE,
Now that Scout has been mostly integrated into the 247 network, Scout rankings are no more. RIP. The three remaining sites all have Upshaw as a three-star well off the four-star pace. There's a significant split between Upshaw's rankings and the quality of his offer sheet.
Upshaw looks like a future strongside end. He's listed between 6'4", 235 (Rivals) and 6'5", 240 (247), and he has a frame that looks capable of carrying quite a bit more weight.
[Hit THE JUMP for scouting, video, and more.]
Upshaw has one of the more unusual recruiting profiles I've come across. While he's the son of an NFL player and the younger brother of a Clemson walk-on, he didn't play organized football at any level until his junior year of high school:
Bradenton (Fla.) Braden River High School 2018 DE Taylor Upshaw never played a down of organized football until the first two games of this season.
"I never even played Pop Warner," Upshaw said. "I was playing basketball, some other sports. My father (Regan Upshaw) played in the NFL for nine years [the 12th overall pick in 1996, he played on five different teams]. And my brother is a walkon at Clemson. That motivated me to make a switch to football."
While Upshaw has picked up considerable interest from power programs, there's little-to-nothing in the way of scouting reports from the recruiting services. The most detail comes from periodic Vanderbilt 247 recruiting board updates:
By the end of his junior season, the 6-5, 240-pound rush end had picked up seven scholarship offers due to his range, length and motor. Now that number has extended to nearly 30 offers with his most recent coming from Florida on May 25th. ... Vanderbilt loves his upside as a edge rusher and potential to develop into a physical run stopper, and would like to get him on campus this summer.
Given the lack of info, let's go straight to film. Upshaw has Hudl highlights posted from the first three games of this season:
You can get a better idea of what he's working to improve from some summer practice clips:
Upshaw is raw, as you'd expect from a relative latecomer to the game. He shows the ability to fire low and quickly off the snap; he's far from consistent at it, which isn't exactly unusual. He can also do a better job of using his hands. He relies heavily on his athleticism and strength for now. The good news: he's got plenty of both. His closing speed is impressive, and blockers move backwards when he gets under their pads—sometimes even when he doesn't.
Upshaw is a developmental prospect, but one with a high ceiling. He looks like he could grow into a 270-280 pound strongside end and still maintain his pass-rushing upside, and his natural strength should make him a solid run defender.
Upshaw holds offers from Clemson, Florida, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Oregon, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Arizona, Cal, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, NC State, Navy, Northwestern, Oregon State, Pitt, Purdue, Rutgers, Southern Miss, UCF, USF, Vanderbilt, and Wake Forest. 247 shows that Florida State, Georgia, and Miami showed interest but didn't offer.
Braden River hasn't been a huge talent producer with just four Power Five commits (including Upshaw), all three-star prospects, since 2002, according to the Rivals database. They had an excellent year in Florida's second-highest classification this season, however, going 10-2 and making it to the regional semifinals, where they lost to Venice, which is currently awaiting their state semifinal game.
According to MaxPreps, Upshaw has 33 tackles, seven TFLs, 4.5 sacks, and an interception (returned for a TD) in 11 games this season. He had 4.5 TFLs, 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble, and three pass breakups in his first year of football as a junior.
FAKE 40 TIME
Upshaw's Hudl page lists an unverified 40 time of 4.93 seconds, which gets one FAKE out of five. He looks pretty fast for a big guy. His Hudl page also reports a 30-inch vertical, 315-pound bench press, 300-pound clean, and 510-pound squat. Michigan's strength and conditioning program can work with that.
Single-game reels can be found on his Hudl page.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Given his late start as a football player, Upshaw is one of the better bets for a redshirt even though he'll enroll early. There'll be plenty of depth at SDE to allow that to happen; Rashan Gary and Carlo Kemp return to form the two-deep, Deron Irving-Bey could get some snaps coming off a redshirt, and Hutchinson is more likely to be the pull-redshirt-in-case-of-emergency option.
From there, Upshaw's career requires even more projection than normal for a high school recruit. I really like his upside; a childhood playing basketball has clearly paid athletic dividends, he's got a huge frame and NFL bloodlines, and he's just beginning to tap into that potential. It might take a few years, but I expect he'll be a major part of M's D-line rotation as an upperclassman.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan is up to 16 commits in a class that should reach the low 20s. Top remaining targets include defensive tackles Tyler Friday, Michael Thompson, and Rick Sandidge; defensive ends Eyabi Anoma and Jayson Oweh; wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase; tight end Tommy Tremble; and offensive tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere.
Here's the class as it currently stands: