Michigan made a sudden move up Jalen Bates’ list thanks to his memorable visit to Ann Arbor last weekend for the Barbecue at the Big House. If the Wolverines are to move up any further, though, they must overcome the advantage enjoyed by his top three schools. Bates insists that advantage has a great deal to do with his stronger relationships with his would-be position coaches at those schools, and nothing to do with their closer proximity.
“Location really isn’t a big factor at all. I can be 30 minutes away from home and be happy or 20 hours away from home and still be happy. At the end of the day it’s about thinking about myself and I have to think about my own future. I can’t think about what other people think about me being far, other people (or) getting homesick. I don’t think about location.”
What he does think about is finding the best fit… wherever that might be. Aside from relationships with his prospective coaches, there is another more visceral consideration.
“I know one of the biggest factors is if I can see myself putting on that uniform, getting ready to go play,” he said. “I have to see a game first before I can really (determine that). That’s a big factor… seeing games. If I don’t see myself getting prepared for the game at that place, putting on the jersey and all that good stuff, then I can’t go there. Another thing, if the strength and conditioning coaches and my position coach can stay on me and not just letting me slide on some things or letting me so laid back that I cannot reach my potential.”
Another plus for his suitors would be offering him the opportunity to play his position of choice.
I want to be the most versatile I can be, so if I can be a 6-5 outside linebacker… speedy and can come off that edge and get like ten sacks, tackles for losses, picks if I need to drop back… be versatile. Then the draft comes and I can be picked as an inside linebacker, outside linebacker, or a D-end… that’s more value. Then I’m tall too, so that’s more value to the position. There are a thousand 6-5 D-ends compared to (far fewer) 6-5 linebackers.”
Based on an exemplary camp performance earlier this month he appears to have the athleticism necessary to play the position.
“I’m 6-5, 240, I ran a 4.7 flat at the LSU camp two days ago,” he said. “I didn’t get my shuttle but my broad jump was a 10-5 and my vertical was like 35 (inches).”
That’s enough to get any coach excited, but it also raises questions about why he has flown below the radar so long.
“They are surprised because my film doesn’t match up with what I did at their camp. My film is not mediocre, because I got offers off my film, but it’s not at the level where coaches say, ‘we got to hurry up and get this dude.’ I’ve gotten way better because I work on my game, my craft nonstop. So, I have gotten way better.
(At LSU’s camp) I was beating on all the tackles the first day and the second day was when all the big dogs come… the five star recruits. They came and I smashed them every rep.I made them look like fools. Everybody was like, ‘who is this kid? Where are you from?’, and all this stuff. I’m like, ‘I’m 30 minutes away from LSU. I’m right in your backyard and you don’t know who I am.’ So Les Miles kind of went crazy and he was jumping up and everything. This dude was going crazy. I’ve never seen a head coach act like that.”
“I still I don’t think I showed everybody what I got. I don’t really worry about stars and ratings like that, I just look at it like a sign that I’ve still got to prove myself.”
He has already done that with the schools atop his leaderboard. Now the ball is in their respective courts to further prove themselves to him. That requires visits, and with a September 19th decision date there’s a good chance they won’t all get that opportunity.
“I’m going to try to fit in as most as possible. I already made up my mind what date I want to do it.”
But what if he can’t squeeze them all in, but still feels the need to take other trips? Could he push that date back some?
“I don’t know,” he said. “Maybe. We’ll have to see.”