Cesar Ruiz, Wolverine

Cesar Ruiz, Wolverine

December 19, 2016

Bradenton (FL) IMG Academy C Cesar Ruiz at The Opening

Bradenton (FL) IMG Academy center Cesar Ruiz committed to Michigan today. He chose the Wolverines over offers from Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Miami, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Penn State, Rutgers, and Stanford, among others.

He’s 6’3″, 315 lbs. and claims a 5.26 forty.

ESPN: 4-star, 84 grade, #1 C, #69 overall
Rivals: 4-star, #1 C, #77 overall
Scout: 4-star, #2 C, #100 overall
247 Sports: 4-star, 95 grade, #1 C, #66 overall

Hit the jump for more on Ruiz’s commitment to Michigan.

Ruiz was a high school teammate of 2016 defensive end Ron Johnson, Jr. and 2017 wide receiver Brad Hawkins, Jr. (originally a 2016 prospect) when he went to Camden (NJ) Camden. He was offered after his sophomore season but then transferred to IMG Academy prior to his junior year. That seemed to be a bad omen for Michigan, since he was no longer under the regular influence of his Ann Arbor-bound teammates. Michigan had gone after several IMG Academy prospects in the past, but none chose Michigan. However, Ruiz continuously placed the Wolverines at the top – or tied at the top – when he talked about likely destinations. By the day before his announcement, all 36 of the Crystal Ball predictions on 247 Sports were in favor of Michigan being the pick.

The first thing I noticed when I looked at Ruiz’s highlights at IMG Academy as a junior was that his shotgun snaps improved significantly from when he was a sophomore at Camden. Snapping can be a learned skill, and we know that because a lot of high school tight ends, tackles, and guards have moved to center in college. But still, shotgun snaps were an issue, and now they have improved in both speed and accuracy. Ruiz also does a very good job of staying low out of his stance, and he moves his feet well to down block or reach block defenders to either side of him. IMG Academy plays a rather difficult schedule, so he’s playing some of the best competition in the country, and he’s having success. As a pass blocker, he anchors well without getting driven into the backfield, and his low center of gravity makes him a good match for any really technical nose tackles who try to use leverage.

If I were to make any corrections, I would start with his physique. He moved better as a sophomore than as a senior, and I think some of that comes from some extra weight he packed on between his junior and senior year. That can be cleaned up with a better diet and strength and conditioning program. I also think he needs to work on his hand placement, because sometimes his elbows get a little too wide and he can be grabby. The last thing I would work on is his pass set, which I think can be a half-step too deep at times. He needs to stone nose tackles a little quicker before they can gain momentum. Those are all things that can be fixed rather easily.

Overall, Ruiz is a very good prospect who should transition well to the college game. He has the size, speed, and experience at the position to play pretty early. Michigan has a returning starter at center in senior Mason Cole, but changes will be necessary on the offensive line due to three starters graduating. If Cole needs to change positions, Ruiz should the center most ready to step in at Michigan since . . . a very long time ago. If he doesn’t start next season, he should be the heir apparent for 2018. He does plan to enroll early, so that should aid his development.

Michigan now has 23 commitments in the 2017 class, including five linemen. Ruiz is the only one of those linemen slated for center. He is also Michigan’s first ever commitment from IMG Academy, a school that has produced a lot of elite talent in recent years, including 2017 linebacker Jordan Anthony, who will be announcing his decision on Thursday, probably for Michigan. I wrote a fairly lengthy piece on IMG Academy last spring (LINK), and it should be required reading if you’re unfamiliar with the place. Michigan will be facing an IMG Academy product and former recruit on December 30 in the Orange Bowl when Deondre Francois lines up under center for the Florida State Seminoles.

TTB Rating: 99 (ratings explanation)


  1. Comments: 159
    Joined: 9/3/2015
    suduri xusai
    Dec 19, 2016 at 2:24 PM


    • Comments: 84
      Joined: 10/22/2015
      Dec 19, 2016 at 2:28 PM

      Wow! That blew me away too! What do you think the ceiling would be for him? A Rich Man’s version of Glasgow?

      • Comments: 1990
        Joined: 7/13/2015
        Dec 19, 2016 at 2:36 PM

        I would say the ceiling would be a mid or low 1st round draft pick.

        • Comments: 159
          Joined: 9/3/2015
          suduri xusai
          Dec 19, 2016 at 3:00 PM

          That’s awesome. Looking forward to having a serious talent at C for years…!!!

    • crazyjoedavola
      Comments: 150
      Joined: 8/13/2015
      Dec 19, 2016 at 2:32 PM

      It might have been a typo… but then again this is an elite prospect at that position.

      • Comments: 1990
        Joined: 7/13/2015
        Dec 19, 2016 at 2:37 PM

        Yeah, it’s not a typo. He’s the #1 center in the country, and a 100 grade would make him the best prospect in the country and a likely 1st round draft pick. I’m not willing to go QUITE that far, but I’m close. He’s a very good prospect.

        • crazyjoedavola
          Comments: 150
          Joined: 8/13/2015
          Dec 19, 2016 at 4:06 PM

          yeah if we can get Filiaga and have a line in a couple of years that looks something like Newsome, Bredeson, Ruiz, Onwenu, Filiaga… we might finally be able to maul opponents on the ground.

  2. Comments: 22
    Joined: 12/28/2015
    Dec 19, 2016 at 3:04 PM

    I like pretty much everything I have seen out of Cesar, he held his own very well in the opening too vs very strong competition. I also love that center seems to be set for the next few years (Cole then Ruiz, or Ruiz in ’17). Guard seems also to be in pretty good shape, I really like Bredeson already and I think the potential is through the roof with Onwenu. Of course the big question is with tackle, losing Newsome hurts more than pretty much any other player on our roster.

    Assuming he isn’t ready to play in ’17 (or ever?) who do you like out of who you have seen? JBB played a bit this year but I tend to agree with your assessment, he isn’t ready yet. He will get maybe a year as a starter as an upperclassman. I do like the fact that he was able to shed a lot of his bad weight and get himself into playing condition, but his technique doesn’t seem there yet. Ulizio, we have heard some good rumblings but haven’t seen anything. It seems like you like both Honigford and Steuber as prospects but clearly they are both a few years out. I think if Herbert can put on weight fast and fill out his body, perhaps he can contribute in ’17? I am not as optimistic on Ja’Raymond Hall and think he might be the guy who gets lost out of this shuffle. Right now I am picturing a very strong inside line over the next few years, but I see some struggles on the outside. I hope that isn’t a liability like this year that costs us games against OSU’s elite pass rushers.

    Who do you see emerging out of all these guys on the outside Thunder?

    • Comments: 2772
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Dec 19, 2016 at 3:52 PM

      Difficult to project because Cole and Bredeson could be your starting LT and RT in 2017, for all we know. Bredeson narrowly lost out to Newsome in 2016 and Cole started (and played pretty well) at LT, as you well know.

      The interior starters could be Onwenu, Ruiz, Dawson next year…

    • Comments: 1990
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Dec 20, 2016 at 8:10 AM

      I liked what I saw out of Ulizio last spring. He didn’t play much during the season, but I think he can factor into the equation. I would like to see Kai-Leon Herbert stick in the 2017 class. The more I’ve seen of Hall this year, the more I think he’s probably headed for offensive guard. Bushell-Beatty is serviceable in a pinch, but I just don’t see him being a part of a good offensive line.

      • Comments: 2772
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Dec 20, 2016 at 1:28 PM

        I could see JBB hold down the fort until Newsome is ready, but I prefer it be at RT and not Speight’s blindside. I will spend the offseason crossing my fingers that Newsome’s recover goes well.

  3. Comments: 2772
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Dec 19, 2016 at 3:49 PM

    Wow. Encouraging to hear to such unbridled enthusiasm. Doesn’t get much better in the long-term. Leaves me wondering about the short-term potential…

    I’m under the impression that being an OC requires experience (because you make the line calls), but is it possible for the calls to be made from another position? In other words – if Mason Cole moved to LG could he make the calls while Ruiz handled snapping duties?

    The way I see the OL – the best 5 guys are going to play. Cole is 1, Bredeson is 2, and after that things are wide open. Onwenu seems likely in the top 5. Newsome there if he has recovered. Kugler/JBB/Dawson have experience on their side but seem to still lack overall ability for whatever reason. So there’s a great opportunity for an OL, at any position really, to emerge as a new starter, including the true freshman.

    Ruiz is another option and this team needs as many of those as they can get right now.

    • Comments: 2772
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Dec 19, 2016 at 6:08 PM

      a) elite level skill/talent for his age,
      b) prototypical size already*,
      c) high level HS competition at IMG and
      d) early enrollee status

      All the above point to being ready to play as a true freshman.

      Working against him: it’s tough to succeed as a freshman on the OL, and he complexities of the center position generally require experience.

      Even Maurkice Pouncey did not start at OC as a freshman (though he did start at OG). Molk red-shirted. Alex Mack red-shirted. Dominic Railoa red-shrited. Nik Mangold played as a true freshman but did not start.

      Ben Wilkerson (LSU) was the only big time OC I could find who started as a true freshman at OC, and that was after the starter got hurt and had to shift to OG. Perhaps Greg Eslinger or Damien Woody did it. Regardless, it is rare to say the least.

      But given the serious lack of experience on the OL, Michigan may end up in a position where a true freshman at center is the lesser evil.

      *Or at least no need to put on more weight.

    • Comments: 1990
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Dec 20, 2016 at 8:13 AM

      I don’t really know of anyone consistently making the line calls other than the center in FBS or the NFL. I have heard of guys helping out if the center is an emergency replacement or something like that. I also know of offensive guards who have made line calls at the high school and D-III levels, but it’s tough to communicate to the opposite side of the line when you’re a guard on either side.

  4. Comments: 857
    Joined: 8/13/2015
    Dec 19, 2016 at 4:01 PM

    Whoa!!!!! ….. 99!!!!!

    Wait a minute ….. who really wrote this post and what have you done with our Thunder.

    • Comments: 1990
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Dec 20, 2016 at 8:14 AM

      It’s really me. Do you need proof?

      Michael Cox is the greatest running back of all time.


  5. Comments: 123
    Joined: 9/15/2015
    Dec 19, 2016 at 4:33 PM

    ruiz is a very talented prospect, its easy to see why hes the staffs top C target and likely one of top overall targets. youre right, his strengths are tough to learn or acquire and his weaknesses can often be picked up or corrected easily enough. he has the ability to play low (and typically does), the quickness and flexibility to handle most any assignment asked of him, and the power and balance to anchor and lock out – hell be fun to watch. huge commit.

    thomas and peoples-jones were key recruits bc theyre elite prospects and local kids from the city, gotta lock down those dudes. and obviously mccaffrey bc he plays QB. but other than elite DL prospects like solomon, ruiz is prob the top target on the board. all positions are key but its vital for coaches to trust their C and know he can consistently make things happen. ruiz is that guy.
    they dont have a ton of proven depth at OL so it really helps to add a high floor and high ceiling C prospect like ruiz. even if he levels off or never quite gets over the hump, hes still a legit multi-year starter and above average player – and if he puts it all together and remains healthy enough, hes got the tools to start for several years as an all conference player and then move on to anchor an nfl line.
    not sure where id rank him if forced to do so but hes one of the better OL prospects ive seen this year and the top C. and hes got all league and high draft potential if he progresses so id have to rank him in the 90s on your scale. huge pickup for the staff.

    id love to see practice tape of ruiz vs taron vincent, im sure those dudes had some battles. one of the obvious pluses of playing at IMG is working out with an all star team every day

  6. Comments: 2772
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Dec 20, 2016 at 1:25 PM

    Best Guess for the starting OL against Florida:

    LT: Mason Cole (SR)
    LG: Ben Bredeson (SO)
    OC: Caesar Ruiz (FR)
    RG: Micheal Onwenu (SO)
    RT: Grant Newsome (JR)

    I expect Kugler, Dawson, and JBB to fill in as backups at OC, OG, and OT respectively.

    Would be great if Ulizio, Spanelis or Runyan emerged too, but they may not be needed if Newsome is healthy.

    This is WAY premature of course. Note that, if I’m right, none of these 5 would have red-shirted.

    • Comments: 2772
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Dec 20, 2016 at 1:55 PM

      My logic:

      LT: Cole seemed to struggle at times on the interior and there were some rumblings about line calls. Perhaps the position-switch that seemed so intuitive wasn’t mean to be. Supposedly Cole struggled against elite pass rushers (who didn’t against Joey Bosa), but he will have improved and Michigan may not face that many next year. Nick Bosa does loom, but not till late in the year. Newsome likely won’t be ready for such a responsibility by early September. Cole may be the best option by default unless one of the freshman is truly outstanding.

      Bredeson could go to tackle but he lost the battle to Newsome last year and the staff preferred moving Braden to OT (where he wasn’t as good) to playing Bredeson outside. He could develop, but with his youth he probably would benefit from sticking at LG. You could convince me that swapping Cole and Bredeson makes sense too, with Cole serving as a mentor between the new OT and OC.

      Going with Ruiz at OC over Kugler. This is equal parts not thinking highly of Kugler and being excited about Ruiz. He’ll screw up some line calls – Michigan will live with that and hope it gets better. The early enrollee / IMG Academy prep makes this feasible.

      Onwenu’s talent seems indisputable. I know some see him moving to NT but the need on the OL is too severe to allow it. Talented OL tend to make a leap from year 1 and 2 and Onwenu is an elite talent with great potential as a run-game mauler.

      RT would seem like a nice place for Newsome to settle back in, possibly with JBB filling in until he is ready. Freshman loom as options too.

      That would give us a jumbo right side to run behind (Ruiz/Onwenu/Newsome) with Bredeson or Cole pulling around.

    • Comments: 407
      Joined: 1/19/2016
      Dec 20, 2016 at 1:56 PM

      No way will Newsome be ready by fall, if ever

      I’d go with:
      winner of Onwenu & Dawson
      winner of JBB & Ulizio

      Dawson or Kugler transfer if they’re not starting

      • GKblue
        Comments: 164
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Dec 20, 2016 at 3:53 PM

        I tend to agree with you that Newsome has a real tough row to hoe, and that at least one of the OL will transfer out. Contrary to popular opinion, I think it is a distinct possibility that Cole stays at center to anchor the line.

        • Comments: 407
          Joined: 1/19/2016
          Dec 20, 2016 at 4:00 PM

          I hope you’re right about Cole!

        • Comments: 2772
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Dec 20, 2016 at 4:52 PM

          He could. I would see it as good news if Cole stayed where he is because it probably means Michigan isn’t straining to fill holes.

          The ideal scenario is Ruiz backing up Cole at OC. The question is if Michigan has the OTs to make it work.

      • Comments: 2772
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Dec 20, 2016 at 4:50 PM

        Not arguing. One has to expect transfers every offseason.

        I have no intel on Newsome but it seems like he is motivated to recover and he’ll obviously get a ton of support.

        I strongly suspect Onwenu will win an OG spot.

        Kugler could also start at OG, allowing Bredeson to kick out to tackle.

        There are endless possibilities but Cole, Bredeson, and Onwenu seem like the 3 most likely to start in whatever configuration you care to imagine.

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