Little did I know when I began writing this entry last night that we'd be in the midst of a commitment spree. 24 hours of 'crootin excitement goes a long way to filling the football void.
First on the docket? A long sought after defensive back.
Proud to announce my commitment to play football in the Big10 with The University of Minnesota! #GoGophers— Khari Blasingame (@Kb_bucks1) December 14, 2013
New Market (AL) safety prospect Khari Blasingame committed to Minnesota last night, becoming the 11th member of the Gophers' 2014 recruiting class and 5th projected defensive player. The Gophers had been after Khari for awhile, extending a scholarship offer within the first few days of the spring evaluation period after the physical DB toured Dinkytown for the Minnesota Spring Game.
Blasingame is rated as a 3 star prospect according to 247Sports' Industry Composite, with listed offers from Northwestern, Middle Tennessee, UAB, South Alabama and Appalachian State. Khari was also named to the All-Combine Team at the 2013 Atlanta Nike SPARQ combine.
Gopher247's Kyle Goblirsch with a quick commitment article ($):
"I really enjoyed the visit and enjoyed hanging out with all the other recruits. ... For my parents, it was a lot about getting the academic questions asked; and we got all those answered"
ESPNU evaluation ($):
Blasingame is gifted with good height and weight. His weight should even get better as he matures. He plays with good strength as he impresses when he takes balls away from receivers and breaks up plays. His speed is just average. ... Is a good zone defender as he sees the QB and gets a good jump on the thrown ball. Plays man well too, provided the receiver does not have great speed. He turns and runs, in a trail technique so if the receiver were to have great speed he would be too far behind.
The full evaluation behind ESPN's paywall is among the more condescending things I've read about a recruit, and I've read a lot of sketchy things in my time analyzing this space. I don't believe the slow decline in reporting/evaluation quality from ESPNU once they switched their focus to Under Armour All-American game and The Opening prospects is a coincidence.
(Likely Fraudulent) Measurables
Weight: 198-203 lbs.
Fake 40 time: 4.56-4.66s
Senior year, via Hudl.
When processing how Blasingame fits into the Gopher defense, one needs to first understand what the coaches look for when scouting and recruiting defensive backs:
With a large frame similar to current Minnesota safety Damarius Travis and 2013 signee Daletavious McGhee, Blasingame has ideal size to physically match up against B1G running backs and tight ends. After time in Klein's program, he should tip the scales at 210-215 lbs. while maintaining the necessary speed and athleticism for the position. Khari's power throw stats from the SPARQ combine indicate a high level of natural strength and explosion, both of which show out on film as well.
Second, one also needs to understand the complexities of playing safety under Sawvel and Coach Claeys. Safeties in this system are responsible for all the coverage calls and adjustments, so football intelligence and an ability to diagnose the strength of formation, blocking scheme and eligible receiver patterns is paramount.
Khari had a legit Northwestern offer, a listed score of 28 on the ACT and a 4.16 GPA. The first two are reasonable facsimiles of raw cognitive ability, while the latter is an indication of dedication and responsibility. I'd say all of that translates to a strong "fit" for what the Gophers want to do at safety.
Another key responsibility of Minnesota safeties is to take aggressive but proper angles on running backs who get past the linebackers when the Gophers stuff 8 in the box with a 4-3 under look and make the sure tackle. The last two Wisconsin games are a prime example of this, as Minnesota's safeties did a much better job tackling the Badgers RBs this season compared to 2012. One thing that sticks out on film about Khari are the angles he takes to the ballcarrier and when he gets there, consistently tackling through the back rather than aiming too high or low. Additionally, Blasingame has a good burst to close the gap quickly.
Brock Vereen did an excellent job of fulfilling all the responsibilities Sawvel asked of him at safety before moving to corner midway through this season. Derrick Wells performed better at safety last year, especially with injuries taken into account. Cedric Thompson and Antonio Johnson have each worked themselves into trustworthy players. In time, Blasingame should work himself into the rotation at safety and eventually compete for a starting position, since this staff has consistently shown an ability to develop talent in the defensive backfield.
As with any new commitment, people want to know how many other AQ conference schools wanted to sign said prospect and, if that recruit is slapped with the "under the radar" tag, why. Khari certain qualifies as a sleeper/under-recruited player at the BCS conference level.
One aspect that plays a factor is Blasingame's hometown and high school. New Market, AL is a very small town (< 1,600 people) and Buckhorn High School has produced only two AQ signees in the Internet recruiting era, including Khari. Additionally, there are rumblings that Buckhorn is on their 3rd head coach in as many years; constantly swapping contact information in the recruiting process is an easy way to get lost in the shuffle. Blasingame did camp at Vanderbilt over the summer, though the Commodores offered a similar safety prospect at the same camp (who later committed) instead.
The Northwestern offer and official visit should allay concerns about talent level though. Pat Fitzgerald has a solid track record for developing DBs, Fitz also wouldn't offer a prospect during their senior year who couldn't earn admission through Northwestern's selective standards.
Coach Sawvel and Kill have been after Khari for a long time now. a clear indication of where he stood on their safety wish list. Knowing that, plus the recent 1st Team All-B1G honor for Vereen, is everything Gopher fans need to know about Blasingame as a prospect and how excited recruitniks should get about his pledge. This staff has earned the benefit of the doubt.