Rewind a month. Popular speculation had Michigan taking only two LB’s in the 2014 class, and the hot name to close out the group with Michael Ferns was Kyron Watson. While Kyron was clearly not a SAM prospect, Michael was believed to shift over to fill the void if Kyron did commit. Now jump back. Since then, the staff cooled on Kyron and was able to steal Chase Winovich, a true SAM prospect, right out from under Urban Meyer’s nose. Even with Chase in the fold, the Wolverines are still actively recruiting other Sam prospects (due to the questions of Mike McCray’s ability and size to play the SAM?), one of which is Darrion Owens.
Darrion is a player that may seem relatively new to most Michigan fans. He was offered just two days after Kyle Berger’s commitment to Ohio State, and hasn’t generated much recruiting buzz since then. Michigan is listed as one of only two schools to be “warmer” for him (along with Tennessee) on 247Sports, and speculation is that there is a very realistic chance that he ends up a part of this class. In fact, 100% of the crystal ball has him coming to Michigan (aka, JC Shurburtt). So what is there to know about Darrion?
According to 247Sports, he is listed at 6’3” and 225lbs. Darrion appears to have a frame that should cause less concerns about adding the necessary weight compared to Chase, but a good 15-20lbs will be essential to compete at his intended position. He hails from Orange Park, FL where he plays for Oakleaf. Darrion is a composite 3-star player, but is another one of those prospects whose offer sheets would indicate more. His BCS offers to date come from Michigan, Tennessee, Auburn, BC, Iowa State, Kentucky, Louisville, Maryland, Miami (FL), Michigan State, Minnesota, N.C. State, Nebraska, Ohio State, Purdue, Rutgers, South Florida, and West Virginia. The composite has him as the 43rd best safety and the #562 player nationally.
Darrion was an interesting prospect to profile, because he doesn’t really play his destined position much. For his high school he mainly plays SS, which isn’t too much different from a SAM, but doesn’t effectively showcase his abilities. While he may be more beneficial there for his team, I really don’t see much of a future for him playing in the secondary at the next level. He has good but not great speed, and doesn’t appear as instinctual back in the secondary. I would even go as far as to say that he is currently being played out of position.
Claiming that SS is out of position for him shouldn’t be as much of a knock on his abilities there, as it is a praise of his potential elsewhere. While he makes a better-than-average high school safety, he could really shine playing consistently in the front 7. From a LB position, he seems to have a much better feel for the game where coverage is less of a concern. Darrion does a great job of diagnosing the play, and meeting the ball carrier at the hole.
Along with his anticipation of run plays, comes the ability to finish them. One thing that jumps out from his tape is his ability to tackle. Darrion does a great job of locating the ball carrier in traffic and positioning himself to hit the runner square. He is a big body that knows how to use his size to really deliver a blow, and wrapping up is of no concern either. His ability to tackle in traffic is much more evident than his ability to stop players in open space, which is another reason why I like him for the SAM position more.
Similar to Chase, Darrion shows the potential to be a scary blitzer. As with his anticipation of run plays, Darrion does a great job of jumping the snap and shooting the gap into the backfield. He displays impressive closing speed on tackles, and fits the bill of someone who “has a nose for the ball.”
Now comes the negative. Since most of his footage of him is at the SS position, there are a few concerns that loom for his SAM potential. There is hardly any film of him shedding blockers, both in the run game and on blitzes. At this level he is able to blow right by blockers to make the tackle, but he won’t be able to rely on that alone in college. He needs to both add upper body strength, as well as a repertoire of techniques to be able to be an effective SAM.
Darrion also lacks elite burst when breaking to the ball carrier. While he has good lateral speed on running plays, you just get a feel that he isn’t maximizing his abilities. Seeing how he can quickly he can get into the backfield, I see the capacity for him to really extend his range on the field. Getting that extra step on a play could be the difference between a tackle for no gain, or a 15-yard pickup down the sidelines. The tools are there though, and with Greg Mattison as a defensive coordinator, I doubt to see this be anything of a problem.
Even with a limited class this year, I would be more than happy with taking another SAM as long as the staff isn’t reaching just to establish depth. Darrion Owens does not fit that mold, and would be capable of competing for a starting position as soon as Jake Ryan departs for the NFL. He is another prospect with good measurables, D1 athleticism, and a foundation to really build something great. If 247Sports is on to something, than it appears that Michigan is at least in his top group for the time being. Stay tuned for the latest on his recruitment, as well as everything related to Michigan recruiting. As always, Go Blue!
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