Michigan landed its first prospect listed as a defensive tackle in 2021 four-star George Rooks earlier this week.
But there’s a catch. Rooks plays defensive end for his high school team. While he’ll likely play the position of defensive end in Mike MacDonald’s expected 3-4 scheme, the responsibilities of the position will be different.
Rooks anticipates this move, though, and the scheme change is one of the main reasons why he finally pulled the trigger for Michigan. At 6-foot-4, 260 pounds, Rooks only has to add about 20 pounds before being ready to line up as a defensive end at Michigan. He has a thick lower body and broad, square shoulders that will help him add the weight.
In a shortened season, Rooks was very productive. He racked up 41 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and eight sacks in St. Peter Prep’s six-game season. I watched their 21-7 win over Don Bosco for this report.
Rooks shows good technique, which is unsurprising for the son of a former Big East defensive player of the year. Off the snap, Rooks stays low and maintains a wide base. He engages offensive linemen effectively, getting his hands in their shoulder pads and locking out in a position to shed them.
Rooks displays this trait on the clip before. He’s lined up as the defensive side on the far side of the field.
That clip also shows an issue Rooks has to work on. On contact, Rooks has a tendency to stop driving his feet, which sacrifices his power.
In the 3-4, Rooks will be asked to occupy as many defenders as he can to free up space for the linebackers. If he wants to take on double teams without getting washed, he’ll have to improve keeping his feet churning through contact.
Once Rooks gets an offensive lineman locked out with his arms, he almost always uses a swim move to disengage. There’s a reason he uses it so often, as it’s very effective.
Rooks takes advantage of a lunging tackle in this next play as he stays low and swims right over the top of him. From there, he’s ready waiting for the ball carrier.
I would like to see some more diversity as using the swim move does get predictable. There are also instances where Rooks will rush himself right out of the play if he doesn’t win off the line of scrimmage. If he develops a good counter, like an inside move, he’ll be better equipped to pressure the pocket.
When Rooks puts it all together, he’s a force to reckon with. On this play he converts speed to power, timing his punch perfectly on the tackle. He shoves the tackle’s shoulder pads into his face to get him off balance, then tries to execute his swim move. He gets interrupted by another player going by and misses the sack, but he put enough pressure on the quarterback to flush him out.
If you’ve noticed, Rooks lines up to the field side of the formation every play. I think that’s a mistake. Rooks was given free runs at the quarterback several times in this game because of roll-outs, and he only finished once.
When in pursuit, Rooks has to be better at taking good angles and breaking down. This isn’t going to be a huge issue while lining up at defensive end, but it does showcase his relative cap on athleticism. He’s not too twitchy or fluid enough to bend around the hoop.
Here, he is missing on a running back in the backfield because he can’t redirect enough to get solid contact.
Like I said above, Rooks won’t have many of these opportunities as a defensive end in a 3-4 scheme, but it could affect how he splits double teams or changes direction to chase ball carriers. But he makes up for this with his great hand placement and strength that allows him to control offensive linemen.
I think Rooks is a great fit for the direction Michigan’s defense is headed and he should be able to contribute as early as year two if everything goes to plan. While Michigan is still missing its massive nose tackle to clog up the middle, they’re looking good at the defensive end position for the foreseeable future.