Breaking Down Owen Wafle’s Commitment to Michigan Football

Syndication: Detroit Free Press
Syndication: Detroit Free Press /

The Wolverines struck quickly on the recruiting trail, landing a four-star defensive lineman almost immediately after he decommitted from Notre Dame.

Owen Wafle has committed to Michigan football. That was very quick after the four-star defensive lineman pledged to the Wolverines after decommitting from Notre Dame last month.

This was a recruitment that Michigan football was reportedly a very silent factor in, as happens from time to time, but clearly prioritized as Mike Elston accepted his commitment prior to a string of upcoming official visitors this summer at the same position.

Wafle is listed as an “EDGE” on 247Sports, and ranked as the 404th composite player in the nation, but is almost certainly an interior lineman for the Wolverines, likely slotting in at either 3-technique (think Mason Graham) or 5-technique (think Kris Jenkins Jr.). In addition to the offer from Notre Dame, Wafle also holds scholarship offers from a handful of quality defensive coaching staffs, with Iowa, Boston College, Duke, Minnesota, and Rutgers all joining in, as well as Oklahoma and Michigan State.

This one stands as a major win for both Michigan football defensive line coach Mike Elston as well as Wafle’s primary recruiter, Chris Partridge. Partridge worked his New Jersey ties here and helped keep Michigan football in an excellent position, facilitating a silent visit to Ann Arbor recently.

Scouting Report on Wafle

While my expertise is the offensive line, it does help that most of my time in college was thus spent scouting and watching film on opposing team’s defensive lines, thus giving me a high degree of comfort in evaluating the position. Here are my thoughts on Wafle:

"The first thing that sticks out about Wafle on film is his terrific closing speed. His first clip in particular is him aligned on offense as a fullback, moving very fast to land a knockout block on the linebacker. On the defensive clips, the speed off the snap and in closing ground remains a prominent feature to his game. He plays with a good base, and excellent leverage.Wafle has fairly long arms as well, and uses those to initiate contact regularly, giving him an advantage as a pass rusher and gap controller. He has powerful hands, and can generate push in a bull rush quite easily at the high school level, and definitely has the ability to translate that to the next level. He most certainly will kick inside at the next level, as his 6-3, 290 pound build is ideally suited to be an interior game wrecker.Right now, he plays more like a gap-shooter than a gap controller, but he certainly has the tools to become a well-rounded player against the run and the pass. The upside is very high for Owen Wafle at Michigan."

A trustworthy high school coach in Michigan compared Wafle to former Notre Dame DT Kurt Hinish, a player recruited and developed by Michigan DL coach Mike Elston during his time in South Bend. I also really love the comparison of former Titans Pro Bowl DL Jurrell Casey. That is not to say Wafle will have the same kind of college and NFL career as Casey, but rather that they share some similarities in play style.

Additionally, this is what 247Sports’ top Northeast scout, Brian Dohn, had to say when evaluating Wafle:

"Thick build with plus length and has frame to add 20 to 30 pounds and remain effective with speed and agility. Has versatility to play on edge or increase size and move inside on defensive line of scrimmage. Has low center of gravity and plays low to win leverage. Has snaps on both sides of ball as fullback and defensive lineman. Strong, physical, hard-nosed player with strong work ethic. Showed ability to bend during spring workout. Ferocious style of play evident during in-game eval in fall 2021. Gets off quickly at snap and covers ground well in first three steps. Shows stack-and-shed ability. Can take on block and re-direction along line of scrimmage. Can anchor in run game. Willing to take on and fight through double teams. Relies heavily on power and strength and often wins leverage by sinking hips. Plays with high effort and has strong work ethic. Does show rip and spin moves but needs to continue to develop technique and diversify move sets. Has to maintain lower body flexibility while also getting stronger. Multi-year starter at high-level program. Has late round NFL draft potential."

Impact on Michigan football DL Recruiting

At the moment, Michigan has Connecticut four-star Jerod Smith committed as an interior defensive lineman (3T), as well as Ohio four-star Ted Hammond (3T). Michigan also has a pair of versatile linebackers who could occupy full-time EDGE roles in college with the proper development in Tennessee four-star Mason Curtis and Pennsylvania three-star Cole Sullivan.

Additionally, Connecticut lineman Manuel Beigel is also listed as a defensive lineman, but could easily play offensive line as well, and especially noteworthy that a handful of programs have offered Beigel recently as an offensive lineman instead.

However, as far as interior defensive line options, Michigan appears to be narrowing its board very quickly. Nose tackle Dayvid Palepale (PA) is the most likely target left on the board to join. After him, the board appears to be just five-star Justin Scott out of Chicago as a crowning jewel for the class if Michigan can land him, but that is certainly an uphill battle.

All of this is a very long-winded way of saying: We really do not know how exactly the DL room will unfold. Most of the prospects the Wolverines are in on or have committed are very versatile. Right now Michigan likely sees Wafle as a 3T with the ability to kick further inside to 1T (nose tackle), whereas Hammond and maybe even Jerod Smith could be 3T players with the flexibility to kick a bit further out, to the 5T role that Kris Jenkins Jr. currently plays.

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In short, Michigan football will almost certainly be adding one or two more edge rushers. Dominic Nichols remains a top target, as does Jerod’s brother Jacob. Interior-wise, Michigan could be content with a group of Hammond, Smith, Beigel, and Wafle, but if the Wolverines liked Beigel at OL, they still could realistically fit one more iDL into the class, though expect it to be a more true 1T (nose tackle), such as Pennsylvania three-star David Palepale, who appears to be trending towards the Wolverines.