Not every All-American was a blue-chip recruit out of high school.
J.J. Watt was a 2-star prospect. Marcus Mariota was a 3-star recruit. And more recently, Michigan wide receiver Jehu Chesson was a low-rated 3-star player.
Michigan’s 2017 class is focused on the blue-chips, but which recruits are the diamonds in the rough?
Here are the three most underrated recruits in Michigan’s 2017 class:
3-star Newtown (Sandy Hook, Conn.) linebacker/fullback
You probably have heard Mason’s name the least of the 19 committed prospects in Michigan’s 2017 class. The multiposition star isn’t even ranked in the top three in Connecticut. He’s No. 5 in the state, No. 28 at inside linebacker and a measly No. 753 in the country.
Mason is your typical Jim Harbaugh recruit, though. He’s a big, stocky, linebacker that can go on the other side of the ball and play fullback. That’s what he’s done all season for his 9-0 Newtown Nighthawks. His statistics this season are unreal.
Defense: 55 tackles, three tackles for loss, two fumbles returned for TDs, one interception returned for a TD, half-sack
Offense: 52 carries for 639 yards (12.3 yards per carry), along with 11 TDs; 13 receptions for 159 yards, three TDs
Granted, he isn’t playing the best competition, but Mason’s sheer domination is black-and-white when you look at his stat line.
He’s a hungry, competitive workhorse that fits perfect into any role under his like-minded head coach Jim Harbaugh.
Since the fullback position is so valued by Harbaugh, though, I think that could be where Mason ends up. He’s built like current Michigan linebacker Ben Gedeon, and plays similarly, too.
Mason, or anybody else for that matter, probably won’t put up those kind of numbers at Michigan, but he’s sure to make his mark. He enrolls early in January.
4-star Toledo (Ohio) Central Catholic defensive end
Hudson isn’t rated as low as Mason, but his name hasn’t been brought up very much. And he didn’t receive many big-time offers, either, other than from Alabama. In fact, his in-state Ohio State Buckeyes never extended a scholarship offer to the 6-foot-5, 280-pound defensive end.
The Wolverines can say thanks to the Buckeyes for that one. Hudson was never going to go far from home. So eliminating the Buckeyes from contention gave Michigan one less problem to worry about.
Hudson is outside the top-300 players nationally, ranked No. 325, but his statistics against some of the stiffest competition in Ohio, one of the best football states, speaks for itself. Hudson has racked up 61 tackles, 26 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. He plays on the state’s No. 18 ranked team, and the nation’s No. 177 ranked team by MaxPreps.
And he dominates.
His frame towers over everyone on the field. Watching him play is like watching your big uncle with the kids in the backyard for the annual Thanksgiving football game. He has the intangibles to start for Michigan’s thin defensive line as soon as next season, though his time probably will not come until his redshirt freshman or sophomore season.
He’s got a good head on his shoulders and absolutely loves the game. His active hands, and pure strength, will do wonders for him at the next level. And he might make the Buckeyes sorry for never offering him.
4-star Montreal (Quebec) Cegep du Viuex cornerback
To say his school and his name in the same sentence is indeed a mouthful. But no one will be complaining when the public address announcer calls his name in the Big House in a year.
When St-Juste committed to Michigan as a junior more than a year ago, he was a 2-star recruit. He was also the first commitment of the 2017 class. It wasn’t until this July that St-Juste’s ranking jumped.
During NIKE’s The Opening camp, St-Juste went up against the very best prospects in the country. And he shined.
— Tom Loy (@TomLoy247) July 9, 2016
His ability to mirror opposing receivers, and his technical soundness, created a performance good enough for second-team all-defense at the best summer camp in prep football.
— Benjamin St-Juste (@BenjWolfpack24) July 14, 2016
After that performance, 247Sports’s solo rankings moved him all the way up from just below 900 to top 100 in the country, and a 4-star designation. Although the composite made him a 4-star as well, it still has him at No. 308, and not too far from falling back to a 3-star.
St-Juste’s frame is outstanding, and all you can ask for from an incoming freshman cornerback. He’s 6-foot-3, 188 pounds and has everything it takes to be an All-American cornerback by the time his junior season rolls around. He’s about the same size as Seahawks Pro Bowl cornerback Richard Sherman, who played for Jim Harbaugh at Stanford.
It’s hard to call a prospect the “next Richard Sherman,” but St-Juste has the dimensions and the potential to at least get close.
With Michigan losing a couple of cornerbacks this year, St-Juste will be the biggest at the position in 2017 and have a shot to play a role in the defense early on.
All ratings are from the 247Sports.com composite rating system, unless otherwise noted.