In a 2014 recruiting class that is stock-piling top talent from across the country, Michigan may have found one of its most promising players near the bottom of many recruiting boards. Hailing from the state of Pennsylvania, Chase Winovich is leading a Thomas Jefferson squad that has sent quite a few players to nearby Pittsburgh in recent years. Winovich grew up an OSU fan and went as far as calling his April 6th Buckeye offer "a dream come true", and immediately moved Ohio State into his top three. Michigan offered two days after that. Coupled with the fact that Winovich grew up a Buckeye fan, Michigan had a considerable amount of room to makeup in order to secure a commitment from the rangy, athletic linebacker
Michigan did just that, impressing Winovich on his first two visits to Ann Arbor, one of which was the Spring Game. With a Michigan offer firmly in his possession and two trips to Michigan under his belt, Winovich felt comfortable enough to place the Wolverines into his top three. Shortly after, Chase announced that he would become a member of Team 135 after his senior season, joining the likes of Michael Ferns, Wilton Speight and Mason Cole who had already committed at that point.
Judging from his junior tape, Michigan is set to reap the benefits of another versatile, play-making linebacker that could fit smoothly into the SAM position of Greg Mattison's defense. With mixed reviews of his skills (3-star ranking on Rivals and ESPN and 4-star status on Scout and 247), Winovich is often regarded as a wild card in this class. However, the book on Chase is that he is a high-energy prospect who displays exciting, yet at times concerning aggressiveness and passion for the game.
This year Winovich has been tasked with playing both sides of the ball for Thomas Jefferson- anchoring the defense at linebacker while also guiding the offense from the quarterback position. In addition to this grueling workload, Chase participates on special teams as well. This can be seen in one of two ways- concerning that Winovich is spread so thinly through the course of an entire season or exciting that Michigan is getting by all accounts a freak athlete that has the tenacity and the mentality as a gamer that is so valuable on defense.
With 7 games under his belt so far, Winovich has propelled Thomas Jefferson to an undefeated season.. Winovich leads his team with 33 total tackles, many of which wind up on an impressive highlight reel. which is available on HUDL.
After watching his midseason tape, some things are blatantly obvious about his game. Winovich is a tall, high-energy kid that can impact a game immensely on both sides of the ball. Displaying his outstanding athleticism at quarterback, Winovich's greatest asset is his ability to break tackles and outrun defenders when he finds space. This translates very well on defense as he has good straight line speed and excels at closing on the ball carrier. He is agile and expresses a desire to break up plays in the backfield with the tenacity to do so.
The strength of his game at linebacker is his ability to diagnose plays early in their development and swim freely through the line to make tackles. Winovich's ability to shed blockers and navigate through a cluster of blockers all stems from the leverage he uses at the point of impact, rarely missing on tackles or giving up cheap yards after contact. This leads to a disruptive, dangerous match-up for any high school team and looks to translate well into the college game. With the implementation of a weight training program designed by coach Wellman, Chase should benefit from additional mass on his long frame.
While Winovich has an extremely high ceiling, there are several areas that separate his game from that of elite prospects. Falling in line with his high motor, Chase has a tendency to over pursue on some plays and doesn't take the most direct route to the ball other times. These are both correctable, but are weaknesses of his game. It would also benefit Winovich to work on his cover skills before he is asked to shadow 6'5, 245 lb tight ends that are just as fast, if not faster than he is. He is capable at defending underneath routes with success, but should work in deep patterns to build a more complete skill set. Another aspect that should receive some attention is his pass rush- Winovich relies on his speed and hasn't developed too
many moves in pursuit of the quarterback, but he is also not a finished product.
All things considered, Michigan is getting a freak athlete with the potential to develop into a valuable tool in several areas on defense. He may need a redshirt year to refine his skills and add size before entering the lineup, but Winovich may be a staple of Michigan's linebacking corps for the future along with fellow 2014 commit Michael Ferns. Both players have great film up to this point and are great athletes for their respective teams. When the two team up at Michigan, the pair may grow into a dominating force for the coming years.