Saturday, March 26, 2011

Ben Braden, Wolverine

Rockford offensive lineman Ben Braden

Ben Braden, an offensive tackle from Rockford High School in Rockford, MI, committed to Michigan on Thursday during a visit to campus with his head coach.  Braden is a 3-star prospect to Scout, but is so far unranked (along with most prospects) by Scout and ESPN.  He also had offers from Michigan State, Syracuse, and Wisconsin.

Braden is listed at 6'6" and 285 lbs., which doesn't seem like much of a stretch.  He's solidly built in the lower and upper body.  He looks like the Michigan linemen of the '90's and early '00's.  He will certainly need to add weight before he plays at the next level, but physically he's more ready than several of Michigan's recruits over the past couple seasons (Christian Pace, Taylor Lewan, Michael Schofield, etc.).

Athletically, I'm not so sure that Braden will be ready early on.  No public film on Braden is currently posted on the internet, but I did see some of his junior highlights on Scout.  He plays with good body lean.  However, he's not the most gifted athlete and doesn't seem to move well laterally.  Rockford's offense is run-heavy, and therefore, he puts a little too much weight on his hand to give himself forward moment; this is a habit that will likely need to be coached out of him at the next level, giving him a more balanced stance.  I would also like to see Braden finish his blocks a little better.  There are times where he stops blocking and looks back at the play, another habit that will need to be broken.  I don't think it's due to a lack of aggression, but more a lack of maturity as a football player.  Lots of high school linemen are guilty of the same thing.

Given the questions about his athleticism and pass blocking, I think Braden is best suited for right tackle or perhaps even the offensive guard position.  Getting too tall can be problematic at guard, but if he maintains his current height, his thick build should make him a solid run blocker.

I doubt whether Braden would have been recruited by Michigan if Rich Rodriguez were still the coach.  Rodriguez pursued a different sort of lineman, so this represents a change in philosophy.  Whereas Michigan's former coach recruited quicker, more agile linemen, the current one has predictably started searching for road graders to pave the way for his running attack.

This is Michigan's first commitment for the class of 2012.  The coaches have reportedly told recruits that they expect to take six linemen in this class, so expect many more of these monsters to jump on board between now and next February.

TTB Rating: 65


  1. Speaking as a coach, do you think it's possible to avoid the strength:agility dichotomy when it comes to offensive linemen, or is a compromise generally necessary when you get beneath the high 4-star / Jake Long level?

    Naively, I would (to put it another way) ask why the coaches don't find linemen who are strong AND quick.

    To put this one more way, if Brady & Al run a flexible offense a la SDSU last year, what sort of lineman would they want?

    Aside: The new 'blog look works just fine for me.

  2. @ Anonymous 1:12 p.m.

    You might be able to find some guys who slip through the cracks, but usually you get one or the other. There just aren't that many guys out there who are both big/strong and fast. You might be able to take a thinner, more athletic guy and beef him up, but some of that athleticism might disappear. I think Jake Fisher (who signed with Oregon in February) was a guy who will be very good, but it might take him a few years to add a sufficient amount of good weight.

    I think what you'll find with Hoke is that he wants something in between Wisconsin (huge dudes who aren't that athletic) and Rodriguez-led Michigan (thinner guys who can really move). Wisconsin typically has some athletic left tackles, but their guards and right tackles are steamrollers. The guards need to get out and run for Borges/Hoke, so that's where I think you'll see the best OL "athletes" play. With Rodriguez, I think the best "athletes" were the tackles (with the exception of Omameh, who was a bit of an anomaly as a guard for Rodriguez).

    Thanks for the compliment. I like it, too.

  3. Glad Anon asked the question, because that was going to be my question as well.

    Re: the look of the blog, it is MUCH more readable now, but also a bit stark. Maybe that's the look you were going for, but just seems very "builder basic" if you know what I mean.

  4. @ oriental andrew 3:57 p.m.

    I'm working on getting a banner, but I don't want my blog to be too "busy" either. I think people come here for information, not glitz...which is good, because I'm not glitzy.