In today’s installment of the Recruit Notebook, we look at a player who has been known locally since 8th grade, and who now ranks among the top prospects in the Nation: American Heritage-Plantation Running Back Sony Michel
Part 1: Sony Michel, the player
Sony Michel is a well built running back, measuring in at 5’11" and 205lbs. He added good size before his junior season, and used his newfound physicality with great success. Since Michel has been a known entity since his 8th grade year, we have seen his physical development in a very different way from other recruits.
Michel also clocks in around 4.47 in the 40, and shows very good short area quickness and change of direction. It was the final 2 points that most observers were concerned with this past season, which we’ll get to a little later. Overall, Sony Michel measures up favorably to many of the elite players at his position that we’ve seen over the past decade, and, on physical talent alone, looks the part of a star Running Back.
Michel is a very athletic player, and his athleticism factors in many different areas of his game. First of all, he’s incredibly quick. Michel has the ability to accelerate quickly, even in tight spaces, mainly on inside runs.
Michel’s straight line speed is another positive athletic trait, and one that he uses with great success. On screens, kickoff and punt returns, and cut-back runs, Michel uses his impressive speed to routinely pull away from defenders at the high school level. While I don’t see Michel consistently breaking 50 and 60 yard runs at the next level like other pure speed players (think former Clemson RB Andre Ellington), his speed will be something that will test defenders should he find open space.
This is the thing that separates Sony Michel from other players. He does a good job finding holes, and is decisive when turning upfield. Michel has above average balance, which allows him to stay on his feet after contact, and also to execute devastating cutbacks.
Michel has very good footwork, and does a good job setting up defenders and blocks down the field. He finds angles to twist and turn defenders in the open field, and continue toward the end zone. Michel also runs with great determination, rarely letting the first defender tackle him.
The one area of Michel’s running that is a polarizing point is his against the grain cutbacks. Some people love it when he puts a foot in the ground, circles back in the other direction and breaks loose for a long gain, usually a touchdown. Others hate the fact that he can, at times, seem to abandon the blocking/play design to just "out athletic" the defense, while not staying true to the offense. For me, this seems to be a case of the best player on the field making a play that others simply cannot. This works when playing in High School, but this should probably be a part of his game that is left at the prep level.
While he is mainly tasked with running the ball (as any Running Back SHOULD be), Sony Michel also impacts the game as a receiver. This mainly occurs in the screen game, or underneath checkdowns on drop back passes. Michel shows good hands, and though he’s not the most natural receiver, he doesn’t fight the ball coming in like other players at his position can tend to do.
Michel could be an effective player if he’s flexed out from the backfield in certain 5 WR sets. Putting him one-on-one against a team’s 3rd/4th best DB, or a LB (a CLEAR mismatch against all but the most talented coverage players) could be something that Offensive Coaches have to be excited about. Obviously, this empty set is only employed sparingly, so this will only be a footnote in the novel that will be Sony Michel’s career.
Michel has played RB, WR, KR, PR, as well as DB in high school. He could potentially be a receiver in certain situations as I’ve already discussed. However, I see him abandoning his ancillary roles to focus on Running Back exclusively.
Having the ability to play multiple positions is something that will come in handy as a multi-dimensional running back. However, the risk of injury as a kickoff or punt returner is far too great for a player of his talent to handle those chores. Also, every play he spends away from Running Back is one where his physical skills and football talent are not being used to their greatest potential.
Blitz pickup/Pass protection
This is an area where Michel, like nearly all HS RBs, can improve. As a star player on a good, but not great, team, Michel is used to run the ball or catch it, not stay in and protect the quarterback. Fundamentally, Michel seems to have the physical traits and athletic skills to be an adequate blocker in pass pro. For now, I would classify this as the weakest area of his game. With proper instruction, and added repetitions to refine his technique, Michel should eventually be able to handle these duties on a full time basis.
This is something that needs to be addressed, as Michel missed his entire Sophomore season due to an ACL tear. The injury, while serious, did not seem to derail is overall development as a player. Upon his return to the gridiron this fall, Michel looked every bit the part of a 5-star athlete, just as he had the last time he was in pads late in his Freshman season.
Hopefully, the resilience of youth, and an obviously carefully orchestrated and remarkable rehab routine will ensure that there are no further issues related to this previous injury.
Apart from this one significant injury, Michel has been a very durable player. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, there is nothing to indicate that he won’t continue to be a durable asset for his team both this season, and into the future.
Part 2: How does he fit?
Again, for those of you who are new (or if you just forgot how this works) we’re going to look at this in 2 parts: 1. how he fits in general for this recruiting cycle and, 2. how he fits the class Miami is building.
In general, Sony Michel is not just one of the top players locally (in South Florida) or in the State. He is an elite talent, who ranks among the best prospects in the country for this cycle. For those who care about such things, his rankings are as follows: ESPN150 watch list player (rankings forthcoming for this list), 5* player and National #2 RB by Scout, 5* player, #2 RB and #5 OVERALL player nationally by Rivals, and #1 player in Florida, National #2 RB, and #11 player overall by 24/7 composite rankings. He’s a cornerstone, foundation player not just for this class, but for a program overall. Getting Sony Michel is something that will have a positive impact for any school both in this recruiting cycle and future years.
As far as Miami is concerned, Sony’s impact would be two-fold. First, he is another elite player from South Florida, and keeping those types of players home as been a challenge in recent years. The early momentum of this class has started to turn the tide in the favor of the Hurricanes, and adding Sony Michel to the list of players who are staying home would be huge for Al Golden and company.
Secondly, as discussed in the Recruiting Radar, Miami is wholly dedicated to bringing in 3 RBs in this class. With Joseph Yearby already on board, the Hurricanes already have one top player committed at this position. Adding Sony Michel would then give the RB group for this class a solid foundation, which could be completed with nearly any player and arguably be the top group in the Country.
Put the RB group of Michel/Yearby/(insert player here) and the OL group of Darling/Gibbons/Linder/McDermott/(insert player here) together and the 2014 class for the Hurricanes would be well on the way towards a top 5 finish. Take Michel out of this group, and the class, while good, isn’t as highly regarded or as well constructed.
That’s the Sony Michel effect.
Part 3: College Projection
Running Back is a position where players can step in and have an immediate impact on the field, even as freshmen. While young players might not understand the nuances of pass protection, or be able to execute the entire playbook, they can come in and perform well in limited reps of things they already do well. There have been some freshmen who have excelled as the cornerstone of their team’s offense, including Marshall Faulk, Herschel Walker, Bo Jackson, Adrian Peterson, Ron Dayne, Isaiah Crowell, the Todd Gurley/Richard Marshall combo, Darren McFadden, Ricky Williams, and many more.
As previously discussed, Sony Michel has a variety of skills that should enable him to be a productive player from the moment he steps on campus. Conservatively speaking, 7 touches (rushes + receptions + returns) a game for a full college season (14 games, including a bowl game) is 98 touches in a season. That is a fair amount of playing time, as most teams average somewhere between 780 and 900 offensive plays in a season. For Sony Michel, 7 touches a game as a freshman could be in the realm of possibilities for his playing time. And if he does well, he could easily exceed that conservative projection and reach the usage rates of some of the aforementioned players.
A player who Michel compares to is…hard to find. Michel’s playing style is reminiscent of former USC RB CJ Gable, but Gable was nowhere near the highly touted recruit that Michel is, and Gable was a 5 star recruit. Demetris Summers was the crown jewel of a recruiting class for South Carolina, to the point where Steve Spurrier promised him the first touch of the year. South Carolina won the toss of their opener and deep to return the kickoff: Summers. Can’t make this stuff up, folks. But, neither Summers nor Gable had the on field impact that many project Sony Michel to have.
As far as a combination of recruiting hype and potential performance, the comparison to former USC RB Reggie Bush seems to work. Michel is a bit bigger, but Bush is faster. Both players have an innate ability to change direction on the field, and defenses have a hard time boxing them in. If Sony Michel can follow the career path of Reggie Bush (minus the whole NCAA violations thing), I’m sure he would be very pleased.
Athleticism – A
Football IQ – B+
Rushing – A
Receiving – b+
Fundamentals and Technique – A
Physical development – A+
Versatility – A+
Potential – A++
Overall Recruit Grade – A+++++++
Sony Michel is one of the top recruits in the country. He has been a known commodity in the recruiting world since he was in 8th grade. He is on the short list of nominees for National High School Player of the Year, and will either lead a coaching staff to extended success, or signal their impending doom.
That’s quite the responsibility for a 17 year old.
Michel has cut his list of finalists to Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Miami, and Notre Dame. To my estimation, 2 schools stand out above the rest: Georgia and Miami.
Michel has taken visits to all of his finalists, but Georgia and Miami stand out for a couple of reasons: both have prominently featured freshmen running backs in recent years, and both have a need for a top RB in this class. The other schools have good programs, but I don’t see Michel choosing any of them for his College career.
With his announcement date of April 26th rapidly approaching, the suspense about Sony Michel’s college destination won’t last much longer. There’s a story I’ve heard about his name: Michel’s mother, wanting her son to have a name that everyone would remember, named him after the most well-known electronics company in the world: Sony.
It seems her goal has come true. Everyone in the (recruiting) world knows her son’s name.
Now, he must let us know which fan base will be using it in cheers, and which in curses, for the coming years.