Sound Mind Sound Body 2016: WRs/DBs

Submitted by Ace on June 13th, 2016 at 2:59 PM


KJ Hamler dominated the one-on-one portion. [Bill Rapai]

This year's Sound Mind Sound Body camp at Wayne State featured several of the state's best high school players, as well as some top out-of-state talent. Adam and I spent most of Friday afternoon watching the receivers and defensive backs—Seth covered the linemen on another field—and we saw impressive performances from a couple Michigan targets. Before running down the players who stood out to us, a few general notes/caveats:

  • At a camp this large, even the top prospects only get a handful of reps in one-on-ones, so a couple good or bad reps can really skew the perception of a player. Drills were taking place on both sides of the field, too, so I didn't see every rep each WR/DB took. I'll note which players got more reps in than others that I saw.
  • I mostly focused on the established prospects since there were usually two one-on-one matchups occurring simultaneously and I was trying to take notes between reps. If a prospect who stood out to another site isn't mentioned here, that's more a reflection of my focus than anything else.
  • Donovan Peoples-Jones was listed on the initial roster but chose to attend the Rivals Five-Star camp in Atlanta instead. 2018 commit Leonard Taylor, who was supposed to work out at tight end, was also a no-show. 2018 commit Antwuan Johnson attended but dinged up his ankle and sat out most of the day.

With that out of the way, some evaluations:

2017 MI WR/DB KJ Hamler (M Offer)

Camp settings are ideal for Hamler, whose quickness and precision make him nearly impossible to contain in unpadded one-on-ones. He was easily the quickest wideout going through the three-cone drill, and that agility and foot speed was apparent in his route-running. Defensive backs had trouble getting their hands on Hamler, who got separation on nearly every rep he took and caught everything he could get his hands on. His route-running is advanced for a high school prospect; combined with his athleticism, he's hard to slow down.

Hamler is undersized, to be sure. He makes up for much of that deficiency with his ball skills—he's got great timing and can go up and get it. That showed up as much on defense as it did on offense. Hamler took some reps at cornerback, and while he's not at technically sound there as he is at receiver, he stayed step-for-step with his marks and came away with a couple interceptions, including a spectacular leaping pick on his final rep. Hamler also showed a high level of competitiveness; he took more reps than anyone else as best I could tell, and on a couple occasions I noticed him drop to the turf to knock out a quick set of push-ups when he was waiting for his next rep.

There were a couple moments when Hamler's size hampered him. Still, from what I saw he was the best performer among the WR/DB group, and only Ambry Thomas came close to matching him. Even though Michigan took a number of quality slot-types in the 2016 class, I'll admit I'm disappointed they aren't pushing harder for Hamler. While he'd be an ideal fit in a spread, I think he could be successful in any offense.

[Hit THE JUMP for reports on Ambry Thomas, Jaylen Kelly-Powell, and more.]

2017 MI CB Ambry Thomas (M Offer)

I really like how 247 divided their two top performers from the camp: Hamler deservedly earned "Alpha Dog" status as the top player in that setting, while Thomas earned "Best Prospect" distinction. Hamler was the most consistently good player in the camp setting, but Thomas has the best combination of performance and measurables.

Thomas was the most physically impressive player on the field. He's got solid height for a corner—perhaps a shade under six-foot even—with long arms, and he uses that length to play a physical brand of man coverage even in an unpadded setting. Even though he was bigger than most of the other corners, he had the smoothest backpedal and hip turn in drills—it wasn't hard to pick out the best athlete of the bunch even before one-on-ones began.

Thomas lost an early rep to Hamler, then battled him to a relative draw in their next matchup; Thomas used his hands well to disrupt the route before Hamler broke free for a tough catch—one that probably doesn't get made in a game setting because the quarterback couldn't wait that long on one read. Thomas jammed another receiver so hard at the line of scrimmage that the QB didn't even bother with a throw, a rarity in that drill. He displayed great recovery speed and ball skills when a receiver got off the line—both are on full display in this video.

While cornerback is his future, Thomas also took a couple reps at receiver, torching the corner for an easy long completion on the first rep and high-pointing an underthrow on the second. He's got the potential to be as good as any corner from the state in recent years. Yes, that includes Jourdan Lewis—Thomas isn't quite as twitchy, but he's got better size. Like Hamler, he was itching to get back onto the field after each rep.

2017 MI S Jaylen Kelly-Powell (M Offer)

I didn't get to see Kelly-Powell as much as I hoped. He got pulled aside to talk to coaches a couple times during drills and spent much of the one-on-one portion on the other end of the field, so I only got to see him take a couple one-on-one reps.

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 prospect, he had the quickest feet and most impressive closing speed.

Kelly-Powell isn't as smooth an athlete as 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.

Others

Top-100 2018 OH WR/TE L'Christian Smith has a remarkable combination of size and athleticism; at 6'6", 205 pounds, he looked a lot more fluid running through agility drills than I expected. He's still pretty raw as a football player—his route-running needs work and I noted a drop on a catchable deep ball in one-on-ones—but his size made him a handful for defensive backs. He looked impressive on a couple deep catches.

Three-star 2017 Cass Tech CB Donovan Johnson is a great athlete who looks to be around 5'9". With one or two exceptions, he stuck right on the pocket of the receiver in one-on-ones. His ball skills weren't always up to par, which is an issue given his height. I can see the argument for Michigan extending him an offer; I can also see why they haven't done so yet. The main targets at corner right now have higher upside.

Three-star 2017 De La Salle RB/CB Allen Stritzinger worked out as a defensive back. He's got good length for the position and plenty of speed. I only saw him take a couple reps, and he got beat on one because he couldn't get his hips flipped quickly enough to stay with a well-run in route. If he focuses more on defense he should improve quickly—the physical ability is there.

The player who caught my eye that I didn't know anything about heading into the event was four-star 2018 Belleville DB Patrick Lupro, who holds a few MAC offers at this stage. Lupro looked to be 5'8" or 5'9", but with a thick build that allowed him to be very physical at the line. He used his hands very well to disrupt routes and force receivers to the sideline and displayed solid instincts on his first rep, reading a route and undercutting the throw for a pick. He's a prospect to keep an eye on as a safety or slot corner.

Comments

4EverBlueGirl

June 13th, 2016 at 3:28 PM ^

Does anyone have an inkling where he is leaning?  I understand he has friends at MSU, but is that enough for him to not go to Michigan?

 

Is he wearing sparty receiver gloves?

 

WolvinLA2

June 13th, 2016 at 3:33 PM ^

Rumor has is, Thomas is leaning our way at this point.  Michigan has made up a lot of ground for him and he's like to play with JKP in college, who is leaning heavily toward Michigan.  Ambry Thomas would be a huge pick up and a really good season (including beating up on MSU in EL) could go a long way.  

Coldwater

June 13th, 2016 at 3:34 PM ^

Hamler really looks up to Devin Funchess. Funchess is the one who convinced Hamler to transfer to IMG against the wishes of his family and St. Mary coaches and players. So maybe with that much influence, Funch can convince KJ to attend Michigan

AZBlue

June 15th, 2016 at 3:26 AM ^

What little I have read says the relationship between Funchess and Hamler pre-dates Devin coming to UM. I also have read that Hamler is a great athlete who might not fit into an offensive scheme like Michigan - at lest not as well as a he would in a more spread-oriented team like Oregon.

In summary the Funchess / IMG thing may help M but is not a huge factor in locking him to UM. If anything the transfer to IMG makes it less likely that he ends up at a local rival if M isn't a good fit for him ... Ergo a win-win for Michigan.

WolvinLA2

June 13th, 2016 at 3:36 PM ^

I'm not sure Stritzinger is a take right now, but I like him enough as a safety prospect that I think we keep close to him as a Plan B prospect or even as a third safety.  I'd like to keep that third spot (assuming we take Woods and JKP) open for either a top safety or blue chip at another position, but I wouldn't be upset taking Stritzinger there.

BursleysFinest

June 13th, 2016 at 3:56 PM ^

Question about how these camps work?  I'll see mentions of players taking more reps than everyone else, how is that possible??

I always pictured it being like a lay-up line where you get your rep and then go to the end of the line and wait for your next one, so everyone gest the same amount of reps +/- 1.   In these camp settings, is it acceptable to just sit out a couple reps? Is Hamler cutting in line?

getsome

June 13th, 2016 at 4:16 PM ^

depends.  in my experience theres always guys willing to take a rest and theres the guys never content to sit a rep, always pushing for more.  

plus much of it has to do with the coaches / players / mods, whoevers running the particular drill - they might ask 2 guys to run it back, coaches might pull kids aside for more individual work, coaches might ask the mods to see one or multiple guys run something again, etc.

it just depends on the camp as well as whos running things.

im sure they try to keep reps relatively even but its also a large camp on the recruiting circuit

gte896u

June 13th, 2016 at 6:48 PM ^

Sounds like the same thing that got him beat as a DB was what I didnt like about him as a college RB: lack of "wiggle". Speed to burn, but mostly North-South. I will say that he gave Donnie Corley no quarter in the DLS-King game last year. He was right in his face most of the game and consistently stood his ground physically.

WholeMilk

June 13th, 2016 at 6:59 PM ^

Dominating reps and doing push-ups as a reward? Sounds like a Harbaugh guy to me.

I wonder if we start recruiting him harder now that he'll be at IMG? It would be nice to get a foothold there, and who better to start it than a talented recruit from the state.

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June 14th, 2016 at 1:13 PM ^

Was S/Ath Scotty Nelson from Detroit Jesuit at the camp?  How did he do?  Any updates on his status with Michigan (or Michigan's status with him)?

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