Michael Ferns III, Wolverine
St. Clairsville (OH) St. Clairsville linebacker Michael Ferns committed to Michigan on Thursday. He selected the Wolverines over offers from Illinois, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Penn State, Stanford, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin, among others.
Ferns is a 6’3″, 235-pounder. He had 136 tackles as a sophomore in 2011, plus another 88 tackles as a freshman. He also claims to run a leg of his high school track team’s 4×100 relay in 11.6 seconds.
247 Sports: 4-star ILB, 93 grade, #5 ILB, #94 overall
A high-level prospect from the state of Ohio, many people thought Ferns was OSU’s to lose. However, he and his family thought better than to head to Columbus, so the pool was narrowed down to Michigan, Notre Dame, and Penn State. Ferns visited Michigan a couple times, including the BBQ in the Big House at the end of July, and decided that Ann Arbor was the place for him, despite the fact that his father is a Notre Dame fan. You can probably figure out for yourself why Penn State wasn’t the choice. The younger Ferns also has hopes of one day becoming a doctor, so academics weighed heavily on his mind; he currently has a 4.0 GPA.
I really like what I see on Ferns’s film. He plays both ways for his high school team, although keep in mind as you watch that St. Clairsville is a small school with fewer than 700 students enrolled; the competition is not excellent. Ferns plays some fullback, tight end, wide receiver, and linebacker. He shows very good instincts as a linebacker. Ferns the younger plays downhill nicely, showing quick initial reads and stepping up into holes that open. He keeps his shoulders square to the line of scrimmage and is a very solid tackler. He also does a nice job of side-stepping blockers and using his hands to shed when necessary. His change-of-direction skills are also apparent as an offensive player, where he swivels his hips pretty well to slither past defenders.
There’s not much to dislike on his film. He has a pretty advanced game for a high school sophomore. He does take a false step here or there as a linebacker, an occasional habit that he will hopefully rid himself of in the coming year or two; as a sophomore, that’s not a huge concern.
Ferns could project to a number of positions in college. He has the instincts to play MIKE linebacker, but I could see him outgrowing the position. I have my doubts that he’s already 6’3″ and 235 lbs. Sometimes heights and weights are exaggerated, and that would make him as big as Jake Ryan was as a redshirt freshman. If he outgrows the position, he has the length and athleticism to play SAM or even weakside defensive end. He also has the speed and receiving skills to play tight end if Michigan needs him there, although I think his upside is higher on defense. His all-around skills remind me of 2013 commit Ben Gedeon.
Ferns is Michigan’s first commitment for the class of 2014. The recruiting class currently looks to be about 17 strong, although that number will almost certainly rise between now and February ’14.
TTB Rating: 85 (rating system)