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.
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.