Updated: Apr 4
Match-Up to Watch Nick McMillan (Canisius) 22' - WR vs Ellis Robinson IV (Iona Prep) 24' - DB
(NEW ROCHELLE, NY) - One week from today, the Canisius (Buffalo, NY) HS football team will take a 6 hour drive Southeast to Iona Prep (New Rochelle, NY) which will bring together over 20 future collegiate players that will compete at the Division 1 through Division 3 levels. These are the types of games that will elevate high school football in New York and continue to build a culture that galvanizes our communities to wake up on a Friday or Saturday morning with the same jitters we all feel on Super Bowl Sunday. High School football is the heart of our game. Without the 1.2 million high school football players and our youth leagues playing the game, there is no NFL, CFL, XFL, AFL or AAF. The love of the game coupled with the foundational skills taught at the lower levels are essential for the NFL to exist. This game will have a playoff type atmosphere and I expect the amount of online viewers to be high with the attendance restrictions.
From an evaluation stand point, this game is a must watch. One of the difficulties of evaluating football players at any level is differentiating between equally talented players or what many call “cluster busting”. It’s easy to see particular traits stand out when a superior athlete is dominating a player that simply does not possess the size and athleticism to compete. The challenge comes when you are handed 6 players that are all similar and tasked with stacking them. If you don’t have an internal process, you’ll be stuck scratching your head. I hear a lot of people talking about players moving up and down college recruiting boards, but lack the experience in actually building a roster that matches what a team does schematically. That is not the focus of this articles, but it is something that gets neglected in the process of evaluation.
One best practices to aid in the stacking process is to find the best competition a player has faced. If the player has been dominant, WHO he has dominated against is key. Now, do not be mistaken by thinking that because a player does not perform well against another equally talented player that the player is graded too high or is all of a sudden overrated. The match-up just provides evidence that you can use to support a grade.
Next week, there are going to be some great matchups. For college coaches and player personnel support staff, note pads will be out scribbling scouting terms.
One match-up we are eagerly waiting to see is between Ellis Robinson IV (2024 – DB – 6’0 – 170lbs) and Nick McMillan (2022 - WR - 6’2 – 185lbs). It will be interesting to see where McMillan aligns (Outside or reduced into the Slot) and if Iona Prep has Robinson follow him.
Iona Prep has a talented Secondary and may decide not to make any unique personnel match-up decisions to mitigate an explosive player like McMillan. This will be something I'll be watching paying attention to. Below are some additional observations, I'll be looking at next week.
We see this all the time. A player is listed at a particular height and weight and then when you see them up close, it doesn’t match. One thing I’ll be looking at is how the players look when facing each other. McMillan is listed at 6’2 and Robinson and 6’0 so there should only be a subtle difference when they are aligned across from each other. I've seen Robinson up close and plays taller than his listed height.
Both players are long-limbed so in those one on one matchups, length could be the difference maker when both players are competing to win at the catch point. Robinson has arms like an octopus and I’ve used the term “tentacles” to describe him. If he is in fact 2 inches shorter than McMillan, his length will should mitigate the height difference.
DB Transition Ability vs WR Footwork/Body Positioning at the Breakpoint
Let’s make this statement before I discuss this. Wide Receivers have the advantage over Defensive Backs in a one on one situation. Why? Wide Receivers know where they are going and the Defensive backs do not. They are reacting off of the receivers movement. Yes, there are “tells” through advanced scouting that aid in helping the DB react but the fact remains: the WR still has the advantage. One thing to look at is the type of routes McMillan runs and how he attempts to create separation which can be accomplished in a multitude of ways. Some players have extremely efficient footwork out of their breaks in combination with the ability to position their bodies in ways that make it difficult for the DB to transition and close fast enough to make a play at the catch point. Can McMillan sell vertical routes to force Robinson to open his hips? Can he tie his footwork together while using his hands to gain separation against Press Man? Will Robinson be able to plant, drive and close quickly enough to get to the catch point? Does he have the ability to flip his hips and the speed to remain in-phase on vertical routes and transition when McMillan stems his route? When you have equally talented players, coaching and execution of technical skills is the differentiator. Do you revert back to your training or get rattled and throw all the coaching and technical training out the window when pressure is increased? These are answers we will be looking to get next Saturday.
Regardless of who is winning their match up during the game, we should all have eyes on how both of these players compete and whether they quickly move on from plays where they lost the rep. Defensive Backs need to have poor memories. Meaning that when they give up a big play do they lose confidence. The Elite players at any level have this. They quickly forget the play and maintain emotionally neutral. I'm not referring to outward emotion, I'm talking about internally. With high school players, you can see that through their body language.
Ultimately, this game is not going to make or break either of these players but it will provide both of them with feedback to grow as players.