Carlo Kemp has something to prove both to himself and college coaches.
Though viewed in recruiting circles as a defensive end prospect, Boulder (Co.) Fairview star believes he can play linebacker at the next level. He certainly looked comfortable doing so at last weekend’s Nike Football Training camp in Addison, Illinois.
“I think I went out there and gave it my best shot,” said Kemp. “It was good. I learned a lot and had some fun. It was good to compete against some of the country’s best athletes out here.”
“(At) the next level I’ll be at an outside linebacker, standing up, coming off the edge. That’s why I’m coming to this camp… just trying to get better and learn the ins and outs of an outside linebacker’s responsibilities.”
That aspect of the transition will take a bit longer than the physical part, but that’s nothing that a youngster with a 4.1 GPA and a high football I.Q. can’t handle. Kemp soaked up the tutelage of his NFTC position coaches like a sponge Sunday.
“I think my mental game (improved),” he said. “The just learning the coverages, the man, the cover-3, 2 and 1, just being able to pick that up and read that on the fly.”
“Most the schools I’m looking at are the new 3-4 defense where you roll (linebackers) up or roll them back. Sometimes they kick (a linebacker) down (and) put his hand in the dirt.”
That describes perfectly the BUCK position in Michigan’s new defense, and last week the Wolverines informed Kemp of their belief that he is a perfect fit.
“I had talked to Coach Mattison before and he is a very great man,” said Kemp. “He came to my school (last) Thursday and talked to my coach. Then after that my coach informed me that they had offered me. It was a huge deal coming from Jim Harbaugh and what he’s about to bring to Michigan.”
The development wasn’t totally unexpected. Kemp had mentioned a few weeks prior his belief that a Michigan offer might be on the horizon. Still, that did nothing to lessen the excitement.
“It is that same reaction no matter who it is, where it is from, (or) if you knew it was coming or not… it is still that tingling feeling of when you first got your first one,” Kemp explained. “All of them feel the same and it just feels so good to see all that hard work pay off.”
Now comes the difficult task of trying to separate one’s self from an impressive group of top suitors that also includes UCLA, Colorado, Colorado State, Ohio State, and Notre Dame. Though new to the party, Michigan definitely has a few things going for it.
“I love their tradition. Growing up as a kid, there was nothing better than playing in front of the biggest fan base in the nation. Just having 110,000 people screaming at you and playing the best of the best would be something that I’ve dreamt about my whole life.”
“Coach Mattison is awesome. He reminds me of my grandpa, just with all the knowledge and how nice and kind they both are. I have a good relationship with him.”
That bodes well for the Maize & Blue because while academics, depth chart, program culture, and relationships with coaches are major factors, there is one factor that matters more than all the rest
“My grandfather,” Kemp said with a smile. “Just listening to him, he’s like my dad. Me and him are two peas in a pod. He’ll influence me and we’ll have some good long debates about the best options.”
Grandpa knows a thing or two about football. His name is Sam Pagano and he is widely regarded as one of the best high school coaches to ever walk the sidelines in Colorado. From 1969-1989 he compiled a 164-58-4 record and won three state championships. After coaching in Europe for a number of years he hung his whistle up for good in 2002. These days his gets his gridiron fix by watching family members show their prowess in the sport. Son Chuck is the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, son John is the defensive coordinator for the San Diego Chargers, and now grandson Carlo is one of the nation’s most coveted defensive prospects.
With so much going on within the family across the country, they’ve all become fairly experienced at keeping up with one another. That should help keep distance a minor consideration for Kemp.
“We’ve got all of our family members on I-phones,” he said.
“Even grandpa is on FaceTime. Nothing is too far from home.”
That approach lends itself to maintaining the open mind Kemp is approaching his recruitment with. He doesn’t plan on determining a favorite until he can get out and see all of the campuses in person.
“As of right now I don’t have any officials set up,” said Kemp. “What I can tell you is that my official visits will come during my football season.”
“I will be giving my commitment to a school early because I’m going to do early enrollment.”