Thursday, March 26, 2009

Tony Drake, Wolverine

Apparently, the world went haywire when Toney Clemons decided to transfer from Michigan a couple days ago, because his name was quickly replaced by that of Tony Drake, a rodent-sized slot receiver from Skyline High School in Dallas, Texas. In case the name of that high school sounds familiar, that's because Michigan targeted current Minnesota Gopher Keanon Cooper for the class of 2008.

Drake is listed at 5'9", 170 lbs., which means he's probably 5'8" and 155 lbs. He plays slot receiver for his high school team, in an offense that closely resembles Rich Rodriguez's spread offense. In an article with Rivals, he said that the coaches want to use him like a combination between Steve Slaton and Noel Devine. They offered him Wednesday and he committed on Thursday; this was a quick, perhaps hasty, marriage. Unlike a few former recruitments - ones that played out dramatically and didn't make sense from the get-go, like Kevin Newsome, Bryce McNeal, and Dewayne Peace - this one seems logical. Despite the distance from Texas, Drake seems like a perfect fit for the offense.

Skyline is a giant high school, educating somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,000 students. Their team finished the 2008 season with a record of 12-2 and ranked 22nd in the state of Texas and 164th in the country. On a high school team with several FBS prospects/commitments - Keanon Cooper, Spencer Reeves, Mike Davis, James White, and others - over the past couple years, Drake earned playing time as a freshman. As a sophomore, he gained 605 yards from scrimmage and averaged 10.5 yards per touch.

I have been unable to find junior year stats for Drake, but his film is very impressive. He has excellent acceleration, and what's most impressive to me is his ability and patience in the area of setting up and following his blocks. As a slot receiver in that offense, he sometimes takes the equivalent of a jet sweep handoff, but once he gets going upfield, most of his movements continue to take him in that direction; he doesn't move laterally as much as many small backs do, so he's going to gain some yards after contact.

The biggest knock on Drake might be his top-end speed. You can see several occasions on film where he accelerates faster than everyone else on the field...and then starts to lose ground to defenders, and not necessarily just the fastest defender on the field. By the time he gets on the field at Michigan, though, he'll have plenty of time to work on his speed. Hopefully it's a weakness that he's willing and able to strengthen.

Drake reminds me of Martavious Odoms in many ways. Despite the lack of dreadlocks, Drake's field awareness and balance make the two similar.

I'm usually not overly excited about players whose only offer comes from Michigan before they commit, but for some odd reason, the three guys I'm most excited about are Antonio Kinard and Tony Drake (who only have offers from Michigan) and Devin Gardner.

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