Gareon Conley, listed as 6'2, 165ish, committed to Michigan yesterday while on an unofficial visit to Ann Arbor. Conley had made his intentions clear on Friday, saying that he planned to commit the following day. He followed that up by responding to an absurd question (seriously, people?), saying that of course he would be committing to Michigan, blocking the opportunity for bloggers to make mediocre jokes about Northwestern. Thanks, Gareon.
Conley, like Jourdan Lewis, has been surprisingly unrecognized (in the form of offers) from tons of schools. Between the two, the only offers came from West Virginia, Toledo, Northwestern, and Michigan. Either coaches haven't seen tape, despite the high profile nature of both schools attended by the phenoms, or there is a lurking internet video of both clubbing baby seals for sport. No, I cannot think of a better reason as to why other schools would have taken a pass on the two. Conley's two other offers came sometime in the month of February, although neither seemed to particularly tickle his fancy. The word out of Massillon was that he was all blue by the time his offer came through.
Michigan fans haven't seen an exceptionally talented corner with good size in years. Going back to 2008, this has been a product of recruiting and retention, or lack thereof. JT Turner, Greg Brown (listed as 195 lbs) and Cullen Christian transferred. Anthony Standifer decommitted. Donovan Warren left early for the draft. Demar Dorsey was denied admission. The two bigger guys we've seen there over the past few years, JT Floyd and James Rogers, were both safeties coming out of high school. The staff has done their best to remedy the secondary situation over the past few years, but this has been headlined by shorter coverage guys, like (if you want to go back that far) Boo-Boo, Avery (5'9), Talbott (5'9), Countess (5'10), Hollowell (5'8), Taylor (5'11, but only 170), and Richardson (5'9/10). In an era where guys like Michael Floyd (6'3, 225) and Devier Posey (6'2, 215) have become the rule instead of the exception, and where more spreads pop up to attack teams horizontally, it's critical for Michigan to land bigger corners.
The coaches did an excellent job of identifying and addressing this problem with early offers. Of the 17 offered at the moment, only 2 (Louisville commit Ryan White, who might have received an offer to get an in-road with his two teammates, and UGA commit Shaq Wiggins, whose offer is heavily questioned) are listed as below 5'11. Conley is an example of those early offers paying off (as is most of the class, I suppose). Although he's only listed at 165 pounds, his lanky frame certainly seems to have the room to add significant weight. During his senior year of HS, and likely redshirt year in Ann Arbor, he'll hopefully put on sufficient weight to put himself into a position to replace JT Floyd when he graduates. Competition may be limited, depending on how much weight someone like Raymon Taylor is able to put on, or whether or not the staff decides to give Jarrod Wilson or Tamani Carter a shot at the spot. If he loses that spot, he should, at the very least, be given a shot to take over the nickel position. The coaches plugged in Thomas Gordon and Raymon Taylor there this year, both of whom show a penchant for physical play.
As I mentioned above, Conley's lack of offers is surprising, to say the least. He's a smooth, athletic CB, with fluid hips that show little stiffness. His backpedal is a little choppy, but he flashes the ability to take a quick first step and cut into the ball's path. He's a bit inconsistent in this regard, though. What really separates him from the pack of average CBs is his exceptional set of ball skills. He's a ball hawk, in the Standifer mold of yesteryear. His vertical leap is exceptional, and he has some of the softest hands of any UM CB recruit I've seen in years. His long arms also afford him a wide window around his body in which he can snatch the ball. He'll cut in front of WRs, jump over them, or reach around them, and then allow his sticky hands to take over. I expect we'll see big numbers out of this kid, in the future.
As far as the numbers game goes, the focus should shift to a number of elite players still on the board. However, I think the window is a bit wider than most fans seem to think. The general idea trends along the idea that it will be Hargreaves/Fuller or bust, but I think that's a bit too much of a rankings-centered argument. Other kids like DC CB Devin Butler, VA CB Tim Harris, CA CB Cameron Walker, AZ CB Priest Willis and NJ CB Tre Bell have all expressed a high degree of interest in visiting the Maize and Blue during the Spring and Summer. After looking to take as many as 3 CBs last year (when TRich and Standifer were both committed, and still recruiting DBs), and ending up with only one, it's my opinion that the staff would take the commitment of any of the aforementioned DBs, should they offer it. Kendall Fuller's spring visit will likely go the same way as his teammate's, Dorian O'Daniel; they'll be told that if they really like Michigan, they have a very small window in which they'll have a commmitable offer. After that, it will be happy trails for the two. By the time Hargreaves tries to set up a summer visit, it may already be too late. Would the staff take 4 CBs? No, probably not.
So there you have it, folks. Conley's an under-the-radar kid that satisfies one of the biggest needs left on Michigan's board, the boundary corner position. His physical ability, paired with his size, give Conley a fairly high ceiling, though he'll need to fill out his frame to fulfill that potential. For now, he looks like a real steal for the Michigan staff, pairing together with Jourdan Lewis to make a very solid CB tandem for years to come.