Tom Strobel, a defensive end from Mentor, OH, committed to Michigan on Friday. He's a 6'6", 245 lb. strongside end who picked the Wolverines over offers from Cincinnati, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio State, Pittsburgh, Purdue, Stanford, West Virginia, and Wisconsin, among others.
Is it a coincidence that Strobel plays for the Mentor Cardinals, which just so happens to be the same nickname of Brady Hoke's old team, the Ball State Cardinals . . . ?
His current rankings are as follows:
ESPN: 3-star, #56 DE
Rivals: 4-star, #36 DE, #231 overall
Scout: 4-star, #24 DE, #211 overall
24/7 Sports: 4-star, #14 WDE, #169 overall
When three out of four sites agree that he's a top-250 prospect, then I tend to think that ESPN doesn't know what it's talking about (Hint: They don't). For someone that big who runs a reported 4.8 forty yard dash and has a 28" vertical leap, anything less than a 4-star rating seems a little foolish. What's even more ridiculous is that the state of Ohio has several defensive ends who are on par or perhaps even better than Strobel, such as Adolphus Washington, Se'von Pittman, Ifeadi Odenigbo, Pharaoh Brown, and Greg McMullen.
While the majority of the sites agree that Strobel is an elite prospect, what they don't seem to agree on is his eventual position. He has been projected as a strongside end, a weakside end, and a 3-tech defensive tackle by various scouts. To me he looks like a strongside end all the way. First of all, he has the bulk to play on the strong side without getting knocked off the ball. Secondly, he doesn't have the athleticism to be an elite pass rusher and come off the edge from the weakside. And third, if he's a true 6'6" tall, then I don't want him inside playing tackle. Anytime tackles get over 6'5", I think their height becomes a disadvantage.
Strobel has a great motor. There are plays when he gets completely turned around, finds the ball, and makes a beeline toward the ballcarrier. There's no hesitation or thought of "Maybe I should give up" or "Maybe one of my teammates made the play by now." He's also thick from head to toe, which means he should have sufficient upper and lower body strength to keep blockers off of him with his arms while also powering through blockers and ballcarriers with his legs. He uses his hands very well and keeps separation from offensive tackles.
I am slightly concerned about Strobel's production thus far in his high school career, though. In two seasons of varsity ball, he's only made 84 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, and 9 sacks. He did miss a couple games due to injury as a junior, but for a guy with his tools to only make 37 tackles and 2 sacks as a junior in high school is a little bit curious. I also have all kinds of issues with Strobel's technique. While he uses his hands very well, his butt's too low in his stance and his right foot is too far back, which makes him cockeyed. With his foot back that far, almost every one of his first steps makes him stand straight up. I'm not too concerned that Michigan's coaches will notice his stance issues and make the necessary corrections. The more pressing issue is how quickly Strobel will adjust to a new stance, whether he will be comfortable, and whether he can keep his balance once the tweaks are made.
Overall, Strobel seems like a high-floor/medium-ceiling type of player. As a strongside end, perhaps the most important quality is to be relentlessly active, and he does have that quality. However, he will get eaten alive if he doesn't play lower. The track record of his future coaches speaks for itself as far as coaching up defensive linemen, but I can't really expect greatness from a kid who had 37 tackles and 2 sacks as a junior. I will be interested to see how he does in the upcoming season, so the following number may change, but as for now . . .
TTB Rating: 79 (explanation here)