Darrell Funk may have produced an absolutely atrocious offensive line this season despite generally strong play from two senior tackles, but he can still recruit. Michigan got its first commitment in the class of 2016 yesterday when massive sophomore lineman Erik Swenson chose the Wolverines over offers from Notre Dame, Ohio State, Northwestern and others. This gives the staff an excellent start on yet another recruiting class -- the area that seems to be the only bright spot in an otherwise scary season.
Swenson is a holy lock to be in the top 150 players in the class of 2016, if not in the top 50. The words 'massive' and 'long' are thrown around too often by scouts when talking about elite offensive lineman -- some elite prospects aren't long in comparison to the average lineman -- but Swenson defines those words. Standing at 6'7" and weighing 285 pounds, he has a truly elite frame that should allow him the opportunity to play left tackle at the next level. Michigan has recruited many maulers who are capable of playing both guard and right tackle, but Swenson is the first in quite some time who looks like a true blindside protector.
Potential is important at the left tackle spot; both Taylor Lewan and Jake Long looked much like Swenson at his age, with long ways to go in terms of strength development but already possessing the athleticism needed to be successful. Swenson flashed that potential when he started for his high school football team as a freshman, putting older players on the ground with regularity:
You can see the length, mobility and need to put on more muscle on the tape.
One year later, Swenson was starting and looking more like a college offensive tackle as a sophomore. He still has a good 20 pounds to go before he reaches his college playing weight, but that's not an issue with some four to six years between him and college playing time. Many freshman offensive tackle prospects enter college looking like Erik already does as a sophomore in high school; reaching 300 pounds of fairly clean weight shouldn't be an issue, assuming he stays healthy and keeps doing work in the weight room.
The most impressive part of Swenson's game might be his technique, which is ahead of most offensive lineman prospects in his class. Consistency isn't an issue, which often is with such young lineman. Erik's pad level isn't problematic, he uses his hands fairly well and shows good flexibility in pass protection. He can work on his kick drive when coming out of his stance in protection and could play with more of a mean streak, but again, four to six years. Overall, he has elite offensive tackle written all over him.
As far as recruiting goes, this one wasn't ever much of a competition. After visiting and receiving offers from Northwestern and Illinois, Swenson took a trip to Michigan, which had offered not too long after Ohio State came through with theirs. The visit went very well:
Future blue-chipper in the 2016 class, Downers Grove (Ill.) South offensive tackle Erik Swenson said it was "insane."
Swenson's crystal ball blew up in favor of Michigan, and around ten weeks later he was committed to the Wolverines.
As stated before, this is a great start to a faraway class. It wouldn't surprise me if Swenson pushed 300 pounds and received five-star status from one or more of the scouting services, which would give the staff two classes in a row that included extremely early five-star pledges. Swenson seems like the type of kid who will go on to recruit for Michigan before he gets to Ann Arbor, much like Shane Morris, Michael Ferns, Wilton Speight and George Campbell all have. The program in general needed good news, and this qualifies.