Friday, June 28, 2013

Inside the Playbook - A look into MSU's Cover 4

This time I look at MSU's cover 4. Combined with their front 7 scheme (4-3 Over), it has become one of the better defenses in the nation. We look at it in some depth here:


In the next couple days, I plan on publishing a Breakdown Sports exclusive (I feel stupid saying that, I apologize) that brings it together a little more and looks at how teams will attempt to attack the defense.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Inside the Playbook - MSU's Defensive Front - 4-3 Over

Over at Maize n Brew today, my in depth look at some of MSU's 4-3 Over front variations, the reasons for them, and how offenses plan to attack them has been posted. Take a look if you're interested in seeing how moving one foot over in the same gap can turn an offensive strength play to an offensive weakness.

A post covering MSU's variation of the cover 4 will be posted soon as well.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Inside Michigan's Playbook

I haven't been posting as much as I've wanted to. I've been busy the last couple weeks, and these break downs take quite a bit of time. Here's a link to the collection of all the Inside the Playbook to date.

Inside the Playbook Series

And here's a link to the newest article.

Inside the Playbook - Pass Game Basics - Part II

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Inside the Playbook - Pass game basics - Part I

Another in the series of posts over at Maize n Brew for readers to check out. Look at some of the Michigan pass game basics that they will often run to get comfortable before unleashing the big guns.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Inside the Playbook - Roll Outs and Sprint Outs - Part III

The final part of my roll outs and sprint outs chapter is up at Maize n Brew. This time, we look at how Borges and Co. will make you pay for being over-aggressive. You can also check out the other parts while you're there.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Recruit Breakdown: Raekwon McMillan

Ceiling: 9               Ranking: 7.75               Floor: 3.75

School: Parkway (Bossier City, LA)

Size: 6'2" - 235 lbs.

Composite: 5 Star, #1 ILB, #14 Overall

247: 5 Star, 98, #1 ILB, #13 Overall

Rivals: 5 Star, 6.1, #1 ILB, #17 Overall

Scout: 4 Star, #5 ILB, #41 Overall

Favorites: Alabama, Clemson, Ohio St (assumed favorite), USC
Other Notable Offers: Auburn, Florida, FSU, Georgia, Indiana, Miami, Michigan St, Nebraska, ND, Ole Miss, Oregon, South Carolina, Stanford, Tennessee, UCLA, Wisconsin


  • Size
  • Hits extremely hard
  • Very aggressive down hill player/ Blitz ability
  • Great athlete in pursuit

Great instincts at the MIKE position. Reads plays extremely quickly, gets downhill with a lot of speed, and slices through the line well. Hits hard, accelerating through contact and finishing players backwards. Continues to drive feet and legs after contact, ball carriers don't finish falling forward. Quick first step makes him adept at blitzing through any gap, A-D, and makes it difficult for O-linemen to beat him to a stop. Gets good shoulder dip coming off the edge, gets inside shoulder low and scrapes down the line. Good speed for a LB to track down from behind. Awareness to wrap and strip ball with hands. Good pursuit player, can cut behind blockers and make plays on outside runs. College ready size, enough height to see play from the ILB position.


  • Gets sucked out of position/ False Steps
  • Tackles High
  • Pass coverage

Often tackles too high, his aiming point appears to be around the chest. Very aggressive, but his aggressiveness causes him to take far too many false steps; gets too downhill on any counter action and loses leverage; he gets away with it at the high school level as he is a supreme athlete, but at the college level will force him to the wrong position and be easily blocked. Will need to work on his lateral movement, both in terms of scrapping over the top (he almost always cuts behind blockers and is able to track from behind at the HS level) as well as sidestepping blockers. Blockers getting into his body are often able to get leverage and at least initially get a bit of a push on him, his strength stalemates them, but at the next level he won't be able to do that. Does shed a little bit with hands, so he's at least aware of it, but it's more of a "get the hell out of my way" shed then any actual technique. Needs to get more comfortable flipping hips and playing in zone coverages, like most HS LBs, his pass coverage technique is "he's a great athlete."

Everything Chris Spielman would like in an ILB, because he "sees ball, hits ball"... hard, really hard. He's an extremely aggressive player that simply blows up ball carriers. He wraps and can attack the ball to cause fumbles from players that don't protect the football. First step is extremely quick, and it's nearly impossible for HS linemen to get to him because of his first step quickness and speed to the ball. Physically, he's college ready, though he'll probably add around 10 lbs at the next level, he could play immediately. His speed and size combo make him a physical presence at the HS level. He is able to attack downhill and slice through the line between the tackles, and slide behind blockers and track down ball carriers from behind on outside runs. He has potential through the roof athletically, and has the size to match.

That being said, he's far from a finished product. While he's a very downhill player, that comes with both positive aspects and negative aspects. In plays where the offense tips their hand or has no misdirection, or on blitz calls, McMillan can get to and through the line in a hurry. But on misdirection he often attacks a bit out of control, taking four or five false steps before reacting to the misdirection. Counters, screens, play action, etc could all cause him problems if he continues to be over aggressive. He will need to improve his lateral movements. While I think he can track from sideline-to-sideline because of his speed, he doesn't yet show the ability to scrape over the top or to sidestep blockers. This leads to the fact that I think he needs to change his aiming points, both in terms of pursuit angles, and tackling level. He won't as easily be able to slice behind the linemen and track down college running backs. He still will be able to, no doubt, he is that good of an athlete, but at times in his HS tapes he gets far too deep downhill and behind the play that he wouldn't be able to make up the ground at the next level. He'll also need to learn how to take on blockers, both with the correct shoulder and leverage, and improve his shedding abilities.

One of the perhaps hidden attributes to his game: he displays the ability to be a very good blocker. He gets under the pads and drives well with his legs and feet. Because of this, he should be an asset in all areas of special teams. Insidently enough, I like him quite a bit as a powerback/FB or a TE, and if for whatever reason LB didn't work out, he could see time on offense because of his pure athletic ability.

As you can tell above, I really like McMillan's game. But I think, to go along with his very high ceiling, he has a bit of a bust threat as well. He is such a great athlete that he will contribute to any team he plays on, but his aggression coming downhill is also a worry. You want him to still be very quick to the ball and diagnose plays to the point of being in the backfield before the O-line is out of their stance, but if he's getting drawn out of plays on a consistent basis, essentially losing his responsibility he won't play, or if he does he will be responsible for a lot of defensive busts. As people know, defenses are only as strong as the weakest link, and while McMillan could be the strongest at times, he could also blow responsibilities and cause large holes in the defense. So it's a fine line between losing his aggression and becoming passive trying to diagnose plays correctly, and getting drawn out of position. It is also yet to be seen if he can play every down, while he has the pure athletic ability, he doesn't display a lot of hip flexibility or coverage presence yet. He's a great athlete and a great, great, HS LB, but he'll have to make some significant adjustments and learn how to do some things if he wants to reach his ceiling. But damn, he can hit.


  • ILB
  • Preferred in weakside ILB role
  • Early playing time on ST

Inside linebacker all the way. His best fit is in an offense that allows him to play very downhill. It reminds me of what ND has done with their LBs, as well as how Alabama used Dont'a Hightower, moving him down to DE on passing downs. I think a weakside ILB is the natural fit for McMillan's abilities. Early on I'd expect to see him on special teams. He could also be deployed as a blitz or pass rush specialist early. Potentially could see the field very early if big mistakes while still adjusting to the college game don't cause DC's from throwing too many headsets.

I'm real happy for you, and I'mma let you finish, but 'Only Built 4 Cuban Linx...' is one of the greatest rap albums of all time.
AKA The Chef.

Recruit Breakdown: Chris Frey

Ceiling: 8               Ranking: 6               Floor: 3.5

School: Parkway (Bossier City, LA)

Size: 6'1" - 210 lbs.

Composite: 3 Star, #76 OLB

247: 3 Star, 81, #86 OLB

Rivals: 3 Star, 5.6, #37 OLB

Scout: 3 Star, #40 OLB

Favorites: Michigan State (Commit)
Other Notable Offers: Boston College, Kentucky, Syracuse, Purdue

  • Athletic
  • Fluid hips for a LB prospect
  • Good coverage instincts

Has good athleticism for a LB. When sent blitzing, he gets downhill quickly. Does a nice job flowing down the line. Can find his way through the wash. Displays fluid hips for a LB prospect, both on offense and when dropping back in coverage. Looks relatively comfortable in underneath coverage for a high school player, has the hip flexibility to cover at the next level. Has good instincts in the pass game, anticipates routes before they fully develop. Wraps up nicely on contact, can bring the pop when he tackles. Has the lateral quickness to make blockers miss and can get skinny fighting through the line.

  • Size - Both height and weight
  • Played Strong Safety in High School
  • Needs to improve tackling consistency 

Size is the primary concern, he is short and needs to add a bit of weight, which may hinder some of his athletic ability. Will need to work a lot on being a LB before seeing the field, both with instincts, getting out of his initial stance (he isn't the quickest at seeing plays develop when near the LOS) and how to take on blockers on the edge. Is inconsistent tackling, sometimes displaying great wrap up and pop, along with leg drive, other times aiming high and not continuing his leg churn. Didn't play the position (played strong safety) in high school.

Very quick first step when asked to go somewhere, and when backed off the line he sees the field well and displays good instincts. Near the LOS though, he tends to be a half step slower when trying to read in react. Is this due to height? Or perhaps just a lack of reps at that depth? It's hard to tell. He's also going to need to learn how to take on blockers, both through his stance and hands. As a SS in high school, he was often an extra man near the LOS, and didn't have to hold the point of attack and shed blockers to get to the ball carrier. He is able to slice through traffic and get to the ball. Quick athlete. Has good hips for a LB prospect and can weave his way through the garbage. Very good at blitzing off the edge and fighting down the line, chasing the play from behind. Should be above most incoming recruits in coverage ability. Displays good instincts and route recognition for such a young player, and has the flexibility and athleticism to help in the slot, cover backs out of the backfield, or drop into zone coverage.

I'm not sure I believe the weight on him at this point though, as he still looks quite lean, but should be able to bulk up as he has the build to do so. The other major concern is his height. While he appears to have the frame to get up to the 230s, he won't want to go too much higher than that as it may affect his athleticism by putting to much weight packed into a shorter prospect. He's a bit of a long strider at this stage, will need to work on closing his footwork inside the box and when taking on on-coming blockers, but I've seen worse in this department. Has the ability to be a strong fundamental tackler, but needs to work on consistency. He displays lots of good plays in his highlight tape, but doesn't have many wow plays.

The team that gets him will need to have some patience with him initially. He has to put on quite a bit of weight and needs to refine his LB technique before seeing the field on defense, but he should be able to contribute on special teams fairly early.

  • Star (OLB) next level
  • A few years away from contributing on defense
  • Solid special teams until then

I don't think he's the athlete you want at DB in college, but he is a plus athlete at the LB level. Doesn't have the instincts of a MLB, and is much more of a downhill player on defense. Fits in nicely at OLB where he can work in some coverage and blitz off the edge. His height is also less of a concern as he doesn't need to fight his way through as much wash.

Really fits the Star position, a hybrid safety-WILL position that leans closer to the WILL side, that MSU has in it's defense. This position will utilize Frey's strengths in pass coverage and working down hill and blitzing from the edge. It will also allow him to more space so that he isn't as caught up in the wash. Because of his fit into his future position, he is much more likely to move toward his ceiling rather than his floor, which is reflected in the ranking given to him.

Who the hell is Chris Freytag and why does google always auto complete when I try to find Christ Frey

Friday, June 7, 2013

Inside the Playbook - Roll Outs and Sprint Outs - Part II

For those that liked Part I of the series, part II is now up at Maize n Brew. This time we look at over-aggressive DBs and some of the other combinations to pick up easy yards out of the roll out series.
Check it out and leave a comment if you have any questions.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Inside the Playbook - Roll Outs and Sprint Outs - Part 1

I put up a post last night detailing some of the near future plans for the blog. I indicated that I have been working on a series for Maize n Brew recently called "Inside the Playbook".

Well, my first part in the series has just been posted, and you can check it out here.

Blog Preview

Just a heads up about the upcoming days/weeks on the blog. Recently, I've been working on a series of blog posts for Maize n Blue called "Inside the Playbook". It will be looking closely at the Michigan pass game and breakdown concepts, techniques, and theories. It's more of what I want to do with this blog as well, and I'll be sure to link those articles here when they go up.

In the upcoming days I will continue to analyze some recruits, including some already committed to schools. I plan on looking at committed prospects: Chris Frey (OLB, MSU), Jabrill Peppers (CB, Michigan), Damon Webb (CB, OSU), Chris Goodwin (WR, PSU), and Justin Jackson (RB, Northwestern)

I'll also be scouting: RB Chris James, Athlete JuJu Smith, ILB Raekwon McMillan, WR Artavis Scott, OL Brian Wallace, along with possibly some others.

If you're interested in a certain recruit, leave a comment and it's likely I'll get around to them soon.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Recruit Breakdown: Brandon Harris

Ceiling: 9               Ranking: 7               Floor: 4.5

School: Parkway (Bossier City, LA)

Size: 6'2" - 190 lbs.

Composite: 4 Star, #3 Dual, #235 Overall

247: 4 Star, 94, #1 Dual, #98 Overall

Rivals: 4 Star, 5.8, #5 Dual, #186 Overall

Scout: 3 Star, #24 Dual

Favorites: LSU (Commit)

Other Notable Offers: Alabama, Auburn, LSU, OSU, South Carolina, Arizona St, Arkansas, Baylor, Indiana, Miss St, Nebraska, North Carolina, Texas A&M

Has very good arm strength. When able to set his feet he gets get zip on the ball, very little hang, gets to the receiver fast. When able to step into clean pocket he can make any throw. Capable of putting touch on the pass, but again, needs to have clean pocket to step into. Can do a good job of keeping proper shoulder angle and ladder growth (this is when you see a QB do quick, choppy steps, essentially pulling themselves forward while maintaining a consistent foot width) up into the pocket, waiting for receiver to get open. Very good short and intermediate passer when he is able to throw quickly with timing, typically off a 1 or 3 step drop. Good ability to escape pressure due to acceleration and speed.

Good athlete who is capable of running designed QB runs. Quick first step to get north/south quickly, can slice through the line or around the edge when defenders don’t maintain responsibility. Good open field speed that can make a long run if safeties cheat out of center field.

While he is able to escape pressure, when under duress and on the run his mechanics start to break down. His release point gets lower and he starts throwing more like a baseball. His footwork begins to breakdown as he doesn’t maintain shoulder angle or proper stride width to throw accurately or immediately without resorting to baseball throw. Doesn’t use body on these throws, tends to wind up and arm throw it. Could work on his accuracy and touch on the deep ball, his depth is also inconsistent. Often fails to reset feet and shoulders after play action, leaves body open and slings. This will tend to force balls to sail. Low release point as well. Tends to aim very short passes, such as swing passes or short dump offs.

Not a lot of wiggle as a runner, very straight line with long strides. At times he carries the ball a bit loosely. Doesn’t have the lateral mobility or stop/go quickness to be a true running threat most plays. Better when setting up pass with run or getting RB going and only occasionally keeping.

For as gifted of a runner as Harris is, the possibilities become even more enticing when you realize he has the capability of throwing every ball in any offense. A very strong arm, he throws the ball with a lot of zip and has very little wasted air time. This allows him the throw the ball into very tight windows on short hitches and slants. He is at his best on quick timing routes where his footwork and mechanics have been committed to memory and he isn’t forced to improvise. His ability to throw in an occasional 5-step drop, deep out or post threatens the defense it all levels of the field. Could get a bit better touch on his deep ball, and better recognition of coverage deep could really help him.

While he has great speed, he doesn’t necessarily have great quickness. He does accelerate well, but because of his long strides and stiff hips, he won’t make many people miss at the next level. He isn’t the type of dual-threat QB that you want to lean on to run the ball, instead, he should be used more to keep the defense honest. Could benefit from shortening his stride, particularly behind the line of scrimmage, and getting a little more shake to get defenders off balance. A shorter step would also benefit him for throwing off the run, which he currently struggles at. While on the move, his mechanics tend to suffer. He looks more like a short stop charging an infield grounder and trying to get a runner out at first. Harris, not the tallest QB already, allows his release point to drop. He tends to open up his shoulders and sling the ball with his arm. This hurts his accuracy, both from side-to-side, as well as high and low (though he still gets good velocity on it). He also fails to reset after play action or after finding open space. While he is capable of stepping into a clean pocket, he doesn’t show much of stepping up to avoid the rush, and when pressured he doesn’t look to buy time and then reset when he gets there.

Brandon Harris should be a QB at the next level. With his arm strength and ability to make every throw, there should be no reason to move him, though with his straight line speed he could become a decent WR. His ball comes off his arm with a lot of zip and very little wasted air time. Because of this he is able to connect on lots of short and intermediate timing routes, and occasionally throw fade type passes on WR double moves. Allowing him to run about 5 times again to maintain the threat of his legs, but not rely on them, would be beneficial. His best system would be a read option spread offense that allows Harris to primarily get the ball into the hands of other playmakers, but threaten the field when the defense forces him to. Harris reminds me a lot of former Oregon QB Darron Thomas, and a similar offense is the best fit for Harris.

Harris has a very high ceiling, but will need to work on some things to reach it. Still, in the right offense, he should be able to find success, but an occasional poor throw could lead him to be a high completion but turnover prone until his footwork is improved. If he can't improve on his footwork, his inconsistencies may be enough to keep him off the field as a QB despite his talent and high ceiling.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Recruit Breakdown: Jamarco Jones

Ceiling: 9               Ranking: 8.25               Floor: 5

School: De La Salle Institute (Chicago, ILL)

Size: 6'5" - 290 lbs.

Composite: 4 Star, #4 OT, #49 Overall

247: 4 Star, 97, #5 OT, #42 Overall

Rivals: 4 Star, 5.9, #13 OT, #97 Overall

Scout: 4 Star, #6 OT, #52 Overall

Favorites: Ohio State (Commit)

Other Notable Offers: Michigan, Michigan St, Notre Dame, Arizona St, Arkansas, Cal, Florida, FSU, Georgia Tech, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Miss St, Nebraska, Northwestern, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Purdue, Tennessee, UCLA, Vandy, Virginia, Wisconsin

Mammoth body that moves well, especially forward. Can pull around the line as his straight speed is good for his size. Great, great down blocker. Gets under pads of kids that are much smaller than him, get into body, latches on, and drives. Very physical player that lifts defenders off their feet upon his initial pop and eats them (not literally, usually). Gets defenders turned and off balance well. Thick lower body build, squatty legs that uproot anyone inside of him; bends well at the knees. Great contact between feet and ground (not on his toes or sides of feet) allowing him to get lots of surface area to increase power when driving. Keeps feet driving after contact. Plays through whistle. Very good run block technique at his stage.

Does not have great lateral speed. Drop step and kick are a bit slow. Does not have length that is wanted for pass protection on the edge as the pass rush should be able to get arms outstretched and into him. Not extremely quick first step, which makes him struggle to reach block and to get his first drop in pass pro.

Will be a dominant run blocker at the next level. Has very good technique in that area of his game for a high school lineman, but also possesses all the size to utilize it very well. Gets very low and does a great job of latching on and uprooting defenders. He's better suited moving forward, either down blocking or turning and pulling. Lateral speed will be an issue on the outside and particularly in pass protection. Not an extremely long athlete, more squatty and compact, despite a 6'5" frame. Not extremely long arms.

My opinion on Jones is that he would be a great guard prospect, but I don't see him as a future LT prospect. Great, powerful leverage, pretty good at pulling and trapping, gets into defenders body while run blocking. But I don't think he has the lateral quickness, nimble feet, or length to play LT. Also probably needs to work on hand placement as he won't simply be able to pancake college kids (technique stuff is almost always going to be raw for high school linemen though). Could play some RT at the college level, but I think his optimal position is RG (though could easily play either OG spot), both in terms of highest floor and highest ceiling. Looks like he could be really good at rooting out DTs and be an All-B1G type player.

I think he fits better in an offense that runs more man blocking schemes, though he would also be good on inside-zone runs. As I've said previously, I think he is more of an OG than an OT (though he could fit in at RT in a crunch), but I think it would be a shame to put him in a predominately zone blocking scheme, particular one that forces him to do outside zone blocking. He can succeed in that scheme, no doubt, but he appears to be very good down blocking and at pulling around the edge. I think a team that mixes up their blocking schemes and allows him to pull and lead a RB around the edge or through the hole is going to maximize his potential. He's very good at latching on to guys and driving them out, would be very good at trapping and kicking out DEs while pulling as well. Being on the backside of a zone blocking scheme would force him to do more reaching and scrapping to the LB level, which I think he could do well, but not at the same very high level he's capable of doing other things, at least not right away. At the end of the day, I simply think he's better suited at latching on to someone and driving them where he wants rather than sliding and sealing and working to the second level.

My rating above projects him as a OG in an optimal system for him. His ceiling as a OT is probably a little lower, around an 8, and my projection would drop to a 6.5 or 7. In a predominately zone scheme, my projection would be closer to a 7.5. Floor would remain the same as he'd still be able to slide inside if OT didn't work.

Recruit Breakdown: Micquell Cotton

Ceiling: 7.5               Ranking: 4.5               Floor: 3

School: Thomas Jefferson (Clairton, PA)

Size: 5'8" - 175 lbs.

Composite: 3 Star, #94 S

247: UR

Rivals: 3 Star, 5.5

Scout: 3 Star, #69 S

Favorites: Indiana, Iowa St, Michigan St, Syracuse

Very good athlete, very quick and has good top end speed. Quick first step and lateral movement. Reckless when tackling, not afraid to throw his body around. Good instincts when coming down in run support. Breaks down well when runners try to side-step him. Runs through QB or RB upon contact.

Very, very small. Not only short, but does not possess long arms. Tends to leave feet and launch into ball carriers. When he doesn't launch, he tends to bend at the waste and put the crown of his helmet down; when he does this his feet stop and he typically gets run over and takes ball carrier down with him. Plays OLB in high school, will have to really work on his pass coverage techniques and responsibilities. 

Plays OLB in high school and is sent blitzing a lot. He is very gifted athletically. His speed and quickness are superior to high school offensive linemen (not to mention pretty much every other player on the field by a long shot) that tend to struggle with pass-pro technique at that age, so his 11 sack number isn't surprising. I think some caution also needs to be taken when moving kids back in the defense. It tends to be easier to move players from safety to LB, for instance, than back into coverage. Question marks about Cotton playing in space, seeing the field, and coverage. Really needs to work on tackling technique, especially as he is always going to be smaller. He needs to bulk up, especially with the mentality he plays with. He flings his body around and isn't afraid to tackle or hit somebody. He does tend to leave his feet though, and his size and leg drive tend to result in him getting pushed back when tackling, even at the high school level.

He has the athletic tools to play at either safety spot at the B1G level, but will need a lot of refinement once he hits a campus. Needs to work on wrapping up after initial contact, needs to bring his legs more when he tackles, needs to learn coverage responsibilities, and needs to get bigger.

At his size and height it will likely take him a few years to see the field at any major school, and probably even a couple to make it on special teams outside of potentially returning the ball himself (similar athlete as Dennis Norfleet from Michigan). He could be a very good coverage person after that, where he can use his athleticism and ruthlessness with his body to his advantage.

A move backward is a must if he stays on defense - where he won't have to stick a player in the hole or see over tall linemen in a limited space - but can use his athletic ability to make plays on the ball and in the open field. His height is a concern at free safety, where his athletic ability would be better displayed, and size at strong safety would be a question mark. CB is an intriguing option as well, though his strengths as a relantless tackler and his weaknesses, such as height and lack of comfort in coverage would get exploited. I think SS is his ultimate position if he stays on that side of the ball, as he is a willing tackler and would be quick to get down into run support, you just have to accept the fact that most RBs will fall forward and he will struggle covering taller slots and TEs (will need LBs help). At FS he would need more time to get acclimated to playing in space and understanding his role within the defense.

Potentially he could also see time at RB, as he has the physical tools to do that as well, and height will be less of a concern.

This is the definition of a low floor, high ceiling player. If he is capable of picking up coverage responsibilities and improves his tackling, he could be a ball hawk with his athletic ability. There's also a legit possibility that he isn't capable of picking those things up and he's stuck as a special teams guy. Questions about getting bigger and his lack of height leave him without a true defined position, and regardless of where he plays he'll always be able to have his lack of size exploited.

Recruit Breakdown: Chase Winovich

Ceiling: 8               Ranking: 6               Floor: 4

School: Thomas Jefferson (Clairton, PA)

Size: 6'4" - 220 lbs.

Composite: 3 Star, #41 OLB

247: 3 Star, 87, #48 OLB

Rivals: 3 Star, 5.7, #29 OLB

Scout: 3 Star, #28 OLB

Favorites: Michigan (Commit)

Other Notable Offers: Arkansas, Boston College, Florida St, Illinois, Miami (FL), Michigan St, Northwestern, Ohio St, Oregon, Pitt, Virginia Tech, West Virginia

Wraps up well on contact. Good fundamentals when tackling, wraps up and keeps feet driving. Long arms and good wrap make him very good at tackling from the side. Good athlete and good speed for his size and position. Ideal height for SAM. Very explosive north/south, more of a downhill player than sideline-to-sideline. Aggressive to the ball, never gives up on a play.

Often stands up to high after the snap of the ball when off the LOS. Will need to learn to use his hands when blitzing and taking on blockers. Often leans too much on athleticism and doesn’t hold spot when taking on blockers, though he is capable of using athleticism to sidestep them. Also takes some fairly poor angles, but has the speed at the high school level to make up for it; will need to adjust at the next level. Tackles well fundamentally but lacks a pop at contact; not a violent hitter. Needs to sometimes learn to get squarer on the ball carrier to prevent getting carried forward. This will be helped if he can improve on breaking down before taking on ball carriers, especially in the open field, he’s still a very straight line player.

Winovich is a very downhill, linear player at this point. In Michigan's defense he will mostly be just off the LOS, which helps him. He is not yet adept at diagnosing plays and mirroring the play in front of him. He still doesn't have the technique to stay square to the LOS for plays between the tackles, so being at an OLB position will be a great benefit to him. He will have to bulk up a bit and get thicker in the legs. He is a very lanky player, even at a decent playing weight for a HS LB. Needs to learn to do a better job setting the edge on the outside and utilizing his body and technique to either force plays back inside or keep his outside arm free and take away any run to the outside. He relies too much at this point on his superior athleticism, speed, and long arms at this point. He is a good athlete though, and he doesn't give up on plays. Has a quick first step to get off the line, around the edge, or slash through the line on blitzes. He can chase down players from the backside of the play if they delay getting to the outside, and he uses his long arms to swipe and grab at the QB even if he is getting pushed by and the QB steps forward. Very fundamental tackler, wraps up well and gets into the waste of the ball carrier. Doesn't provide a lot of pop with his hip, but sufficiently wraps up and drives to prevent ball carriers from getting extra yards.

I wish his tape showed him dropping in coverage. I think he has the straight line athleticism but may not have the hip movement to be great at that. Definitely has the length and speed to hang with TE or get out and cover the slot or screens from the SAM position.

Definitely and OLB at the next level. His tape didn't show him dropping in coverage at all, and he'll have to work on how to use his eyes and hips when dropping into zones. He needs to add bulk, so he'll likely redshirt. Can be a standout on special teams early, as he has good straight line speed for his size and wraps up well, can tackle in space. Needs to get better at breaking down as the athletes around him get better, at which point when he starts getting up in weight and technique, his optimal position is one that allows him to be very downhill. I don't foresee him scraping from sideline-to-sideline, he's best coming off the edge or downhill.

Recruit Breakdown: Madre London

Ceiling: 8               Ranking: 5.5               Floor: 4

School: St. Thomas Aquinas (Ft. Lauderdale, FL)

Size: 6'1" - 200 lbs.

Composite: 3 Star, #103 RB

247: 3 Star, 81, #92 RB

Rivals: 3 Star, 5.5

Scout: 3 Star, #77 RB

Favorites: Boston College, Florida State, Michigan State, Nebraska, Wisconsin

Other Notable Offers: Cincinnati, Illinois, Kansas, Purdue, Rutgers, South Carolina 


Good initial burst, quick to get up to full speed. Good stop/start quickness, pushes defenders past him and gets back up to speed with good burst. Plants foot solidly in ground and gets running north/south with strength behind his shoulders. Has a good shoulder lean upon contact. Keeps feet churning when still square to LOS. Falls forward when going down. Uses his left hand well to stiff arm defenders and scrape away tacklers hands. Big body that can add weight. Willing blocker. Great feel for running routes out of the back field. Very comfortable with hand placement a feel for screen blocking.


Not great top end speed, will be a between the tackles type runner. Long strider, making it difficult to cut behind LOS and leads to him getting tripped up in the open field. Lacks elite vision. Doesn't protect his legs well with high knees or low center of mass. Bends at waist and doesn't get great knee bend. Not very fluid in the hips, lacks lateral mobility. Only holds ball in right hand, would like to see him use his outside arm so he could utilize his hands running to both sides of the LOS. Needs to improve balance (this would be greatly helped by better COM).


Though some like to compare, he really does not run much like Laveon Bell in my opinion - very different running style. Is a long strider rather than the quick footwork of Bell, but gets up to speed surprisingly quick for someone that has such a long stride. Not great top end speed, will probably be a between the tackles runner at the next level. Would like to see him shorten his step a bit, especially initially, as he isn't going to get those gaping lanes at the next level as often. Very good initial cut, plants his foot strongly and gets his momentum going north/south, can stop quick and get back up to speed. Not much for lateral movement, and his hips seem a bit stiff, which is why he appears to lose balance sometimes and get tackled easier than a man his size sometimes should. Not great balance, but is able to fall forward consistently. Uses his off arm very well to move tacklers, but only holds the ball in his right hand, making it more difficult to run him to the left side of the line. Does a good job holding it high and tight usually, but you'd like to see him hold it in his outside arm. Has a good shoulder lean upon contact, but needs to follow through with more consistent leg drive (especially when he gets his shoulders turned) and use his arms to shed/lean-on tacklers and keep momentum going forward.

I would like to see him get a little better knee bend and get his knees a little higher. I think if he combines that with better hand use, he will break a few more tackles, have a little better center of mass, and not get chopped down so easily (he seems to go down fairly easily when taken down low because he doesn't protect his legs as well as he could). He also seems to get shoe-string tackled a bit because of his long stride.
As far as blocking, he has quite a bit of work to do technique-wise, but I don't really think that's an issue for a high school back (the fact that he has any technique is more than a lot of HS RBs can say). The big thing that shows is that he has a willingness to block and to work on getting better at it, because he does put a lot of effort into it. That's something, along with blocking schemes, that would get taught to him as soon as he hits whatever campus he chooses.

Very fluid running routes and catching the ball out of the backfield, London is fully capable of being an every down back down the road. If he can pick up blocking schemes, could start out as a 3rd down guy before moving into a starting role. Has a good feel for when to leak in the screen game as well and a good feel for how his blockers are setting up on second level defenders.

Lastly, I like the touch of lightning at the start of the video, but I once saw a highlight video that made it appear the recruit was dodging the lightning bolts. Would like to see him up his video production capabilities in future highlights.


I think he could range anywhere from 220 - 235 lbs, depending on what they want to do with him. At his size and height, he's going to be a big back type.

I think his best fit is in a predominately under-center zone running scheme, think Wisconsin before their coaching change or the Houston Texans. This would allow him to threaten the edge a bit more with the zone stretch play. That type of offense would allow him to make a simple read of the OT/TE, if they reach or kick out just cut off their butt either way. This fits his one cut north/south style. It also utilizes his ability to quickly accelerate to get that stretch while not having to be extremely fast or elusive to threaten outside, and also allows him to hit his gap quickly rather than have to be more patient to allow blockers to pull around. The only area I think he would struggle in this type of offense (though more-so in a shotgun based zone scheme) is is vision and ability to laterally cut to hit the backside on over aggressive defenders flying to the playside.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Recruiting System

Below is my list for how I anticipate my own personal ranking of a recruit. The list goes from 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest. The basic approximation for recruits should look somewhat like a bell curve. So please, don't get frustrated when I say a kid is a 5, that doesn't mean he's failing, he isn't getting a 50%, he's just an average recruit. This ranking is based on how a recruit will play out their eligibility at a BCS-level school.

Ranking Definition
10 Best in class/best at his position in ~4 years
9 First Team All-American
8 First Team All-Conference in Media and Coaches (Second or HM AA)
7 Second Team All-Conference Media Or Coaches
6 Honorable Mention All-Conference/Above Average Conference Starter
5 Average Conference Starter
4 Below Average Conference Starter/ Early of Bench
3 Depth Player
2 Non-BCS Depth Player
1 Walk On

If you're looking to figure out how this compares to the standard star system, I would expect something like this:

5 star: 8.5-10
4 star: 6.5-8.5
3 star: 4.5-6.5
2 star: 3-4.5
UR:    1-3

10s, as you may expect, will be exceptionally rare. Actually predicting a recruit to be a 10 would be difficult to do, though having a ceiling of a 10 isn't as difficult. Honestly, the only player in the last decade that I could foresee actually garnering a 10 prediction would be Adrian Peterson, and even his floor would have been around a 7.

It's not a perfect breakdown, because I doubt many teams will be recruiting kids that I expect to be a 2, let's say, compared to recruits I expect to be a 9. But it at least breaks it down in a way that I feel gives a bit more separation and a little better appreciation for how good a recruit really is.

A New Way of Looking at Recruiting

The Current System's Problem
Way back when, Rivals developed a method of ranking recruits. They used between 1 and 5 stars - or more realistically, 2 through 5 stars - and that was ok. Then other recruiting services came along and used the same model. And now it's just the expected model. But that doesn't mean it's the right system.

Many fan bases look at recruiting rankings, and if they are high in them they trust the source; if they are low: not so much. In my mind, this is an inherent problem from the recruiting ranking system. Players cannot so simply be placed in an area between two and five stars. The sites often fail at displaying why a recruit is say a low 4-star rather than a high 3-star. In my mind, they don't effectively breakdown and explain: what's a recruits ceiling; what's a recruits floor; what is the recruit really good at; what does the recruit need to work on, and what type of system the recruit fits best in.

What I Want to do
I want to do these types of things, and I want to be more clear than having applicable variance of only 4 stars. So I'm developing a new "star" system, if you want to call it that. It's based around the fact that a bell curve should be formed, with a 10 being the absolute highest, and a 1 being the absolute lowest. But simply giving how I predict a recruit will turn out isn't sufficient. 

For instance, many recruits have great athletic ability but need to add a ton of weight. In that case, they may have a high ceiling, or perhaps because they have to gain such a significant amount of weight, they'll lose what makes them special or never find a true position. This is the definition of a low ceiling, high floor athlete.

On the other hand, a recruit may have great technique already, but limited athletic ability. This may help explain a high floor, low ceiling athlete. 

My goal is to define a mu +/- two-sigma range for these players: mu being my best prediction for the athlete, and the two-sigma a prediction of a players range, or floor and ceiling, with 95% certainty. Obviously, there will be some outliers. Some guys come in and are just complete busts; others do things you never expected them to. By no means is my analysis perfect, but I hope by giving this type of breakdown, readers will have a better sense of the recruits potential.

I also want to go into the strengths and weakness of the recruits in a bit more depth. Some fans are touchy when it comes to discussing weaknesses of recruits that are likely to go to their school, but understand, these are high school kids that are far from polished products. I think weaknesses should be expected, and taken as areas that the recruit should improve on.

Lastly, I want to discuss the type of system the recruit fits best in and how he would fit in different systems. This should help the readers understand how the recruit would fit into their team (as far as position, what the coaches would want to do with him, etc.) and which systems are best for said recruit.

In my next post I'll attempt to explain what a value means in the grand scheme of things and how it relates to the system that readers are most typically accustomed to. Hopefully this theory makes sense and is helpful to people. You will see it applied shortly to some recruits.