A.J. Dillon, Wolverine

A.J. Dillon, Wolverine

March 28, 2016
AJ Dillon 794x

Groton (MA) Lawrence Academy running back A.J. Dillon

Groton (MA) Lawrence Academy running back A.J. Dillon committed to Michigan on Monday morning. He chose the Wolverines over offers from Boston College, Florida State, Iowa, Mississippi State, Nebraska, Notre Dame, UConn, UMass, Virginia Tech, and Wisconsin, among others.

Dillon is 6’1″, 230 lbs., and ran a 4.64 laser-timed forty, along with a 4.39 shuttle. As a junior in 2015, he ran 187 times for 1,887 yards and 26 TDs. When he was a sophomore in 2014, he ran 161 times for 1,368 yards and 21 TDs.

ESPN: 3-star RB
Rivals: 4-star, #16 RB
Scout: 3-star, #41 RB
247 Sports: 4-star, 91 grade, #18 RB, #207 overall

Hit the jump for more on Dillon’s commitment.

Dillon was offered in late January and visited Ann Arbor a week ago. The grandson of former Notre Dame All-America wide receiver Tom Gatewood, Dillon was ticketed by many to the Fighting Irish. However, he was reported to have had a great visit with Michigan’s staff and rumors started trickling out that he might drop for the Wolverines soon. It took him less than a week after the visit to decide.

Dillon is a thick-legged, powerful running back. The primary thing that stands out about his game is his balance. He keeps his feet moving at all times, and he has a knack for spinning out of or churning through contact. He’s not a guy like Derrick Green who will go down on first contact. He will lower his shoulder and deliver a blow to safeties coming up to fill, and he also has decent change-of-direction skills. I also think he shows good patience and vision through the hole. He waits for his guards and pulling linemen to open the hole rather than trying to blast through it on his own or bounce everything to the outside. Once he gets up to speed,  he has pretty good leg turnover and can pull away from some defenders. And as mentioned above, players coming from behind to dive at his legs are still going to have a hard time bringing him down due to that balance.

On the negative side, Dillon’s acceleration is nothing special. He changes direction well, but he does not get to top speed quickly coming out of his cuts. There are times when he cuts laterally that will get him gang tackled in college because of backside pursuit. There are not many clips of him catching the ball out of the backfield, so his hands might be a question mark. The competition in Massachusetts is not stellar, which is why a borderline 4-star/3-star is the #1 player in the state (the second-best player in Massachusetts is #599 overall in the 247 Composite and the third is #737).

The guy that comes to mind when watching Dillon is former South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore. Lattimore was a little quicker, but they’re both tough runners who gain yards after contact and have some shiftiness. Dillon should get a shot at playing time fairly early in his career, because Michigan loses two heavily used seniors after 2016 (De’Veon Smith and Drake Johnson) and no heir apparent has established himself yet. It helps that Dillon’s body is college-ready.

This gives the Wolverines two running backs in the 2017 class, joining Kurt Taylor from Georgia. I mentioned in his commitment post that Taylor is more of a complementary back (LINK), and perhaps Dillon is the primary guy in that combination. Michigan will still presumably go after some guys with more big-play ability, but this is a solid running back class already. The Wolverines have cherry-picked some Massachusetts prospects over the past couple years after they pulled in early enrollee tight end Sean McKeon in the 2016 class. Previously, Michigan hadn’t placed much emphasis on the Codfish State.

TTB Rating: 80 (ratings explanation)

Note: I will be posting new and updated ratings for 2016 and 2017 prospects in the coming days. Dillon is the first 2017 prospect to be rated publicly since I was reviewing the 2016 class. In case you missed the update several weeks ago, TTB Ratings are now included on the offer boards (2016, 2017).


  1. Comments: 32
    Joined: 1/16/2016
    High Sierra Howard
    Mar 28, 2016 at 8:11 PM

    Is the reason Gary has no TTB rating shown on the 2016 offer board because your rating scale did not go high enough?

    • Comments: 3845
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Mar 28, 2016 at 8:47 PM

      Yes. And also because I am sometimes absent-minded.

      • Comments: 32
        Joined: 1/16/2016
        High Sierra Howard
        Mar 28, 2016 at 9:56 PM

        What were we talking about?

        By the way, I saw that Brett Neilon was at USC last weekend (and was thrilled with his offer from them) and has rescheduled for the Spring game. Did Wyatt Davis make it in or is he going to come to the Spring game with Neilon?

        • Comments: 3845
          Joined: 7/13/2015
          Mar 29, 2016 at 6:39 AM

          Yes, Neilon rescheduled his visit from this past weekend to next weekend for the spring game. I have not heard confirmation that Davis made it in, but I also haven’t seen that he has changed his schedule. So I’m not 100% sure about his situation, but I think he was visiting elsewhere this past weekend.

  2. Comments: 1357
    Joined: 8/13/2015
    Mar 28, 2016 at 8:23 PM

    These guys need a running game, their field is so poorly lit.

  3. Comments: 263
    Joined: 8/12/2015
    Painter Smurf
    Mar 28, 2016 at 8:26 PM

    Leveon Bell type. If his vision translates to college, he could be a good one.

  4. Comments: 295
    Joined: 12/19/2015
    Mar 29, 2016 at 10:11 AM

    Thunder, how would you rate Dillon compared to Kingston Davis? I know you may be changing ratings for 2016 in the coming days but they currently have the same “80” rating and I think these were both rated after their junior year films.

    • Comments: 3845
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Mar 29, 2016 at 10:27 AM

      I think Dillon is a little better because of his shiftiness. For better or worse, Davis is more of a straight-ahead bruiser. You are correct that Davis’s grade was given based on his junior film.

  5. Comments: 6285
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Mar 29, 2016 at 11:58 AM

    Lattimore was one of my favorite fun-to-watch RBs recently. He was a couple inches shorter and lighter than Dillon though.

    I’ve long expressed my doubts about taller RBs but Harbaugh knows what he is doing.

    I agree he looks slow out of his cuts, but has good balance and shiftiness.

  6. Comments: 23
    Joined: 3/14/2016
    Mar 30, 2016 at 8:49 PM

    I like Dillon’s running style. I think he’s the type of runner that will fit nicely into future Michigan teams. He hits the hole quickly and seems to be wise enough already to get what’s given before even thinking about a move. I don’t like dancers who start before the music plays. Seems to have balance comparable to Smith, and with more speed.

    If future lines execute the way I imagine, he looks like he should fit well. I’m guessing I’m watching someone who is 15 to 16 years old. By time he hits 20, could be one hell of a tough man to bring to the ground.

    • Comments: 3845
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Mar 30, 2016 at 9:57 PM

      Actually, I think he’s already 18 or close to it. Still an impressive athlete, but his body is closer to maturity than some might be expecting.

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