Thursday, February 5, 2015

Tyrone Wheatley, Jr., Wolverine

Tyrone Wheatley, Jr. with Tyrone Wheatley, Sr. on National Signing Day
Manlius (NY) Canisius tight end Tyrone Wheatley, Jr. committed to Michigan on Wednesday afternoon. He chose the Wolverines over offers from Alabama, UCLA, and USC, among others.

He's a 6'6", 260 lb. prospect. As a senior in 2014, he caught 11 passes for 182 yards and 2 touchdowns, while also making 68 tackles, 24 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 3 pass breakups, and 2 blocked punts on defense/special teams.

ESPN: 3-star, 79 grade, #12 TE
Rivals: 4-star, #13 TE
Scout: 4-star, #25 DE, #279 overall
247 Sports: 4-star, 90 grade, #13 TE

Wheatley was offered early on by the previous Michigan regime, and it looked for a while like it would only be a matter of time before he committed to the Wolverines. The longer he held out, the lower those chances got. When Brady Hoke's staff was on its way out, Wheatley was considering the likes of Alabama, USC, etc. Even after Jim Harbaugh was hired, Wheatley said that he had not heard from Michigan's staff in a while and they dropped out of his top four. Then his dad - former Michigan great Tyrone Wheatley - was hired, and Junior seemed destined to join his dad. Except he still seemed lukewarm on the idea of attending Michigan, did not make plans to visit Michigan, and scheduled a visit to Oregon. Then he surprised everyone with a late-January, mid-week visit to Ann Arbor. Michigan's odds had a pulse once again, and his final two - Michigan and UCLA - resulted in a pledge to the Wolverines on National Signing Day.

Wheatley has a large frame with a solidly built lower body. Looking at him without pads, his upper body seems a little undeveloped as of now. As a pass catcher, Wheatley shows some decent hands and catches the ball away from his body. He shows a couple nice adjustments to passes thrown over his head, which is pretty impressive when considering that he only caught 11 passes during his senior year. Playing in a run-heavy offense, he didn't get a ton of options to showcase his abilities. He shows decent speed that should be able to challenge linebackers vertically and to split out wide or in the slot at times. I think Wheatley shows the most upside (on the offensive side of the ball) as a blocker, where he could use some technique work but shows the knee bend, footwork, and leverage to be very effective.

I do not think Wheatley shows a great deal of promise as a receiver. He does not wow you with his athleticism, and his speed is adequate but not extremely impressive. He also does not seem to be a natural pass catcher and is somewhat mechanical in that phase of the game. Furthermore, he does not run crisp routes, but that's not much of a surprise since he's in high school and is not in a pass-heavy offense; that is correctable.

At least based on his junior highlights, I like Wheatley's physicality more as a blocker than I do as a defensive end, where he seems like too much of a finesse player. Unfortunately, there's more to playing tight end than blocking. If the aggression could translate to defense, I would like him even more on the defensive side of the ball. On a bit of a side note, I have seen it suggested elsewhere - and I somewhat agree - that Wheatley could play offensive tackle in college. Considering Michigan's current roster makeup, I think he needs to play tight end to start his college career, but I would not be surprised if he switches to defensive end or even offensive tackle by the time all is said and done. I think he can have a good career as a tight end, but I do not see him as a game-changing mismatch. He looks more like a Martell Webb type of player to me.

Wheatley was Michigan's fourteenth and final commit in the 2015 class, barring a change of heart from Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith, who verbally committed to UCLA but remains unsigned. Wheatley is the only tight end in the class and joins a depleted position group that has junior Jake Butt, redshirt sophomore Khalid Hill, and redshirt freshman Ian Bunting. He's the first signee from the state of New York since lineman John Ferrara in 2006, and the first ever from Canisius.

There's also a younger brother named Terius Wheatley, a 2016 prospect with no offers yet (HIGHLIGHTS). Terius played for Orchard Park this past season but will presumably be joining a team in the Ann Arbor area for his senior year, so keep an eye out for him at the likes of Saline, Ann Arbor Pioneer, etc.

TTB Rating: 82 (ratings explanation)

Here are Tyrone Wheatley, Jr.'s defensive highlights from his junior year (LINK), and below are his senior tight end highlights:


  1. He can certainly find it and then catch it over his shoulder. A Tight End that seemingly can and likes to block is a real good thing as far as I'm concerned.

  2. Interesting scouting report. Reminds me a bit of the Poggi situation, where the offers were out of the park but it wasn't necessarily obvious from the scouting reports why. Is he just a sure-thing role player type (high floor/low ceiling)? What do you think accounts for the stellar offer list?

  3. It wouldn't be terrible if he turns into what AJ Williams was supposed to be; a really good blocker who can be enough of a receiver that you at least can't ignore him in the passing game.