Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Devon Baxter, Wolverine


Devon Baxter (image via Twitter)

Brandywine (MD) Gwynn Park defensive end Devon Baxter committed to Michigan on Monday evening. He picked the Wolverines over offers from Maryland, Penn State, Tennessee, and Virginia Tech, among others.

Baxter is a 6'6", 235 lb. prospect. As a junior in 2022, he made 48 tackles, 21 tackles for loss, and 2 sacks. He also caught 12 passes for 181 yards and 4 touchdowns.

ESPN: Unranked
On3: 4-star, 90 grade, #27 EDGE
Rivals: 3-star, 5.7 grade, #38 SDE
247 Sports: 3-star, 88 grade, #41 EDGE

Hit the jump for more.

Baxter was offered by Michigan back in February, but his recruitment has stayed pretty quiet for the most part. He took an official visit to Rutgers a couple weeks ago and then visited Ann Arbor this past weekend. With a pending official to Virginia Tech, he went ahead and accepted the offer from the Wolverines on Monday.

The first thing that stands out about Baxter is the frame. He looks every bit of 6'6" but has a long way to go with how his body develops. Playing some tight end and wide receiver in high school, he looks way too big to play receiver and even a bit too gangly to play tight end. However, he has the speed to threaten defenses deep even at that size, and that shows up on defense with his ability to close out on the quarterback. His long wingspan lets him grab hold of ball carriers even if he's not in perfect position.

On the negative side, Baxter is very raw on both sides of the ball. His first step leaves something to be desired: at tight end he just leans on people at times, and on defense he's one of the slower players off the ball, barely gaining any ground. He can be mechanical at times and slow to diagnose plays, which makes that long wingspan a necessity if he's going to be a split second late. He also probably needs to work on developing some consistent pass rush moves and counter moves.

Overall, Baxter is a really interesting prospect. If someone asked me what he's good at, I would say, "Well, he's big and he's fast." The rest of it - the stance, the strength, the technique, the reads, etc. - is all TBD. The nice thing is that edge rushers have some freedom to develop in their own ways, and it's easier to cultivate the stance, the strength, the technique, and the reads than it is to create length and speed. So there's a lot to work with, and there's a lot to work on. If he sticks around to develop at Michigan, he could be a Taco Charlton-like player as his ceiling; the floor is Shelton Johnson, and if you don't remember Shelton Johnson, well . . . that's kind of my point.

Michigan now has 22 commitments in the class of 2024. Baxter is the first true edge prospect to commit, though guys like Cole Sullivan and Jaden Smith could end up as outside linebackers rushing the passer. Michigan has never signed a player from Gwynn Park, but the school has produced several NFLers, most notably including former New England Patriots cornerback Kyle Arrington and former Baylor 1st round draft pick Phil Taylor, a defensive tackle.

TTB Rating: 81


  1. This is a lot of potential EDGEs!

    I know a substantial chunk of them will end up elsewhere; as big ILBs, package OLBs, strongside DE/DT tweeners, or some flavor in between. Still, by my count Michigan took at least 5 high school recruits who could end up lining up from the EDGE (Etta, Koumba, Hewlett, Ishmail, Moore) in the last class and already has 5 in the 2024 class (Smith, Baxter, Curtis, Smith, Sullivan). And they are still after several more.

    I know the defense is multiple and we like to name about 15 "starters" when accounting for all the packages Michigan puts out there, but on the majority of downs Michigan has 5 DBs, 2 LBs, 2 edges, and 2 DTs. When they go heavy it's usually an extra DT added in for a DB to make it a 5-man front. I haven't noticed a ton of packages with 3 edge guys.

    This is a lot of scholarships to put at these 2 spots on the field is my point. But I guess it makes sense when you sometimes have big Wormley/Morris type of edges and other times have lil Harrell/Uche type of edges -- and everything in between. Moreover Michigan seems comfortable taking guys with some specific "tools" with the intention of developing them over time and hoping there is a late career payoff a la Charlton/Ojabo.

    Arguably this is nothing new. MIchigan's 2018 class had 4 potential EDGE (Hutchinson, Upshaw, Van Sumeren, Welshof) and the 2017 class had 5 (Vilain, Irving-Bey, Malone-Hatcher, Jeter, Paye) but it seems like Michigan is sprinkling in a few more guys at the expense of DB. At least for now. No high school recruiting class is ever assigned exact positional numbers and they have to make some judgement calls away.

    Just an observation on my end that the staff agrees with conventional opinion that EDGE is a critical position. I think they are more multiple/diverse in the recruiting approach than most though.

  2. Seemingly, the "Amoeba Defense" is a real thing, as Jaden Smith, Cole Sullivan, Mason Curtis and the not yet committed but thought likely Elias Rudolph are all within half an inch or so and a few pounds of 6'3", 200 lbs. coming in. although they have different skill sets, their physical dimensions are remarkably similar.

    1. Yeah, I like bringing in athletes on defense and then letting their development/body composition sort out their positions and the depth chart.