Before I go in depth with Chase’s breakdown, I’d first like to address one simple question: “How?” How is it that after Ohio State has secured commitments from Kyle Berger and Sam Hubbard, they are pursuing yet another Sam LB? Sam Hubbard could bulk up and move down to the DL given his size, and I admittedly haven’t watched too much tape on him, but the other two prospects seem like clear-cut Sam linebackers. Not only are they still recruiting the Sam LB position, but “insiders” such as those featured on 247Sports Crystal Ball have Chase going to Columbus as well. Trying to be unbiased, but I can’t see the appeal of going to a school that you could potentially not even see crack the two-deep at your position in regards to only your class. I commend him for not backing down from the competition, but at some point it just seems like it would be an irrational decision. If three Sam linebackers in one class isn’t too much, Texas A&M’s brought in at least 8 guys last year who were either recruited as a WR, or as an athlete that could play WR. Brain. Can’t. Compute.
Okay, rant done. Chase is a strong Sam LB prospect that is a very realistic option for Michigan, especially considering the scenario expressed above. He has great length for a Sam prospect at 6’4”; though he is still a bit light at 215lbs. Hailing from Thomas Jefferson High (Clairton, PA), Chase is a 3-star prospect that is ranked as the 46th OLB and 596th player nationally in this recruiting class. On the surface it appears that he pretty underrated, given his offers from Michigan, OSU, FSU, Miami (FL), and VT along with his 10 other offers (247Sports). The question is, do his abilities match his ranking, or his offer sheet? Here’s my take…
The alma mater similarity made the Kyle Berger/Jake Ryan comparisons intriguing, but I’ve got to say, I definitely see more Jake in Chase than I do in Kyle. One of the first things I notice about Chase’s game is his range. Chase is fast; he can shoot through a gap to get to the QB, has very impressive lateral speed, and even catches a receiver from behind in his short film. He can adjust to plays almost instantly, and does an exceptional job of getting to the ball carrier. His speed could translate to an ILB position, but the lack of even a single play in coverage makes me skeptical about the possibility. Plus I think he would thrive at the Sam more with his combination of size and uncommon speed at the position.
Chase’s speed is showcased best when he is rushing the passer. If I didn’t know better, I’d say he’s got an inside hookup on the snap count, because his anticipation on blitzes is just ridiculous. Granted this is a highlight tape, but from what I saw he is pretty consistent at shooting the gap the instant the ball is snapped, if not sooner. My main issue with his pass rush though is that Chase is relatively unproven. Between his quickness off the snap, and the lackluster-appearing level of competition, Chase gets to the backfield almost untouched on practically every blitz. While a quick first step is key to gaining leverage on a blocker, Chase will have to develop some pass rushing moves to get by linemen at the next level. I would also like to see him blitzing more from the edge too, as he only had one play like this on his tape. If Greg Mattison plans to use future OLBs like he uses Jake, Chase will be blitzing frequently from the edge, often from a 3-point stance. He has all the potential in the world to be a scary pass rusher, but how he carries the additional 30-40lbs that he needs to put on, as well as the development of his pass rushing techniques, will define his success.
When trying to assess Chase in the run game, I was faced with the same issue of him being relatively unproven in the aspect. His highlight tape is short, and most of those plays show him going untouched, so it’s hard to get a solid feel for his ability to stop the run. From the limited film, Chase appears to be able to get off blocks effectively, but it will be an issue at the next issue if he doesn’t add sufficient upper body strength. He is a strong tackler, and has that uncoachable ability to bring the ball carrier down by any means necessary. Knowing how to tackle properly is important, but many times you’re not in a textbook position. Being able to latch on to a defender and bring him down in these cases is an attribute that should receive more recognition. Broken tackles are fun on offense, but very irritating and costly when on defense (duh). From what I saw, I was impressed with Chase’s ability to diagnose the play, shed blocks, close in on the ball carrier quickly, and ultimately finish the play.
OSU appears to be trying to box out Brady from landing the Sam LB that we need in this class (if Ferns is positioned to be a Mike, which is the general consensus), but this could be a blessing in disguise. When Kyle Berger was still a Michigan target I was excited about the possibility of seeing him in the winged helmet, but since Chase has emerged on the scene, my worries of losing out on Kyle have been reduced. Chase appears to be a great Sam LB prospect in my book, and the only thing that could keep me from giving him a 4th star would be his lack of tape. LB is one of the most active positions on the field, and prospects that play the position get the opportunity to load up their film with highlights of pass rushes, pass coverage, and stopping the run. The fact that the “Chase Winovich Official Junior Highlights With Music,” doesn’t even hit the four-minute mark could imply a lack of consistency. However this is just speculation, and could not be an issue at all.
Chase is a player that hasn’t really been on the Michigan recruiting radar until the recent commitments of Kyle Berger and Sam Hubbard to OSU, so judging his outlook is tough. If I had to guess right now, I would say that he ends up a buckeye. The 247 Crystal Ball has him mainly ending up there, and his recent visit to Columbus (on 4/20, per 247Sports) shows that he still is very interested, even though they have already done well recruiting his position this year.
Be excited about the new wave of offers to LB prospects such as Chase and Kyron Watson, both have the potential to really develop into great players. With the successes of LB recruiting recently, Michigan has the opportunity to take players that may not be as polished, but offer a very high ceiling than many higher rated players. Stay tuned to BBR for more on Chase’s recruitment, as well as everything regarding Michigan football and basketball. As always, Go Blue!
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