The game of football isn’t always the most forward or progressive thinking but when it comes to advantages on the playing field, coaches are almost always open to anything that will help them win. Even if it’s just being regurgitated in a shinier packaging.
You’ve seen it with the wildcat QBs and Aussie style punting in recent years. And now, the latest craze is finding hybrid linebackers and safeties.
Michigan has had players in the past that fit the mold, like Stevie Brown, and have one of the top hybrid players in college football and on NFL draft boards on the roster now in Jabrill Peppers as well as incoming freshmen Khaleke Hudson. That is why the position will likely be looked at for every class moving forward and, in 2017, there are plenty of versatile options on the board:
Teammates with top 2017 target WR Tarik Black, Holmes is a player that looks to be one of the fastest rising prospects in the class. That’s thanks to his versatility. He has the size, speed and athleticism to play several positions at the collegiate level, including the hybrid safety/linebacker spot in Michigan’s defense.
At this point, Notre Dame looks like the favorite thanks to a wildly successful visit this past weekend for the Irish Invasion. Things went so well there that a rumored commitment nearly happened. But he held off. And now Michigan may have a shot. He told The Wolverine’s Brandon Justice that his connection with Don Brown, who offered him his first scholarship offer at Boston College, and Michigan’s plan to play him in the Peppers role is why he’s very interested in UM ($).
If he holds off on making a decision for a bit and makes it to Ann Arbor for the BBQ at the Big House in early August, there’s a chance for the Wolverines to pull him away from the Fighting Irish.
Ah You is a player that has been amongst the top ranked safeties in the class for the majority of the cycle. That’s thanks to his size and instincts. He isn’t afraid to play up in the box but also has the athleticism needed to cover receivers and tight ends. Basically everything you want in a hybrid prospect.
Though he’s a top ranked prospect, this is one of the recruitments that looks to be pretty open though he holds Crystal Ball predictions for Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and BYU. But Michigan could be the dark horse here. The Polynesian prioritization and connections in Ann Arbor could be a big selling point. And his performance at the UM/All Poly satellite camp may have vaulted him up the staff’s board.
He spoke with Scout’s Blair Angulo after the camp and mentioned how the UM staff sees him playing the Su’a Cravens role in their defense ($).
If the staff does indeed ramp up their pursuit of Ah You and can get him on campus for an official this fall, I believe they could end up not only being a top contender but also swaying him away from the Pac 12 and Big 12 programs. However, a big factor here could be his LDS mission which normally gives BYU a big advantage. This is definitely a recruitment to keep an eye on.
Delpit is one of the newer names on the board as he received his offer from the staff in mid-May and looks to be a perfect fit for the hybrid spot in the defense. At 6’4”, he has the elite height of a safety or linebacker but needs to put on weight to play either spot at the collegiate level. That’s especially the case if he’ll play the hybrid position.
Everyone is expecting the versatile safety to return home and play for LSU but the offer and pursuit from the Wolverines has clearly caught his eye. He spoke with The Michigan Insider’s Sam Webb at the UM/Houston satellite camp about his growing relationship with defensive backs coach Brian Smith and how Michigan is near the top of his list ($).
While Delpit would be a fantastic get and fit, it would take one of the more impressive recruiting jobs of the cycle. That’s just how it is for top ranked recruits out of SEC country, especially Louisiana. Though Michigan is clearly pushing for him and making up ground, I can’t see LSU losing this one at this point.
Falaniko is another 6’4” hybrid safety/linebacker that has caught the eye of the Michigan staff, and for good reason. Out of American Samoa, where UM now famously held a satellite camp, he’s the rare mix of size and athleticism that would fit the position perfectly.
The Polynesian prospect committed to USC in April the day after receiving his offer from the Trojans. But that hasn’t scared off top programs around the country. That includes Michigan, who saw him live in person and, according to his interview with Scout’s Blair Angulo, he plans on returning the favor with an official visit this fall ($).
Though he’s committed to the Trojans, he’s clearly open to other programs. If Michigan prioritizes him, gets him on campus and Tony Tuioti can work his magic, they’ll have a chance. However, this is another recruitment that I’d be pretty surprised to see Michigan win out in the end. The distance just seems to be a little too far from the island to the Great Lakes State.
Faison-Walden is the prospect in the 2017 class that reminds me the most of 2016 signee Khaleke Hudson. He has the size, athleticism and versatility to play several different positions but I think his best fit is at the hybrid spot.
Michigan offered BFW back in April and quickly caught his attention. After receiving his offer, he told me he had to pinch himself to see if it was a dream, which says a ton about what he thinks of the program and possibility. He was expected to visit at the end of May but the staff actually cancelled the trip since there weren’t enough coaches available for the visit. It may sound like a bad thing at first but the fact that the staff wanted to show him the best time possible on his first trip to campus shows they like him as a prospect.
A makeup visit has yet to be confirmed for Faison-Walden to Michigan. If it gets set up, possibly for this summer or an official this fall, they should have as good of a chance as anyone. However, in-state North Carolina looks to be the favorite at this point.
The hybrid position is one that every program and defensive coordinator is looking to add to their roster. Don Brown included. Out of the five names above, who do you think Michigan has the best chance to sign? Let us know in the comment section below!
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Patrick Semansky