New Blue, Michael McCray

Mike McCray, listed as 6'3, 230ish, committed to Michigan on Tuesday. He would make his commitment public the following day, yesterday, while he was on campus for an unofficial visit. Hailing from the same high school as Michigan players Mike Shaw, Roy Roundtree, and Brandon Moore, McCray breathes some life into the slowly dwindling Trotwood-Madison pipeline that Rich Rod took advantage of early on in his career. After landing the Trotwood trio at the end of the 2008 recruiting cycle, Rich Rod would whiff on a few offer recipients in the next few years, including Missouri OT Chris Freeman and Wisconsin WR A.J. Jordan. I was, at one point, convinced that the latter of the two bled maize and blue at one point in his career, but I was proven wrong. In any case, McCray's commitment will hopefully reinvigorate a pipeline into one of the most talented schools in Ohio, just like Frank Clark's commitment made Willie Henry that much more eager to accept Michigan's scholarship offer.

McCray's recruitment was a bit off the radar, to most Michigan fans. I, myself, must admit that I was criminally negligent of the proceedings until a couple of weeks ago when word leaked that McCray was feeling very good about Michigan, and may commit in the near future. Until that point, I had assumed that he would receive a buckeye offer and commit, if not on the spot, in a timely fashion. He received a few offers from the likes of Purdue, Tennessee, Toledo, and Syracuse during the summer before his junior year. Just in January, he would have the Vols on top, although he attended several OSU practices and a couple games during the season. The month of February would bring in offers from Penn State, Ole Miss, Michigan, and Oklahoma, adding to an already impressive offer list. Within two weeks of receiving his Michigan offer, McCray would announce his impending decision date, and verbally commit to Michigan a week later.

I must admit, the timing of his commitment is a touch concerning. Some have batted around the theory that McCray simply wanted to put pressure on OSU to offer; normally something I'd brush aside, but legitimately plausible in this situation. Rather, though, McCray seems to have come to a decision almost too quickly. Again, no one can be compared to Jordan Payton until they reach his levels of hooliganism, but McCray does seem to be a bit...quick to feeling. He really liked OSU, then put Tennessee on top, then committed to Michigan three weeks after being offered. It wouldn't be so concerning if he had been on campus for more than an unofficial game visit during his junior year, as an unoffered prospect. I'm not privy to the details of the trip, but I can't imagine that it would have given him enough of a window into the school for him to forge a deep connection. While I believe this staff is good, I don't think they're so good that they're able to totally talk a kid into committing without first bringing them on a real visit of the school, where personal attention can be paid, and a full tour of the school can be given. Even if the latter was achieved on his ND visit, it was also one of the biggest recruiting weekends for the 2012 cycle. My guess is that the staff was a bit more focused on the likes of Dymonte Thomas (offered), Jordan Payton, and Zach Banner. Hell, his parents hadn't even stepped on campus (besides his father, a former TE from OSU, who was likely treated to the delightful charm of the town on his 2 previous visits to the Big House).

Still, though, some credit must be given to the coaching staff. They obviously have a much better feel for the kid than I do, and I have to believe that they wouldn't have accepted his commitment unless they truly believed him. On top of that, they look to be expanding the number of LBs in this class to 3, something that could lessen the impact should McCray waver down the road.

Moving on to McCray's game. Like many others, I believe McCray's full potential can be realized at the SAM LB position, which is convenient enough, since I believe that it is also the sorest spot of need in the linebacking corps. After grabbing 4 MIKE/WILL LBs in the past recruiting cycle, by Mark Smith's admission, the depth chart in the middle had been bolstered. When McCray steps on campus, he'll likely have a redshirt year as RS Senior Cam Gordon and RS Junior Jake Ryan hold down the position. Following that, he'll compete (ideally with fellow '13 LB recruit E.J. Levenberry) for the backup (or starting) role at the position. If he can't win the battle there, he should at least make his mark on special teams and in the two deep, where the coaches have shown a tendency to rotate heavily. While I believe Levenberry had the higher upside, potential is not always reached.

McCray's potential is difficult to read. I'm not a huge fan of putting him in the middle of the defense; he doesn't seem to have the mentality for it. I like ILBs to be intense, hard hitting machines. For reference, take a gander at Royce Jenkins-Stone's highlight tape. You won't find a much more passionate player at the position. McCray, though, isn't the same hard-nosed player. Sure, he combines quality instincts with impressive ability to sort through the trash and make a play, but when he gets there, he doesn't look anywhere near the 220 pounds he's listed as. For reference, check out Dorian O'Daniel's highlight tape. Although he played his junior year at around 200 pounds, he looks much bigger, doesn't he? That's because he's a mean, ruthless hitter who packs a powerful punch in the initial blow, and effectively keeps his feet churning through the tackle. In my experience, this behavior is instinctual, rarely learned. At SAM, though, he wouldn't necessarily have to be that type of player. He'd be dropped into coverage a bit more, could use his quality athleticism to make him a fierce pass rusher, and any growth (if you believe he's 6-4), wouldn't necessarily detrimentally impact his play.

So there you have it, folks. McCray's a top 50 type player (who will probably fall-I'd expect him to ultimately stay in the 250, but 42 is way too high) from the great (read: smelly) state of Ohio, stolen from the clutches of an over-confident Urban Meyer. Should he stick around for the long haul, he has the potential to be a solid contributor down the road, especially at SAM linebacker. His commitment likely means that Dorian O'Daniel won't have a spot in the class, which looks like it will be filled with OH LB Ben Gedeon and VA LB E.J. Levenberry.

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