As if landing one four-star linebacker in the 2021 class in one weekend wasn’t enough, Michigan picked up its second on Memorial Day when Jaydon Hood hopped on board.
Hood played for Cardinal Newman in Florida’s 3A classification his junior season, but transferred to powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas for his final high school season. There, he plans to team up with Michigan cornerback commit Ja’Den McBurrows and top edge target Dallas Turner.
At Cardinal Newman, Hood was very productive. He put up 115 tackles, seven sacks, four forced fumbles and two interceptions while being named a small-school first-team selection in Florida.
Listed at 6-foot-1, 212 pounds, Hood is a little bit lighter than what you want right now but only has to add around 20 pounds to get to a frame similar to Devin Bush and Cam McGrone. Notably, Hood qualified for states as a wrestler in the 195-pound weight class as a sophomore, so he has grown a bit since then already. And having a wrestling background is always helpful for football players.
The Devin Bush comparisons have been popping up frequently, and while I’m reluctant to compare Hood to an All-American and No. 10 pick in the NFL draft, the comparisons do have some credence. Both are ranked in the same range on the composite and in 247Sports’ personal ratings, and are from south Florida.
More importantly, their playing styles are similar. Hood is a middle linebacker with sideline-to-sideline ability and a penchant for finishing off tackles violently. There aren’t any full games available for Hood, so we’re going to have to base this off his junior highlight film.
Let’s get back to that finishing tackles violently part.
Hood’s acceleration allows him to close the gap between him and the ball carrier quickly, and he packs a punch when the two parties meet. Be the hammer, not the nail, is a common football adage and Hood personifies it in his play.
Hood has a great nose for the ball and is good at shedding blocks to get to where he needs to go. In this play, he gets around a blocker by turning his shoulders to reduce the target that can be latched on to, keeps the guy at bay by extending his arms and bends the corner fluidly.
Maybe due to his wrestling background, I also think Hood has a good version of contact balance for a linebacker. Usually used to describe how well running backs can absorb contact and stay upright, Hood takes clean shots from players a couple times on his tape and doesn’t seem fazed.
Here, a running back with a full head of steam gets a chance to crack Hood. However, he barely knocks Hood off his path. Hood absorbs the contact easily, keeps his shoulders toward the ball and makes the tackle.
While playing so fast all the time, Hood can be susceptible to take false steps away from the ball, causing him to have to make up more ground.
On this play, Hood falls for the counter step by the running back, despite multiple members of the offensive line pulling the other way. This sucks him up near the line on the backside of the play, where an offensive lineman is ready to wall him off. Hood uses his ability to stay on his track discussed above to get around the block, but doesn’t make the tackle until the running back is well downfield.
This pops up again when Hood is defending a speed option away from him. When he first reads option, Hood initially takes a step downfield, but then redirects toward the running back when he gets the ball. However, Hood quickly realizes this angle will not work and he has to start going back downfield again. That wasted time makes him have to cut around a huge offensive lineman and not catch the back until after he picks up a huge chunk.
The Wolverines definitely have a type they are looking for in their inside linebackers, and they found their guy this cycle in Hood. With his speed, power and block shedding, Hood is an excellent fit for the middle of Michigan’s defense and should continue a developing pipeline of talent after Bush and McGrone.
Hood will likely have to wait a year or two before seeing the field as a linebacker. Whether it is McGrone in his final year or a younger guy like Charles Thomas or Kalel Mullings, other players will have a head start on him. However, like I wrote about Junior Colson, Hood should see plenty of time on special teams early.