U-M Targets Shine @ NLA Columbus 7-7

Initial reports on the some of the top day one performances by Michigan targets at the Badger Sports/New Level Athletics 7-7 passing camp. In part one we focus on Kyle Prater, Mylan Hicks, Austin White, Cullen Christian, Dior Mathis, Jeremy Jackson, and Deanthony Arnett.

Kyle Prater – The Proviso West wide out left little doubt about who the best player in attendance is.  Watching Prater in this setting gives an even better indication than the Army combine did of just how dominant he can be.  He was virtually uncoverable.  His speed is deceptive in that he doesn't look like he is moving very fast at first, but he cover s so much ground with his long stride that he gets even, and subsequently blows by unsuspecting DBs.  At the same time what makes him truly special are his ball skills and body control.  To put it simply… if the ball is in the air and this kid is in the vicinity, it's a nightmare scenario for the defense.  It didn't seem to matter how many defenders were around, the most  of the time he was able to locate the ball, go up and get it at its highest point, and then come down with it… sometimes with two and three defenders draped all over him.  The perfect comparison is the high school version of Larry Fitzgerald.  The only real knock on Prater at this point is his thin build.  The few times defenders had success against him they outworked him physically.  Prater is by no means a pushover.  He has good wiry strength, but it's the only area of his game where defenders can equalize the odds and they will try to beat him up more and more as the level of competition increases.  As for Michigan's standing on his list… there's a decent chance that he makes it to Ann Arbor for the spring game, but Wolverine fans shouldn't hold their breaths on this one.  The combination of the number of receivers already in the class and his preference for a pro style offense make these long odds for the Maize & Blue.  It's not impossible that they land him, but pretty improbable.

Mylan Hicks – Many of the questions that previously existed about this young man no longer exist.  He is clearly every bit of 5-11 (he is eye to eye with Austin White), he is more than willing to get physical, he has good speed, and quintessential DB moxie.  Few passes were completed in his direction on day one.  Furthermore, he was one of the few corners to experience any level of success against Kyle Prater.  With the game on the line, Prater ran a stutter-and-go route on Hicks who was playing about seven yards off.  The Renaissance standout wasn't fooled by the hesitation and ran stride for stride with his big adversary to the endzone.  Once there he played a jump ball perfectly and knocked it away to preserve the victory for team Michigan.  Michigan, Michigan State, and Notre Dame are all paying close attention according to Hicks' coach, and offers could come soon from any or all of them.  If that happens, don't expect a quick decision.  Hicks plans to be patient for at least the next few months.

Austin White – One of the true surprises of the day was White's attendance at the event.  He initially planned to a Michigan State spring practice Saturday, but called a late audible.  He still traveled to East Lansing Saturday morning, but not for the practice.  He instead opted to sit in on a meeting before leaving promptly so he could make his way to Columbus.  The second surprise was how well he did at safety once he arrived at the Woody Hayes athletic complex.  Saturday provided clear evidence as to why coaches are excited about the athletic possibilities beyond those for him at running back.  While at safety White demonstrated a great break on the ball extremely and really good closing speed.  Best of all, he lives for the physical side of the game.  That's an attribute not normally distinguishable in 7-on-7s, but White is an aberration in that regard.  He was the initiator of at least two high speed collisions that had opponents limping afterward, in addition to four or five other tackles.  For those of you that are confused by those stats… don't be.  You're previous understanding of 7-on-7 is correct… it's TWO HAND TOUCH! It wasn't a spotless day for White… he was the part of a number of coverage busts on the day that resulted in touchdowns, but those mishaps had little to do with physical ability and more to do with Stevenson star's  inexperience in the secondary and the unit's lack of familiarity playing with one another.  White maintains that he will take some out-of-region visits with LSU being a definite destination.  I still think the in-state schools are going to be tough to beat and it's much more of a battle between the Spartans and Wolverines than I or anyone else ever thought it would be.

Cullen Christian – Christian fluctuated between corner and safety on the day and looked surprisingly natural on the back end of the defense.  One glance and it's easy to see why coaches are so enamored with his potential.  This kid is extremely long and has an absolutely ridiculous wing span.  The old adage "he's all arm and legs definitely applies here."    Christian is extremely physical, and when he sees the ball he gets there like a shot.  That's why he could also project well at safety.  At corner, he'll have to continue to improve handling receivers' quickness off the line.  It's the part of his game that he'll have to work on the most… fluidity in turning and running in bump in run coverage.  If he hones that skill he is J.T. Turner like.  If he doesn't he could wind up being better safety prospect than corner.  Either way this kid definitely has a high ceiling and looks to be better than the three-star prospect rating he recently received.  Michigan is way out in front here.

Dior Mathis – I'm convinced that Dior Mathis will always shine in 7-on-7s.  ALWAYS!  He is too quick, too fast, and too aggressive to be shaken in this format. He has to continue to get bigger and stronger if he is going to continue to challenge receivers at the line at the next level as much he currently does.  More size and strength will also help him with the Achilles heel of his game (more on that later).  One surprising aspect of Mathis' play is that opponents don't make as much of a living going up over the top of him as one would expect.  It would have been great to see him against Prater but Hicks drew that duty on the day.  Give Dior credit for somehow mitigating the size advantage his opponents often have.  We'll be watching for match-up with big wideouts again today.    One trait we won't be able to observe is how he handles his biggest challenge… run support.  Teams in the PSL don't, and won't, make a living throwing his way, but they definitely run at him.  We'll have to wait until the season starts to find out how far he has come in that respect.  Don't expect an announcement from Mathis until the Army All American game.

Jeremy Jackson – It was a good day for Ann Arbor Huron standout.  He became more involved in the offense as the day went on, primarily as an underneath guy on quick slants and crossing patterns.  He was among the more sure-handed receivers and got open for more times than he was thrown to.  The key to his success will be taking advantage of the vertical part of his game… and by vertical I mean up in the air as opposed to down the field.  Jackson's 6-3 frame and big body cries out for two or three jump balls per game, but wasn't thrown many balls that allow him to play big.  He is not a deep threat, but can be a consistent vertical threat if given the chance.

DeAnthony Arnett – The youngster stepped in with the big timers and more than held his own.  He was Team Michigan's most consistent deep threat on the day.  That was due more to his outstanding route running ability as opposed to blazing speed (he looks like a 4.5).  Arnett is just scratching the surface at this point.  He's obviously still young and physically immature.  Once the physical side of his game catches up with his technique he'll be all the more dangerous.

More to come later….


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