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For Dominick Giudice, it’s only ever been a matter of time

Most Michigan fans likely hadn’t heard of the three-star lineman before his commitment. Let his high school coach introduce him.

NCAA Football: Citrus Bowl-Michigan vs Alabama Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Dominick Giudice’s commitment to Michigan on Wednesday seemed to come out of nowhere — in more ways than one.

For starters, Giudice and four-star offensive lineman Greg Crippen, who also committed Wednesday, were the Wolverines’ first new commits in the class of 2021 in more than 10 months. And it’s certain the COVID-19 pandemic meant fewer eyes than normal were trained to the recruiting trail.

There’s another reason Giudice’s commitment was a bit of a surprise, though: Giudice himself.

The defensive end from Freehold, New Jersey is the No. 1,148 prospect in the country, per 247Sports. He’s listed as a three-star there and on ESPN, and a two-star by Rivals. Michigan’s offer, which came just hours before Giudice committed, was his first from a Power Five school.

But Dino Mangiero, his head coach at Mater Dei Prep, never sweated it one bit.

Mangiero, a former NFL defensive lineman, had known Giudice long before he began coaching him in ninth grade. He knew Giudice came from a football family — his father played at UMass and his brother played at Syracuse — and he knew he had the passion for football to match. It’s a passion that got Giudice onto the field his first season, one of a mere handful of times Mangiero’s had a freshman play varsity.

Mangiero describes the last three years as a steady progression. He remembers Giudice as a “tall, skinny kid” as an eighth grader. He’s still tall, at 6-foot-4, but now he’s a muscular 262 pounds to go with it.

“He doesn’t have an ounce of fat on him,” Mangiero told Maize n Brew. “He’s grown good, lean mass over the years and just works extremely hard.”

Giudice’s development took time in the weight room, and in turn, his production took time on the football field. After playing the year before at 240 pounds, he exploded as a junior, racking up 24 sacks and 43 tackles for loss in 12 games and helping the Seraphs get to the state championship.

Until recently, schools had been cautious in their approach. While recognizing Giudice had great potential, they didn’t want someone too small to project at the next level. But his 2019 season was exactly what recruiters had been waiting to see — he received seven scholarship offers this February alone.

“He’s got very, very wide shoulders, and he can handle the weight,” Mangiero said. “Takes a guy like him a little time to put on weight, but he’s going to do so much cardio and so much training.

“The way he does it is smart. He listened to our strength coaches, listened to his trainers, and kept developing. He didn’t get caught up in all the nonsense, and was very patient. I told him, ‘Just keep doing what you’re doing.’”

As for what will happen if Giudice keeps doing what he’s been doing? Mangiero and Michigan’s coaching staff view it exactly the same way. Giudice has told reporters the Wolverines view him as a potential strong-side defensive end or three-technique, which corresponds to the track his coach sees him on (Mangiero says he’ll play at 270 next fall, and could be around 285 when he first takes the field as a Wolverine).

The saying that size doesn’t matter is true only to an extent — an extent that meant Giudice remained one of New Jersey’s best-kept secrets rather than a legitimate high-major prospect. All of a sudden, he’s now the latter, even though the reality of that transition was much more methodical.

To Mangiero, that transition taking place was always a question of when, not if. And assuming Giudice stays on the track he’s on now, it again might only be a matter of time before Michigan sees exactly what Mangiero sees in him.

“You’re just gonna see a kid play with his hair on fire,” Mangiero said. “Straight-laced, hard-working, great academic student, and (Michigan fans are) gonna be amazed by how hard he plays. He’s just got a tremendous motor and I think that’s what they should be looking for and that’s what they’re gonna see. He’s special.”