|Elkton (MD) Eastern Christian Academy linebacker Dele' Harding|
ESPN: 3-star inside linebacker
Rivals: 4-star, #5 inside linebacker, #186 overall
Scout: 3-star, #29 outside linebacker, #286 overall
247 Sports: 3-star, 84 grade, #17 inside linebacker
Harding is a 6'1", 232 lb. prospect. As a junior this season, he has 67 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, and 4 fumble recoveries.
Harding was a high school teammate of a couple current Michigan freshmen, wide receiver Freddy Canteen and safety Brandon Watson. He has been high on Michigan, visited over the summer for the past couple years, and was offered by the Wolverines this past June. A couple other big programs came calling, too, but he always seemed to have an affinity for the Wolverines.
I had not seen video on Harding until this evening, and it appears this was posted just after Harding committed. Without any visual evidence, it was hard to gauge whether such an early offer to a 2016 prospect was warranted or not. Now having seen the video, it leaves me scratching my head a little bit. I'm not quite sure what a team like USC - which practically has its pick of players on the west coast - sees in Harding in order to offer him so early.
From my perspective, Harding is a solid tackler once he gets his hands on ball carriers, and he seems to create a lot of turnovers. Otherwise, I don't see a ton of positives. He plays upright, is a little slow to diagnose plays, takes poor angles, does not change direction well, and lacks great speed. There are some nice hits on his highlight reel, but not many remarkable plays. However, ECA does play a very good schedule - Cleveland (OH) St. Edward's, Paramus (NJ) Catholic, Washington (DC) Friendship Collegiate - so perhaps his lack of big plays should be taken with a grain of salt. Still, the raw athleticism expected of someone with his caliber of offers seems to be missing.
Harding reminds me a little bit of former Michigan linebacker John Thompson. There is obviously time to improve, but that's what I see right now. He is the third commit in the 2016 class, joining quarterback Messiah DeWeaver and offensive tackle Erik Swenson. I would expect that Michigan goes hard after several linebackers, because Joe Bolden, Royce Jenkins-Stone, Desmond Morgan, and James Ross III are all scheduled to graduate after the 2015 season.
TTB Rating: To be determined