In mid-March, the coronavirus pandemic ultimately put the sports world on hold in terms of games being played on the field.
However, off the field, the pandemic has not stopped the Western Michigan football coaching staff from recruiting.
Since March 14, the Broncos have gained six of its seven total verbal commits for its 2021 class, a class that ranks second in the Mid-American Conference currently and 61st in the nation in the early stages, according to 247Sports.
Even though the NCAA recruiting dead period has been extended through May 31, coaches can still have contact with recruits through phone calls, text messages and social media.
Jarritt Orlando, site owner and publisher of BroncoBlitz, told Western Herald previously that he thinks the key to WMU’s recent recruiting surge has been the coaches ability to build relationships with the recruits.
“The WMU staff has good, honest men. I think that goes a long way, especially when you can’t get in front of recruits,” Orlando said. “They are relying on virtual visits, FaceTime, etc. I think the staff is good at recognizing talent on tape and going after the guys they want, regardless of stars. This shelter in place situation is giving the WMU coaches a lot of time to watch film and go after guys that fit their system.”
Let’s break down the seven commits the Broncos have been able to secure up to date.
Giovanni Scales | Marion Franklin HS | S
Scales is the highest rated recruit in WMU’s 2021 class according to both 247Sports and Rivals. At 6-foot-1, 180 pounds, the Columbus, Ohio native who held 15 Division I offers is impressive on film.
One trait that may stand out the most is Scales’ sheer speed, as he has the ability to make a big play when the ball is in his hands, offensively and defensively. He shows versatility in his hudl film by playing both sides of the ball and is elusive in the open field.
At safety, he shows he is not afraid to come up and deliver a big hit in the run game. In the passing game, he has the athleticism to win 50-50 balls in the air against wide receivers and seems instinctive in terms of being able to read the quarterback’s eyes.
Some of the plays he was able to make came against quarterbacks who delivered the ball late or lacked arm strength to be able to zip the ball to receivers, so the speed of the college game will be an adjustment, as it is for all young players.
But the potential for Scales jumps off the screen and it is easy to tell why he is WMU’s top rated recruit to date.
Zahir Abdus-Salaam| Union City HS| RB
Salaam, a New Jersey native, is also a three-star recruit according to Rivals. He had other offers from Morehead State and William & Mary and at least had some heavy interest from Baylor (not clear if an offer was made).
On film, he shows good vision at the line of scrimmage in the run game. Salaam shows a sense of when to cut to make a defender miss and also displays a great amount of patience at the line of scrimmage.
Once he gets to the second level and sees the open field, he has the speed to find the end zone and break off big runs.
Salaam also shows ability in the return game as he uses his vision to find gaps and break off big runs on special teams as well. As a pass-catcher, Salaam displays his versatility by being a playmaker in that regard as well, using his athleticism and instincts. He also seems to have a willingness to run between the tackles as well as outside the tackles, a trait that fits WMU’s offense well with a variety of running schemes.
At 5-foot-10, 170 pounds, he may have to put on some weight to be able to hold up as an every down back at the Division I level, but the Broncos seem to be getting a special athlete here.
Carson Briggs |Central | OT
The Broncos beat out rival Central Michigan for Briggs, who also received an offer from the Chippewas.
The two-star, 6-foot-5, 265-pound tackle will be coming in at a time of transition for the Broncos offensive line, as Spencer Kanz, Jaylon Moore, Jordan Asbury, Mark Brooks and Mike Caliendo all run out of eligibility after 2020.
That could give Briggs a chance to make an immediate impact coming into 2021.
On film, Briggs’ footwork and ability to block at the second level of the defense in the run game pops out. He has an ability to force defenders inside and take them out of the play with his power on runs off tackle.
In the passing game, he does a nice job of keeping his hands inside and keeping engaged with the defender so they cannot move their feet to get around Briggs and get to the quarterback.
His overall agility stands out, as he moves fluently while blocking or looking to make a block. There was not much film on how he blocks on runs in between the tackles.
John Hofer | Valparaiso | OL
Hofer, a two-star recruit and Valparaiso, Indiana native, received offers from a slew of MAC schools. At 6-foot-6, 290 pounds, Hofer looks to punish opposing defensive linemen in the run game.
On film, his willingness to finish blocks and his pure physicality is most noticeable.
Hofer will put his defenders on the ground with his strength and seems gritty on every snap. He also shows the ability to be able to come off the line of scrimmage as a “pull” blocker and lead the way in the run game as a lead blocker, showing agility that is impressive for a player his size.
Kadinn Morris | Sacred Heart Griffin | TE
At 6-foot-3, Morris has the height to be a size mismatch for defenders trying to cover him in the passing game.
On film, much of that is displayed from the Springfield, Ill. native, as he uses his body well to fend off defenders and go get the ball over them.
He also has plenty of highlights in the vertical passing game with the ability to stretch the field and sneak behind the secondary to make a big play over the seam.
He is seemingly used out of the backfield often to be disguised as a blocker, only to slip out and run a sharp route that can catch defense napping.
As far as the blocking game goes, the two-star recruit shows the ability to be able to make punishing blocks in the run game, although most of his highlights display his ability as a pass-catcher.
Tyren Mason | Elkhart Memorial | WR
Mason, a two-star from Elkhart, Indiana, was only offered by Western Michigan in his recruiting process and he took full advantage of the opportunity.
The 6-foot, 175-pound two-star wide receiver has the ability to burn defenders deep when he is given a free release off the line of scrimmage. He can also beat corners with his speed in man coverage if they press him and aren’t physical enough with him at the line.
Mason also shows nice hands on tape and an ability to make contested catches. He shows a nice balance in his route running ability, from vertical routes to more sophisticated, shorter routes.
Mason displays elusiveness in the return game as well and looks dynamic when he gets into the open field.
Tyson Lee | Riley | DE
His discipline at his position is glaring on tape, as he rarely looks out of position and nearly always around the ball with a chance to make a play.
When rushing the quarterback, he does not seem to use speed as much as he uses his hands and technique to win one-on-one battles with offensive tackles. When he gets to the quarterback, he does a nice job of breaking down and wrapping up to finish plays.
He shows versatility on the offensive line in high school as well, showing agility on “pull” run plays to be a lead blocker for running backs.
Lee does not seem to give up on plays either, as he came from the opposite side of the field to track down a running back from behind in a few clips.