An Interview With Kalen Ballage

Submitted by Brandon Brown on August 16th, 2013 at 10:50 PM

Kalen Ballage 2

It’s been assumed for a while that Michigan would not take a running back in the 2014 class but after talking with ATH/RB Kalen Ballage I’ve learned that the coaches may still be in the market for a ball carrier. Ballage is a bit of a wildcard being a multi-purpose Colorado kid, but his measurables and physical attributes are on an elite level. He was a very unique young man to speak to and he had some good things to say about Michigan as well as another program in the mitten.

Being a Colorado kid, pretty far from Michigan and the midwest, we don’t necessarily hear a ton about you, so what have you been up to this summer, football or non-football related?

A lot of both really. I believe that you can’t be wrapped up in a sport for too long, I think that hurts you as an athlete. I never understood when guys play basketball year-round or anything like that. Do something different, I think it helps you as an athlete. I’ve been just hanging out with friends, going swimming, you know bonding with my teammates outside of football but it also helps with football. We’ve spent time doing workouts and getting it in on the field as well.

I know a little bit about you, as much as is posted on the recruiting sites. Tell me your most recent and accurate height, weight, and speed because what’s listed is pretty impressive.

Right now I’m 6’2”, 225 and I run a 4.37, and yes that is laser-timed. I haven’t ran it since I got that time and that was last summer. I haven’t really ran a 40 since and I think I’m a lot stronger since then and I believe faster as well, with putting on 10-15 pounds. I’ve just tried to better myself as an athlete.

You’ve mentioned the word “athlete” a couple of times now and most sites list you as such, but Michigan is looking at you purely as a running back correct?

Yes sir, actually most teams are now. A couple of schools have offered me at linebacker, but the more and more they see my film they start to see me as a running back even though I’m capable of playing an outside linebacker position. Running back is the place that I’d like to be personally, and some schools that have offered me at linebacker have switched to linebacker, and those who haven’t still do see me as a linebacker.

You talked about the different positions you can play, what do you think you bring to the field as a player, either at running back or linebacker? In other words what do you think you do well on the field?

One thing I definitely bring is a winners mentality. If a coach tells me to do something, I just do it. I don’t have a problem doing it if it’s about the team. That’s what I’ve always been about, that’s just what I’ve been taught, my parents have raised me well. Whatever I can do to help the team, that’s what I want to do. If you want to stick me at corner or safety, I actually have an offer at strong safety, Vanderbilt wants me to play there. If you wanted to put me at O-line or D-line, that has never happened (laughs) but I’d do it to the best of my ability if the coach needed me to.

That pretty much leads me into my next question and you sort of answered it already, but headed into your senior year what do you think you bring to the team or the field as a teammate or as a coachable person?

Yeah, the thing about me is that I didn’t become a leader just this year. I’ve been a leader since I stepped onto the field on varsity as a freshman. I’ve just always been that guy, you know? No matter how young or old I am I’ve tried to be a leader and leadership-wise I don’t think much will change just because I’m a senior.

Most schools around the country have started practicing in some capacity so what has your high school team done so far?

Yes sir, we started actually on Monday and we’re easing into it like every other team I’m sure. First we had to go helmets, then helmets and shoulder pads, then full pads without much hitting, and then we actually got to bang a little bit today. That was definitely fun, first hitting of the season is always hype. We’ve got music playing and doing Oklahoma’s and stuff so that was a lot of fun. Our first game is on August 30th, so we’re getting there.

How has your recruitment been going this summer? Run down your offers a little bit and just tell me in general how it’s gone.

To be honest I can’t name all of them. I know some of my main guys right now are Michigan, Michigan State, Boise, Nebraska, Washington and ASU. You know those schools are up there. I also have offers from Arizona, Colorado, Colorado State, Georgia Tech…man, I can’t remember all of them and I know that’s probably bad, but.

Not putting words in your mouth but would those “main guys” you named make up your top group at this point?

Definitely. Those are the schools that I’ve found out more about and I’ve been in contact with them. I just know a little bit more about them and what they have to offer me.

I can’t remember where I saw it, maybe Twitter or something, but you are planning on taking an official visit to Michigan now correct?

I believe so, I believe so. I actually don’t have a Twitter so a lot of people do twist my words up. It’s definitely a school that I’m considering taking an official visit to more than some others so, yeah.

Who are some of the others that you are juggling around with Michigan right now for your officials?

Michigan State, Boise, Nebraska, and ASU or Washington, still kind of looking for a 5th there, but still not even completely closed to any school to be honest.

I’m curious, as a Colorado kid, why so much interest in the Michigan schools?

Their ability to produce big running backs. Michigan State the past couple of years, more than Michigan (he said it with a “with an all due respect” tone), I mean I’m a big running back and people think that if you’re big you just shouldn’t be in this position, but I like to prove people otherwise. That’s not me being cocky that’s just me feeling that I can do anything I set my mind to. Michigan State produced Le’Veon Bell and now he’s in the NFL playing with the Steelers. You know if you don’t have the desire, or don’t want to play in the NFL, I don’t think you should be playing college football. Guys want to get to the league, you know, that’s been their dream ever since they were little. I think that’s going to be a factor in deciding what school you want to go to.

You mentioned that you did a little more research and found out more about Michigan. What do you know now and what did you find out?

Oh man all of the attributes they have! I still have not taken a visit there, but I speak with the coaches as often as I can. You know The Big House, the facilities, they just have so many things to offer a football player beyond football and academics to take care of you as an athlete.

When you think about the other schools you mentioned earlier what are some other factors that are going to help determine where you’ll play in college?

Like I said Michigan State and their ability to produce big backs and be a team in the Big Ten that runs the football a lot. If I go to a school I don’t want to sit back and watch the ball get slung around, you know like Texas Tech or something. I’d like to tote the rock a little bit and that’s what I like most about them. For Boise State, a lot of people ask me, “Why Boise State?” It’s just their ability to win. They’ve been winners, they have the best win percentage in college football for like, the last 10 years. You definitely want to be on a winning football team. Nobody wants to be on a team where there’s nothing there for them. Also their ability to put people in the NFL. These last couple of years you know, Doug Martin, DJ Harper, they have some DB’s and wide receivers in there. And you know, Boise was my first offer and that holds some kind of sentimental value because when nobody else looked at me, and no one else thought I was anything, they did and they offered me. They’re kind of the reason I have these other big offers from Michigan and the other big schools, they kind of blew me up. That first offer is just special.

So you’re about to start your senior year, you seem to have a top 5 or 6 and some officials in mind, when would you like to make a decision and end the process?

To be honest, ideally, I’d like to make my final decision soon after my football season. I’m one to focus on what I’m doing and I don’t want any distractions out side of football even though it’s more football, I just want to focus on the season at hand and then focus on my commitment. It’s my last high school football season ever and I learned from the seniors on my team last year that your senior season is one of your most special seasons of your football career. No matter if you’re still in high school, college, or even playing in the NFL, no one ever forgets their high school senior year.

I’ve been impressed with your answers and you seem to be a pretty deep thinker, so I’m curious as to how you see your own decision going. What will Kalen Ballage’s commitment look like?

I actually spoke with Tom Lemming and I might end up making my decision on his show so I can talk about why I made that decision over others. That’s more like a 10 minute thing, you know at the Army game I won’t be able to really announce why I went to this school, you kind of just pick up your hat and they move on from it. I’d really like to explain why I make the choice that I make.


Ballage is yet another well-spoken, intelligent young man who seems to be taking his recruitment very seriously so he can make the best decision for himself. The Michigan coaches seem to value these types of attributes more and more with each kid that I speak to. It will be interesting to see if Ballage does schedule an official visit to Michigan or not given the fact that most people believe there will be no running back taken in the 2014 class. Personally I’m all for 6’2”, 225 lb. athletes that clock laser-timed 4.37 forty’s, but that’s just me.

Comments

Billy Ray Valentine

August 17th, 2013 at 10:00 AM ^

In no way do I mean this as an attack on Ballage's credibility.  He very well may run an electric-timed 4.37.  

 

That said, this interview got me thinking.  For years, this blog and others have correctly pointed out FAKE 40 times.  If I were a recruit with sub-4.4 speed, I would dispell any notion of FAKE by digitally-recording my electric-timed sub-4.4 40.  I'd post it on the 'net, and then pick-and-choose my 5 official visits.  Just sayin'... the days of FAKE 40-times should end. 

 

Magnus (or others in the know) ... I'm sure there's a good reason why this thought is stupid, and I welcome you putting me in my place.  At least I'll learn something this morning while I hang with my 3-year-old with strep and pink eye.  

aiglick

August 17th, 2013 at 12:00 AM ^

Really fantastic and interesting. Michigan is pretty set at running back but the coaches are on record saying they like to take at least one RB a class. One if the reasons is the versatility of those players. It sounds like Kalen is a fantastic athlete and high character kid. If the coaches think they can work with him why not take him as a "best available" type. This is definitely a situation where I trust the coaches to know the needs and how he could fit but based on this interview I'd be stoked to have him on the team.

Thanks Coach Brown.

Bromigo

August 17th, 2013 at 1:03 AM ^

TomVH can lick Brandon Brown's balls, “with an all due respect” tone.

@BB - Solid interview again.

Polished low attrition risk guy who is a  stud athlete is always welcome. Bonus that he fits the Michigan Man mantra.

I’ll be a Kalen fan wherever he ends up. Respect for being that head-y at that age and enjoying the moment. Good Luck to you Mr. Ballage.

Smitdog6767

August 17th, 2013 at 1:05 AM ^

This guy has long been one of the more intriguing prospects of this recruiting cycle IMO.  As has been said upthread, this dude is a pure offensive weapon.  Put him in the backfield, out wide, or in the slot.  Between Campbell and Harris stretching the field vertically and Green/Smith/Shallman pounding the snot out of the defense, our general TE silliness, and Norfleet raising general havoc, adding Ballage into the mix to be an all around threat would just be unfair.  Besides Hand, this is far and away the player I want most in this class. He is going to be an absolute STUD at the next level and if it's for Staee I'm going to puke.  Dude is a potential game changer

IndyBlue90

August 17th, 2013 at 8:17 AM ^

Ballage is the kind of guy that Nebraska or Northwestern would love. The kind of player that shows up out of nowhere and runs for 150 and you say "where the hell did this guy come from?" I'd much prefer that kind of guy playing for Michigan. I also think that you are spot on in noting his versatility. That might be what makes him an excellent fit for this years class.

San Diego Mick

August 17th, 2013 at 1:47 AM ^

I had never heard of before, wow those are some impressive measureables for a very impressive and mature sounding teenager.. I think MSU has a really good chance with this kid it sounds like, if we don't get him, please stay out west Kalen.

I haven't heard Fournette's name mentioned very much lately, I wonder if the coaches feel like Kalen would be a good alternative to him, my only concern is how crowded the backfield will be the next couple seasons, #firstworldproblems.

BTW, Coach Brown, thank you for the work you do, I love your questions and you come off like a confidant to these young men, we're lucky to have you on this here blog, keep up the great work and I look forward to your next interview.

clarkiefromcanada

August 17th, 2013 at 12:40 PM ^

"my only concern is how crowded the backfield will be the next couple seasons"

Been a while since that was a major concern. Kind of like the transition that Hoke et al. have made with the Offensive Line, DB's and going forward, quarterback and receiver. 

The cost of the ill fated era is only now being ameliorated.

 

5starrecruit

August 17th, 2013 at 3:40 AM ^

Rivals seems to be the only site that is high on this kid. His measuarbles seem off the charts, but his lack of offers scares me a little. Can anyone explain this kid better ? His offers say high 3 star to me.

Magnus

August 17th, 2013 at 8:22 AM ^

I wrote a scouting report on him (link). He's a good overall athlete, but he's not smooth or polished. He doesn't have pass rush moves as a linebacker, comes to a complete stop sometimes as a running back, runs straight into people, etc. He's fast and pretty big, but he's not a great "football player" at this point.

aiglick

August 17th, 2013 at 10:10 AM ^

I understand what you are saying and agree somewhat but if Ohio State and Michigan are seen as the only legitimate teams in the Big Ten and the rest of the conference is perceived as Downy Soft it's going to be really hard to make it to the Playoff.

We need to be in a good conference or at least a perceived good one.

TakeTheField

August 17th, 2013 at 7:24 AM ^

And he would be a good one to grab. I can't agree with people who say that we're loaded at RB and don't need to take one this year. You have to look ahead and see where we'll be in a couple years. What does our RB depth chart look like in 2015? No Fitz, no Rawls...we'll have Green, Smith, Johnson (who red-shirted in a year where we really needed help at RB),Hayes (who really hasn't shown anything at RB), Shallman (who may not even end up at RB) and possibly Harris (whose contribution in 2015 as a true freshman would probably not be huge no matter what). Even assuming Green and Smith both end up being good, you also have to factor into that the fact that running backs get hurt. A lot. Just ask Iowa. The future is potentially a little thin.

Coaches, please..take a RB in this class...just one, but definitely do it.

Magnus

August 17th, 2013 at 8:43 AM ^

I don't see him tooting his own horn, but if he wants to be an NFL running back, MSU has more success than Michigan in recent years. Good for him for considering that fact. He's got to do what's best for him.

falco_alba15

August 17th, 2013 at 8:38 AM ^

Is the sexy prospect to get, but this kid sounds like he has what it takes to be a Michigan man. It floored me how often he responded with, "Yes sir," and how thoughtful he is with what he wants to do. He has a great list of offers and still wants to be methodical on his selection process. And he fits the profile of a strong fast back, downhill runner that Michigan would love to feature. As much fun as it is to beat Ohio on the recruiting sites, I think this kid could help us beat Ohio on the field, which is all that matters.

I hope we recruit the hell out of him. No matter what, he has a great future ahead of him.

TakeTheField

August 17th, 2013 at 11:06 AM ^

given the choice, it seems like a long shot at this point that we'll have that luxury, so it wouldn't hurt to cultivate other options. And let's face it, plenty of five star RBs are busts (nobody's drooling over Dee Hart any more). You never know where the next Mike Hart is coming from.

Lac55

August 17th, 2013 at 9:47 AM ^

if it plays out like that in the end. Since he is so raw, he doesn't have to play right away. Redshirt him and let him develop on the practice field going against our great defense everyday while also giving them a good look everyday.

nroumel

August 18th, 2013 at 10:06 PM ^

The questions were good, the answers were respectful and he seems like he'd be a great kid to have in the locker room. Confident and thoughtful but not boastful. Not a chance in hell he's coming to Michigan, though. Didn't even know whether he was coming for an official visit?