Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Michael Onwenu, Wolverine

Detroit (MI) Cass Tech offensive guard Michael Onwenu
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Detroit (MI) Cass Tech offensive guard Michael Onwenu committed to Michigan on Tuesday. He chose the Wolverines over offers from Alabama, Illinois, Miami, North Carolina State, Ohio State, and Penn State.

Onwenu is 6'3" and 365 lbs. He is committed to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

ESPN: 4-star, 80 grade, #17 OG
Rivals: 4-star, #191 overall
Scout: 4-star, #5 OG, #169 overall
247 Sports: 4-star, 94 grade, #5 OG, #140 overall

As a Cass Tech player, Onwenu had been on Michigan's radar for a long time and started visiting campus with his school a few years ago. At the time he was around 6'0" and well over 300 lbs., so it was unclear how he was going to develop. His first offer came from Ohio State in May of 2014, which is part of the reason why he had an affinity for the Buckeyes. Brady Hoke's staff offered him last July before his junior year began. He was thought to be an Ohio State lean at one point, but the Buckeyes' treatment of former teammate Michael Weber (his position coach recruited him up until the last minute and then took a job with the Chicago Bears immediately after Signing Day) left a sour taste in his mouth. Jim Harbaugh's staff, meanwhile, had been recruiting Weber and Onwenu hard, and Michigan's established pipeline with Cass Tech players seemed to bode well for their chances. After visits to campus this winter and spring, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Onwenu would end up committing to the Wolverines.

Onwenu was being looked at for defense by Hoke's staff, but Harbaugh and offensive coordinator/line coach Tim Drevno have made it clear they want him for the interior offensive line. That's not to say that he won't play defense at some point, because Harbaugh lets guys work on both sides of the ball at times. His position may not be determined for a while.

As an offensive lineman, Onwenu has surprisingly good feet for his size, and he can move when he wants to move. He also packs quite a punch, and he's not going to get overpowered by anyone.

In my opinion, though, there are more negatives than positives when talking about him on offense. There are a lot of technique issues to work out here. Onwenu is slow out of his stance, sometimes steps with the wrong foot, does not use good hand placement, and does not finish plays on a consistent basis. Even on his highlights, it's rare to see more than a few steps with any kind of purpose. Once he reaches his assignment - a guy who's unlikely to move around the mountain - Onwenu essentially stops to watch the play.

The place where Onwenu shows a sense of urgency is at nose tackle on defense. He looks like a totally different player. He's quick off the ball, uses good technique, and finishes plays. He probably won't be much of a pass rusher because it's tough to contort 365 lbs. in enough ways to wiggle around offensive linemen, but he can be a run-stuffer in the middle, especially if Michigan is going to run any 3-4 looks.

Overall, Onwenu is a good pickup for the staff. I think he's a guy that has some potential, and you have to look at a kid like that in your home state as a priority. Whether he has more upside on offense or defense is somewhat immaterial - the important thing is to get him on your team somewhere. Even on offense, he has the physical tools to mold into quite a player; it's the mental aspect that seems to be lacking. If he stays on that side of the ball, hopefully Drevno can work the kind of magic that Darrell Funk never seemed to be able to harness.

Onwenu is the seventh overall commit and the second offensive lineman in the 2016 class, joining offensive tackle Erik Swenson. Michigan will only lose guard/center Graham Glasgow to graduation after this coming season, but there are four redshirt juniors who will need to be replaced before long. The 2016 class is scheduled to be at least 15 players strong (LINK), but that number will surely increase, and various recruits have been talking and tweeting about calling this class the "Fab 25." I would expect the Wolverines to take 4-5 linemen in this class to prepare for those upcoming departures. The pipeline of Cass Tech will see Onwenu join a team that already includes cornerback Terry Richardson, cornerback Jourdan Lewis, offensive guard David Dawson, and safety Delano Hill.

TTB Rating: 74 (ratings explanation)


  1. The 365 pounds was apparently a typo according to Sam Webb. He says the kid is maximum 320 or so. Another Cass Tech alum on the team is RJS.

    1. I don't really think his weight is a typo. He's listed that heavy at several sites, and frankly, he looks like he's probably more than 320 lbs.

      Jenkins-Stone will have graduated by the time Onwenu arrives.

    2. According to Sam it was a typo at a camp and it looks like all the sites picked it up off of that.

    3. Onwenu himself says in this article that he's about 360 lbs:

    4. Man - if that's legit it's impressive. He looks to carry that weight pretty well. Concern would be what happens when he 'grows up' - how he looks 4 or 5 years from now - but that's the kind of size you want on your team.

  2. Maybe he's quicker on defense because he has to think more on offense about assignments and the like? It's easier to play fast at nose tackle because there's not as much to think about once you line up.

    1. It's possible, but I don't think he really seems like a guy who's unsure about his assignments. He's just slow out of his stance, even when he's blocking a guy directly across from him.

  3. He seems to almost play reactionary when on the O-Line, like he's waiting for the guy he's blocking to make the first move so he can cut them off.

  4. Great get. I'll take any kid that Alabama, OSU and PSU want, especially if he's well north of 300 pounds. Michigan wants to get back to winning in the trenches and guys like Onwenu are very welcome to help achieve that goal.