Maryland secured a commitment from Cedar Cliff (Pa.) safety Mike Viti June 14, and afterwards we spoke to his head coach, Colin Gillen, to gain more insight into the 6-foot-1.5, 185-pounder.
Here’s our question-and-answer session with Gillen:
Terrapin Times: Coach, this all happened pretty quickly. Mike goes to camp, gets the offer and commits on the spot. Even he admitted he was shocked. Did you see this coming?
Colin Gillen: A little bit. Mike had been getting a number of looks for a lot of different schools, some Division I schools and some I-AA schools, and this summer he was very busy on the camp circuit. The kid’s work ethic is phenomenal, and he’s really been working on his speed development and whatnot, and he’s really tested out well with some of his measurables in these last couple camps.
So it did happen really quickly, but I was not surprised from the standpoint of he’s always been a really good football player -- and a couple concerns some of the bigger schools had really diminished with his 40-yard dash and his broad jump, where he got some really good numbers.
TT: What about the commitment to Maryland though. Did you expect Mike to commit on the spot like he did?
CG: I know Mike has been out, he’s seen a number of schools and he’s talked to a number of coaches. He has been very active contacting coaches and going to different camps and things. So he knew what he was looking for in a school.
I was a little surprised he committed as quickly as he did, but he’s got a great family, and his mother and father are very involved with the recruiting process. The process moved a little more rapidly then I thought, but just the kind of kid Mike is and the kind of family he comes from, I really didn’t have a concern about it. He’s going to a great school in Maryland.
TT: I know Mike hasn’t been in touch with Maryland for too long, but what is your relationship with the Terps and Coach [John] Dunn? How was he in this process?
CG: Coach Dunn has taken some recruiting visits up here, so we have spoken and met. And we have some other coaches on staff who have spoken with him as well. We’ve had some interactions with him, and he’s a very personable coach and very straightforward. I knew safety was a position [the Terps] were looking at, which was a good thing for Mike.
And Mike, he works with PrimeXample, where they go around to all these different colleges and camps. He did that last summer too, and he had a chance to meet Coach Dunn and see Maryland last year. So Mike and Coach Dunn, they definitely knew about each other before [this week].
TT: Coach, what does Mike bring to the table as a player and how has he developed?
CG: The biggest thing for Mike in terms of how he’s grown is he’s become very physical. He actually led our team in tackles last year, and we were an 8-2 football team. Sometimes when your free safety leads your team in tackles that’s not good, but it wasn’t the case here. Mike just has a willingness to play in the box and a willingness to be involved in stopping the run.
But Mike is also very rangy, he has solid fundamentals and he’s very instinctive. And it’s really because of his work ethic. He works tirelessly and is a student of the game and just wants to get better each and every day. I really think Maryland is a kid who isn’t going to be stagnant. He’s going to continue to get better as he gets into their program.
TT: Can you give some examples of his work ethic to illustrate that?
CG: He’s the kind of kid who not only comes to our training – we go five days a week in the spring and three in the summer – but he goes to the PrimeXample training too. He’s all about developing his fundamentals and getting better.
And the kid is watching film continuously, constantly asking questions, constantly sitting down with our defensive coordinator. Mike doesn’t just understand his job, but he understands how the entire defense fits together, which makes him invaluable to us. It allows us to do different things with our coverages a lot of teams aren’t able to do, because he knows the defense so well and gets everyone into the right places.
TT: How do you see Mike fitting in at the next level, free safety or strong safety?
CG: He plays free safety at our level primarily, and he’s very good at it. But I can also see him, if he puts on some weight, he could play more in the box as an outside linebacker, or he can be a one-high safety and play on a hash. Mike can really do it all; he’s a very versatile kid. We ask him to do both [free and strong] and I think that’s really going to help him at the next level.
TT: What are some things that may have precluded other large schools from offering Mike? What does he still need to work on?
CG: Obviously he needs to put on some weight, but once he gets into a college program he’ll put that right on because he’s such a hard worker. And he also needs to work on his straight-line speed, which he has been. And really, in my opinion, that’s [his work on his speed] why he got the offer he did. I believe he ran a 4.5-something at Maryland, and prior to that his best time was a 4.7-something.
So he really improved his speed, and it’s a testimony to Mike working on his fundamentals and just getting better. Once [the Maryland] coaches saw that [40 time], well, they were like, ‘We know he can play football, but what about his speed?’ But after he ran at the camp, well, that answered the concerns about his speed.
Mike and I, we sat down and we talked. I said, ‘Mike, this [speed] is what’s going to hold you back from that Division I level, this is what you need to work on.’ And that’s exactly what he did, so now I think he’s going to take off and run with it.
And the thing about Mike is he wants to please. He’s always asking, ‘Coach, what do I need to do to get better?’ And he’s going to continue to do that at Maryland. Whatever chinks he has in his game at the next level, he’s going to work to iron them out.
TT: What’s Mike like around his teammates? He seems like a natural leader…
CG: Yeah, he is the definition of a leader by example. His work ethic is second to none, and his teammates would echo that. No one works harder than Mike, and that’s not just in the weight room but on the practice field too. He doesn’t take a day off, doesn’t take a rep off, doesn’t take a play off. He’s a phenomenal example for everyone.
And he’s also a great teammate. He’s always with his buddies and teammates, and is just a great overall kid. I was just talking to Coach Dunn [June 13], and I said, ‘I don’t have a whole lot of negative things to say about Mike Viti.’
And that’s not just as a football player, but as a young man. He takes care of his business in school, he takes care of his business with his teammates and he takes care of business on the field. He’s just a great kid and I’m very happy for him.
TT: Was there a play or moment when you could say, ‘OK, Mike can play Division I football?’
CG: Absolutely. In our spring drills this year, it’s no contact obviously, but we do go helmets and shoulder pads. So we’re doing 7-on-7 and at one point I had to tell Mike, ‘Mike, we have to take it down a notch or two, because this is not contact.’ He’s coming around hitting kids, not illegally, but to the point where we had to remind him it was a no-contact drill.
It’s one of those things where Mike just has a tough time dialing it back. He’s 100 miles per hour all the time, and it’s tough for him to find any in-between. So that’s one of the moments where I was like, ‘This kid is a darn good football player who can play at the DI level.’
Then there’s been a number of times where the kid just make a jaw-dropping interception. Last year he had a play that’s on his highlight film where Mike was on a full spring to his right and the quarterback threw it behind him to his left. Mike stopped and one-handed caught it. It was one of the most unbelievable interceptions I’ve seen on any level.
And every now and then he’ll do the same thing in practice, where the kid makes a play that literally makes your jaw drop. He has unbelievable closing speed and goes from zero-to-60 in a heartbeat. That’s one of his biggest assets, his ability to transition so quickly.
Coach Speak: Colin Gillen on Mike Viti
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