Monday, June 12, 2023

Owen Wafle, Wolverine


Princeton (NJ) The Hun School DT Owen Wafle

Princeton (NJ) The Hun School defensive tackle Owen Wafle committed to Michigan on Sunday. The former Notre Dame commitment picked the Wolverines over offers from Boston College, Iowa, Minnesota, Rutgers, and West Virginia, among others.

Wafle is listed at 6'2" and 290 lbs. As a junior in 2022, he made 64 tackles, 24 tackles for loss, and 10 sacks.

ESPN: 4-star, 80 grade, #32 DE
On3: 3-star, 88 grade, #71 DL
Rivals: 4-star, 5.8 grade, #15 DT
247 Sports: 3-star, 89 grade, #30 DL

Hit the jump for more.

I'll be honest and say that I was not very much aware of Wafle other than having seen his name in passing in regard to being committed to Notre Dame. Since Notre Dame is too chicken to play Michigan on a regular basis, I just don't pay attention to the Fighting Irish like I used to do. He was offered by Notre Dame in March of 2022 and committed two months later. But when Michigan started to get involved this spring, he decommitted in late May, spurning the Golden Domers, who forbid their commits from taking visits elsewhere. Since he was ditching his Notre Dame commitment specifically to visit Michigan, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that he would commit to the Wolverines upon visiting in June, which is what happened.

Wafle has an odd build for a Big Ten defensive tackle at just 6'2". Though he is listed anywhere from 270-290 pounds, he's almost certainly headed for tackle - despite some recruiting sites labeling him as an "edge" early on - which makes his bulk a question. Some short-ish defensive tackles can get swallowed up by bigger offensive linemen. That's the biggest question for Wafle, because if he can't overcome the size deficiency, it's going to be tough to get on the field.

On the plus side, Wafle has excellent quickness for his size. He gets off the ball very well, and with his low center of gravity, he changes direction well to chase after ball carriers. He also does a good job of keeping his pad level low, which means his leverage does not get squandered by giving linemen his chest.

A few players come to mind with Wafle, one being the super-awesome Maurice Hurst, Jr., a small-ish nose tackle who lived in opposing backfields because of his unmatched quickness. Another is Brady Pallante, a small-ish nose tackle during the Brady Hoke era who never really got on the field. A third is the versatile Dan Klecko (no connection to Michigan in this case), who played linebacker, defensive tackle, fullback, and special teams during the early 2000s, first at Boston College and then with the Patriots, Colts, and Eagles in the NFL.

Wafle is not as athletic as Hurst, more talented than Pallante, and perhaps as versatile as Klecko. I could see Jim Harbaugh wanting to line Wafle up in the backfield on goal line situations and letting him make a linebacker or two explode.

Wafle is the fourth defensive lineman in the class, joining Manuel Beigel, Ted Hammond, and Jerod Smith. He's the first pledge from The Hun School since defensive end Anthony Lalota in the class of 2009.

TTB Rating: 73


  1. He's not as quick as Maurice Hurst. I don't expect to ever see quickness like that from a big kid ever again. But, he's plenty quick. He's also violent. Violent enough that it makes me think that if you are big enough to swallow him up, he could conceivably give you a real bad tummy ache. There's a play in his vid where a kid gets over him and looks for a nano like he might get control, when he receives a gut punch that lifts him to his toes, then gets picked up and tossed backwards. That was Mark Messner stuff going on, on that play.

    Were we slanting on every down like back in the day, I'd argue Thunder's rating, wanting to see it in the ... maybe even very low 80's. But we don't, so 73 feels about good.

    With regards to fullback, I'll quote the great Keith Jackson, "Whoa Nelly!!!" I think I might use him to isolate on and then beat the snot out of the guy I wanted to run at on the next play, as it looks like it could take a play or two to recover from the beating this kid will give you. If you recover at all.


  2. I just do not at all share the height concern even a little.

    Michigan had a couple of all american DTs who were shorter than Wafle in the 1990s -- Rob Renes and Jason Horn were both 6'1. More recently there was 6'1 Mike Martin who was an absolute beast. Hurst is 6'2, Mazi was 6'3, Graham and Jenkins are 6'3.

    Maybe it's an issue in the NFL level? I doubt it though - the average NFL DT is 6'3 / 310. This dude is 6'2 / 290 in high school and will probably end up at 320-330 by the time he is here.

    I'd be more worried if he was 6'5 honestly because then you start worrying about leverage in the trenches. (e.g., 6'6 Matt Godin). The main thing is going to be if he can add good weight and get up above 300 (and beyond) but if Kris Jenkins can go from 240 as a recruit to over 300 I'm not going to worry about Ben Hebert doing his job.

    If this kid has elite quickness and can add good weight I'm confident that being an inch off the prototypical height isn't going to be a problem. (especially since height has an error range as a +/- as an indicator - having a long forehead doesn't help anything, even in basketball, nor does having a flattop head hurt anything). Maybe if Wafle is functionally shorter than he lists, but even if so he's in the range of some highly accomplished college players, besides Hurst.

  3. Jason Horn was 6'5":

    1. Good catch. My memory is bad I guess. I thought I remembered running into him on campus and thinking he was short (I'm 6'3) but it must have been somebody else. Maybe Renes.

  4. Terrance Taylor, is usually the name that comes to mind for me when I see 6’0” DTs

    1. That's another good one. TBF I would probably share in some of Thunder's concern if Wafle was 6'0. At that height guys start to be rare at the pro level. But 6'2 is firmly in the fat part of the NFL's bell curve centered around 6'3. Since this is college not the pros, I think even 6'0 would still not be that big of a concern but it would be notable.

    2. It's rare that I come across a 6'0" defensive tackle playing for another team and see Zak Zinter, Trevor Keegan, Olu Oluwatimi, and others from Michigan struggle mightily to block him. Whoever Michigan throws out there at DT is likely going to tear apart the lower half of the Big Ten and the MAC schools Michigan faces. The concern is whether they will be swallowed up by the likes of Ohio State, Penn State, and then the Georgias and Alabamas of the world in the playoffs or bowl games or whatever.

      Furthermore, Alabama and Georgia - the powerhouses of the country - are not rolling out 6'0" defensive tackles. Or even 6'1" or 6'2". Georgia's top three nose tackles and top three defensive tackles are 6'3", 6'4", or 6'5". If Michigan wants to reach that tier, they need big, athletic guys on the defensive line.

    3. 6' would be rare for elite programs but Alabama did have Josh Chapman (5th Round Pick) around the same time Mike Martin was at Michigan. Shorter guys need exceptional strength/weight/technique to thrive.

      Most of Alabama and Georgia's guys are 6'3. Wafle is 6'2.

      This concern is a stretch.