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Kalel Mullings’ career at Michigan, outlook for 2021

Now in year two, will Mullings be a breakout star candidate?

All-American Bowl Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images

The Michigan linebacker room is ripe for some turnover with several players departing this offseason and several more primed to step into the spotlight. One is Kalel Mullings, a highly touted inside linebacker out of Massachusetts.

Let’s take a look at his journey so far and where 2021 may take him.

The story so far

Mullings comes to Ann Arbor from the Milton Academy near Boston, Massachusetts. If you are familiar with high school football recruiting, you probably know that Massachusetts is a black hole for scouting and evaluation. Recruits from the northeast tend to go to college under-ranked and relatively unknown. Mullings’ recruitment was a Don Brown special.

Mullings came about as highly rated as a player from Massachusetts can be. 247Sports slotted him in at No. 152 nationally, No. 10 at outside linebacker, and No. 1 in the state of Massachusetts in the class of 2020. He was one of the highest-rated players from Massachusetts in recruiting rankings history, which bodes well for Michigan.

Thanks to Brown, Michigan was the first school on the scene in his recruitment and also his first offer. Mullings compiled an offer sheet compiling a who’s who of big-name programs as well as most of the academically inclined power five schools. He was offered by Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State, Stanford and Wisconsin amongst others. His recruitment came down to a classic Michigan vs. Stanford battle with the Wolverines coming out on top.

He has received praise for his speed, awareness and intelligence. He plays downhill and was even recruited to play running back by some. He appears to be very good at almost every trait without being elite at any. Brian Dohn from 247 had this to say about Mullings:

Solid frame and thick build best suited for inside linebacker. Already physically developed. Plays downhill. Good burst in first three steps. Can change direction and make plays down line of scrimmage. Is physical disengaging. Sifts through traffic to make tackles. Has good speed. Has to play lower at point of attack. Adding flexibility so he can rotate shoulders important. Concern about being close to physically topped out. Durability questions exist. Multi-year starter at Top 20 program. Likely a day three NFL draft choice.

In 2020, Mullings appeared in all six games predominantly on special teams. However, he did see some action at linebacker and recorded one tackle and one pass deflection. Obviously, this is a small sample size however it speaks to his preparedness that he appeared in every game as a true freshman during a pandemic.

Outlook for 2021

Physically, Mullings appears to be ready for a full Big Ten season at 6-foot-1 and 233 pounds. He has been routinely praised for being a smart, agile linebacker with a quick first step. This is a recipe for early playing time and success. With Josh Ross, Michael Barrett, and Anthony Solomon on the depth chart ahead of him, I don’t expect Mulllings to start from day one. However, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Kalel push the starters for playing time and crack the rotation.

In the long term, I fully expect Mullings to be a multi-year starter at Michigan. He may never be Devin Bush, but his speed, athleticism, and awareness seem to put him ahead of his peers. I would not consider the NFL out of the picture for Kalel, though that may be a bit premature. He did battle through some injury issues in high school. Overall, Mullings appears to be a major part of the future at Michigan. The only question remains, will it be this year or the following?