2017 Recruiting Grades: Defense

2017 Recruiting Grades: Defense


February 15, 2017

Aubrey Solomon (image via Scout)

Consider helping TTB by buying something via the Amazon ad below:


I posted the 2017 offensive recruiting grades last week (LINK), so here are my thoughts on the defensive side of the ball. Click on the player names below for their commitment posts.

DEFENSIVE END: B+
Commits (4): Deron Irving-Bey, Donovan JeterCorey Malone-Hatcher, Kwity Paye, Luiji Vilain
Decommits (0): N/A
Why? Michigan went after some elite rush ends (Jaelan Phillips, K’Lavon Chaisson, etc.) in this cycle, but none showed much interest. Instead, Michigan got home-stater Malone-Hatcher, Boston College decommit Paye, and Canada native Vilain as weakside end types. I thought Vilain improved significantly over the last couple years since moving from Ontario to Virginia. On the strong side, Michigan got Irving-Bey and Jeter, both of whom could end up as a 3-technique tackles. I don’t see dominant players here, but it is a solid group and they’ll get high-quality coaching.





DEFENSIVE TACKLE: A
Commits (3): James Hudson III, Phillip Paea, Aubrey Solomon
Decommits (o): N/A . . . except for Solomon, who recommitted.
Why? Some people have Hudson pegged for defensive end, but I think he’s going to outgrow defensive end to play tackle or oven offensive line. Michigan’s coaching staff became increasingly enamored with Hudson, and I think he’s an explosive athlete who could be a penetrating 3-tech if he stays on defense. Meanwhile, Solomon is one of the top few defensive tackles in the country and should be able to contribute immediately. I like Paea more as an offensive lineman, but he has potential and his presence on either side of the ball might help Hudson reach his potential, too.

LINEBACKER: A-
Commits (4): Jordan Anthony, Ben Mason, Joshua Ross, Drew Singleton
Decommits (0): N/A
Why? I would have liked to have seen a true middle linebacker in this class, but to be honest, I didn’t see a ton of options. The really good ones came from the deep south, which really limits the chances. Mason might have to end up at fullback, Ross is more of a WILL, and both Anthony and Singleton are outside linebacker types.

CORNERBACK: B+
Commits (2): Benjamin St-Juste, Ambry Thomas
Decommits (o): N/A
Why? I was not a huge fan of St-Juste to begin, but the more I’ve seen of Michigan’s use of big cornerbacks, I think he has a chance to be very successful at the next level. Jeremy Clark has a similar frame and turned in a couple of very good years playing as a boundary corner for Michigan. I think St-Juste can replicate that, which doesn’t predict All-America status, but Michigan was able to produce one of the top defenses in the country with him out there. More of a field corner, Thomas has a lot of speed and big-play ability, along with the skills to perhaps contribute on offense and special teams. I wouldn’t have minded three corners in this class, since there are some limited numbers.

SAFETIES: C+
Commits (2): Jaylen Kelly-Powell, J’Marick Woods
Decommits (o): N/A
Why? Michigan targeted Kelly-Powell and Woods very early in the process. Woods committed and stuck, and Kelly-Powell seemed like a lock for a long time before committing. The Wolverines did pursue other targets with various levels of enthusiasm at different times, but they whiffed on the likes of Chaz Ah You, Isaiah Pola-Mao, Bubba Bolden, Paris Ford, Brelin Faison-Walden, Markquese Bell, and Isaiah Pryor. Kelly-Powell and Woods are both solid prospects, but neither one looks like a superstar at a time when Michigan could use immediate contributors.

SPECIALISTS: A
Commits (1): Brad Robbins
Decommits (o): N/A
Why? Michigan’s need for a punter wasn’t obvious, since it’s a position that can be filled by walk-ons and because the Wolverines already have a couple potential options in Quinn Nordin and Ryan Tice. But when the opportunity presented itself late, the staff offered Robbins and nabbed him. He’s considered by kicking guru Brandon Kornblue to be the #1 punting prospect and a candidate to start as a true freshman in college, so it was a nice late steal.

28 comments

  1. Comments: 816
    Joined: 8/13/2015
    Roanman
    Feb 15, 2017 at 7:24 AM

    I like our safeties a little better than Thunder does as i think both of them are pretty nice although not great athletes along with being both willing and accurate tacklers that mostly wrap up.

    i also think that help is coming from the wide receiver position and like Brad Hawkins early film a lot better at safety than wide receiver. Finally, I can envision another of our wide receivers getting offered a look at free safety. My opinion at the moment is that that guy will be pretty tall for a safety.

    I’m giving the safeties a straight B.

    • Comments: 74
      Joined: 9/13/2015
      AC1997
      Feb 15, 2017 at 8:14 AM

      I think the grades have to be based on the positions they are coming in at and thus I’m not giving safeties credit for Hawkins or fullback credit for Mason. So I tend to agree more with TTB on this area.

      However, when you consider not just Hawkins, but the fact that we took four top CBs in the last two classes you could also see one of them step in at safety if needed.

      • Comments: 1951
        Joined: 7/13/2015
        Feb 15, 2017 at 9:51 AM

        You are correct that I base my grades off of the positions that the players are pegged for when they sign. For example, I also gave the fullback position a lower grade for not bringing in anyone, even though Mason might end up there.

      • Comments: 2532
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Feb 15, 2017 at 1:58 PM

        Michigan doesn’t have the numbers at CB to afford a move to safety.

        This is a typical move for a lot of players, and with Brown’s emphasis on coverage ability at safety and tackling at CB, it would make a ton of sense… but Michigan simply hasn’t recruited the number of CBs that they need in the last few years for reasons that remain unclear.

  2. Comments: 74
    Joined: 9/13/2015
    AC1997
    Feb 15, 2017 at 7:44 AM

    I’ve heard a lot of comparisons between Hudson and Willie Henry. How do you feel about that?

    I’m pretty excited about St-Justice. This is a kid that no one had heard of, he shows up at a camp and impresses the coaches to the point of an offer, he continues to improve his performances and ratings, he gets invited to top camps, and all the while he sticks with Michigan. Oh, he’s also an athletic 6’3″ corner that is extremely rare even in the NFL.

    I love the depth and diversity on the DL. I think that’s where you develop championship teams and having a lot of versatile players who you can mix and match is awesome. (Though thank goodness Soloman came back…..)

    • Comments: 1951
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Feb 15, 2017 at 9:53 AM

      I think there are a lot of similarities between the way Henry and Hudson play. (Heh…Henry Hudson…heheh.) However, Henry was a little more compact at about 6’2″. But they’re both explosive and athletic for big men.

  3. Tartarsauce
    Comments: 76
    Joined: 1/22/2016
    Tartarsauce
    Feb 15, 2017 at 10:09 AM

    Pretty impressive how much both Vilain and Hudson improved over their past couple years. Still can’t believe we got Solomon, damn was that huge. A DL of Vilain/Solomon/Hudson/Gary might end up being better than Taco/Glasgow/Hurst/Wormley.

    • Comments: 74
      Joined: 9/13/2015
      AC1997
      Feb 15, 2017 at 10:53 AM

      I love your train of thought, but I like even more thinking about the 2-deep.
      — We still have Winovich for two years.
      — Mone/Solomon is a nice pairing at NT
      — Gary should be a beast next year
      — Dwumfor should be a solid backup NT/DT that can get a few snaps per game
      — Hudson should have a year to get seasoning behind Hurst and the other guys
      — Vilain can compete with the guys from last year for the role that Winovich had this season as a part time pass-rush specialist.
      — There are so many guys that could play the various 3-Tech / SDE / NT on passing down role that the versatility is great.

      • Comments: 2532
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Feb 15, 2017 at 2:08 PM

        I share your enthusiasm about the DL. I do wonder if Villain will be given the Winovich role when Winovich is still here. They may prefer to have a run-stopper step in for Winovich to save him some wear for pass rush situations. In other words, the substitution patterns may be very different next year.

        Also agree about the versatility to the point that I think it’s almost useless to get too specific about which positions these guys will fit at. Any of them can fit at multiple spots (pure WDE excepted).

    • Comments: 2532
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Feb 15, 2017 at 2:04 PM

      That’s a high bar. I don’t think we’ll see a DL as good as last year’s in our lifetime when you factor in the depth and talent on the 2-deep. BUT, the ’17 class is how you end up there with the array of talent and size they brought in.

  4. Comments: 2532
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Feb 15, 2017 at 1:56 PM

    Confused by the true MLB comment. Michigan took 4 LBs – are they all WLBs? None of them are OLBs in Jake Ryan/Chase Winovich edge-player mold. None of them are DBs in the Peppers-Hill-Metellus VIPER mold.

    When I see 210 to 220 pound recruits, I expect they’ll put on 20-30 pounds. Ross is already 230.

    I would take it a step further and question if Ross and Mason are viable anywhere other than MLB.

    • Comments: 1951
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Feb 15, 2017 at 2:01 PM

      Ross could play MLB, but he’s deemed by many as a WILL. Singleton is in the same boat. Michigan’s two middle linebackers under Don Brown are (presumably) the 6’4″, 248 lb. Mike McCray and the 6’3″, 247 lb. Ben Gedeon. None of these players fit that mold, except maybe Mason. But…

      Mason is viable elsewhere – like fullback.

      • Comments: 2532
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Feb 15, 2017 at 2:09 PM

        Gedeon was 215 as a recruit.

        • Comments: 1951
          Joined: 7/13/2015
          Feb 15, 2017 at 5:48 PM

          …and he was 6’3″.

          • Comments: 2532
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Lanknows
            Feb 15, 2017 at 6:57 PM

            And the guy he sat behind for a few years was 6’1 (and weighed 225 as a recruit and played at 236 in college).

            All our LB recruits are 6’1 to 6’3. and weigh 218 to 230 pounds according to their profiles. It’s typical for LBs to pack on 15, 20, even 30 pounds over their college careers.

            I think this MLB comment is an example of being over-specific about positions. All our LB recruits project to have just-about prototypical size for an ILB. If you are saying these guys are WILs because they are 6’2 instead of 6’3 well then again I’m going to call this being over-specific. If you are saying they are unlikely to gain enough weight, I think history speaks for itself.

            I do think the LB situation is hard to pin down to prototypes (mostly because of the SAM/Viper issue). But the WIL and MIK have been all but interchangeable and a guy like Furbush could make the same move Jake Ryan did too (or not).

            With so much flexibility and development to occur, the MLB comment struck me as offbase. There’s 2 real LB spots and Michigan recruited 3 or 4 guys for them after taking 3 (sort of) the year before.

            I do think Ross is more likely to MLB and Anthony is more likely to WLB but if it went the other way I would not be shocked. Singleton could end up at literally any position in the LB group. These are guesses tho.

            • Comments: 1951
              Joined: 7/13/2015
              Feb 15, 2017 at 7:22 PM

              All of this is somewhat beside the point. Yes, some of these guys CAN play middle linebacker. In fact, one of these guys almost certainly will play middle linebacker at some point in his career. What I said was that the class is missing a “true middle linebacker,” as in a guy who’s destined for that position. These guys are tweeners. Is Ross a WILL or a MIKE? Is Singleton a SAM or a WILL or a MIKE? Is Anthony a SAM or a WILL? Is Mason a MIKE or a fullback?

              I’m not limiting these guys to any one position, nor am I saying they won’t play MIKE. You’re trying to put words in my mouth and then arguing against those words I didn’t use.

              • Comments: 2532
                Joined: 8/11/2015
                Lanknows
                Feb 16, 2017 at 11:57 AM

                I don’t get why you think they are tweeners. That’s the point. I’m not even sure there is such a thing when you are talking about ILBs.

                • Comments: 1951
                  Joined: 7/13/2015
                  Feb 16, 2017 at 12:01 PM

                  It has been discussed at great length how some of these guys might end up playing multiple positions (is he a SAM or a WILL?). That’s pretty much the definition of a tweener.

                • Comments: 2532
                  Joined: 8/11/2015
                  Lanknows
                  Feb 16, 2017 at 6:23 PM

                  That’s not the definition of tweener at all. A tweener is a pejorative for someone who has no position because their skills lie somewhere between two different positions.

                  Being a good fit at two nearly identical positions isn’t being a tweener. Jake Ryan played SAM and MLB – not a tweener, just versatile/good.

                  The difference in ILB spots is closer to split end/flanker, boundary/field corner, and RG/LG than something meaningful. If I said JaRaymond Hall is more of LG than a RG people and therefore Michigan failed to address the RG spot people would justifiably say I was being ridiculous.

                • Comments: 1951
                  Joined: 7/13/2015
                  Feb 16, 2017 at 6:47 PM

                  I’m not going to waste time arguing about the definition of “tweener.” I’ll agree to disagree. Regardless, I don’t identify Ross as a true middle linebacker. If you do, it’s really not that big of a deal.

                • Comments: 2532
                  Joined: 8/11/2015
                  Lanknows
                  Feb 16, 2017 at 11:00 PM

                  Not a big deal of course to quibble over what qualifies as a “true MLB”

  5. Comments: 2532
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Feb 15, 2017 at 1:56 PM

    I find the grouping of WDE and SDE to be awkward, as there is more overlap with 3-Tech and SDE than SDE and WDE.

    • Comments: 1951
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Feb 15, 2017 at 1:58 PM

      It’s just a way of grouping players. There’s no real way around it unless you want to make categories for each individual position (boundary corner, field corner, nickel corner, third down rush specialist, nickel safety, etc.). A defensive end is a defensive end. We all know what is being discussed.

      • Comments: 2532
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Feb 15, 2017 at 2:10 PM

        The way around it is to break out WDE from DL, the way you’d break out TE from OL or WR.

      • Comments: 2532
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Feb 15, 2017 at 2:11 PM

        Or you can just have an Edge group of big OLB (traditional SAMs), Rush LBs, WDEs.

  6. JC
    Comments: 83
    Joined: 8/17/2015
    JC
    Feb 15, 2017 at 3:12 PM

    Biggest disagreement would probably be the secondary. Overall I feel the secondary could be given a B+. They have the necessary numbers now, and I’m really fond of Ambry Thomas.

    Corner I felt fine with two bodies. There were already four bodies on campus with none leaving this year, one leaving next year. Ambry Thomas is a great prospect, and if the staff wants a tall CB, St. Juste has shown great athleticism. This year I hope they take a maximum of two, I wouldn’t be upset with just one, either.

    Michigan does need contributors at safety, so I hope they recruit the position rather intensely this year. There are five bodies for two positions, so numbers are there but they’re thin. Pulling in three safeties this recruiting class would make me feel a bit better, if one is a 5 star talent I wouldn’t mind just two, as we don’t lose Kinnel this year or next. Seven bodies (barring any attrition) is fine for two positions.

    LB I feel they used too many scholarships. We took four recruits last year, and are taking four recruits again this year. I like the recruits we took though, so I don’t feel complaining is necessary.

    Speaking of LB – have you seen the Harbaugh video with the 200 down and back race? Glasgow looked to be in a distant 4th place near the end. I would like a 40 and 60 yard dash next..

  7. Comments: 15
    Joined: 12/13/2016
    vlacca
    Feb 16, 2017 at 8:01 AM

    There is a tendency to sleep on red shirts. We can talk about incoming guys who are likely to play like Solomon but what about the seasoned wood? Red shirts just don’t see the field as a college player or HS star. But they do get focused coaching and conditioning for a year. These are the guys who are likely to make an impact we aren’t expecting. A really hungry red shirt is going to surprise somewhere. Kemp was highly prized as was Eubanks. Let’s talk about them after the Rome trip. See the depth chart article above

    • Comments: 2532
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Feb 16, 2017 at 6:25 PM

      Varies by position and depth though. In the case of RB, WR, TE – Michigan gave plenty of meaningful snaps to true freshman, which tells you something about the other options.

You must belogged in to post a comment.