Michigan finally added another piece to their class on Wednesday afternoon when four-star center Greg Crippen decided that he didn’t need to wait to reschedule his planned visit on campus to commit to the Wolverines. Ed Warinner has been on Crippen throughout his entire high school career and stuck through an almost year-long commitment to Notre Dame, so he clearly likes the Massachusetts native’s game.
Since Crippen moved to IMG Academy in Florida as a sophomore he has anchored the Ascenders’ offensive line, first as a guard, then as a center last season. I watched IMG’s games against St. Frances Academy, a 35-7 loss, and Norland, a 35-0 win, to break down Crippen’s strength and weaknesses.
Let’s start in the run game. Crippen is at his best when asked to down block. This means taking a 45-degree step to your left or right and blocking the man in the gap next to you as far as you can in that direction. He had some really good reps against Norland in this category.
It’s tough to see because the camera cuts mid-play, but Crippen, who wears number 74 at the center position, takes a good first step and puts his hands right on the defender’s chest and inside shoulder. He then uses the defender’s momentum against him and washes him down the field and away from the play.
Against St. Frances, Crippen does something similar. While this is not a true down block, he displays his power by stepping to his man and giving him a good shove. The shove takes his man off his feet and disrupts any leverage he had.
Going against St. Frances also showed some areas Crippen needs to improve in. He struggled some against the multiple four-star defensive tackles that they have on their roster.
Many of these struggles stemmed from Crippen’s footwork. When Crippen snaps the ball, he often jumps his feet backwards on run plays instead of taking steps forward. By doing this, he loses the power of his lower base and cedes ground to the defensive lineman.
When going against a big dude like No. 75 who probably has 40 pounds on him, it makes it really tough to drive off the ball and create gaps for the running back. Crippen does keep his guy engaged enough to let the back slip by in this play, though.
Crippen also needs to work on keeping his feet driving when he makes contact with defenders. He’ll often rely on using his upper body strength to lock out defenders, but to move people places he has to keep his feet chopping and his base square underneath him.
In the pass game, Crippen’s punch timing and hand placement really stood out. He is really good at neutralizing pass rushers with his long arms and staying in front of them with nimble feet.
When his defenders are able to shoot their hands quicker, Crippen can readjust his hands quickly and regain control, like this play below. The defensive tackle initially wins by getting his hands up in his shoulder pads, but Crippen moves his hands down and locks in while staying anchored and not pushing the pocket back too far for the quarterback.
Playing at IMG Academy means that Crippen will come into Michigan prepared better for the college game than the majority of other prospects, like Cesar Ruiz before him. He plays the best competition that the country has to offer so he will be battle tested early.
Unfortunately, he’s going to find a stable of similarly advanced center prospects ahead of him when he arrives in Ann Arbor. Nolan Rumler, Zach Carpenter, and Reece Atteberry are all candidates for the center position and have been praised for their polish. Carpenter and Rumler could be starting as redshirt freshman this year, leaving Crippen to battle for the remaining interior spot or to wait until he becomes an upperclassman.