January 27, 2012

Chesson will prove a sleeper in 2012 class

Wide receiver Jehu Chesson remains Michigan's most recent commitment, pledging Dec. 21. That decision was the culmination of three years of communication between the St. Louis native and U-M, beginning with Rich Rodriguez's staff ...

"I visited Michigan my sophomore year, I went to the summer football camp, but that was before Coach Rodriguez got fired," Chesson said. "I didn't know what to think but when the new coaching staff was introduced, I got excited. Coach [Jeff] Hecklinski came to watch me run track last spring, kept in contact, offered me, and we really spent the past year building that relationship."

Hecklinski made the sales pitch but head coach Brady Hoke sealed the deal.

"He was at the house [Monday] and he just makes his presence known," Chesson said. "Coach Hoke treats everyone with respect. Coach [Pat] Fitzgerald was very similar ... their love for the game, their love for the players. They put the players before themselves. That in itself is just fantastic.

"A lot of coaches worry about their records and themselves, but if you treat the players the way they're supposed to be treated, give them respect, they'll give you respect back and you'll have a great program. Coach Hoke understands that. And not a lot of coaches do."

Chesson, 6-3, 185 pounds, has respect for all phases of the game, and is more than willing to do his part as both a receiver and a blocker. He spent his career at Ladue Horton Watkins trying to emulate a teammate, Dre Washington (2008-10), who was considered one of the better blockers the Rams ever had.

"We're going through our individual goals [before his junior year], and you'd expect Jehu to say he wanted to lead the team in receiving, score the most touchdowns, that kind of stuff, but what he wanted was to block like Dre," said Rams coach Mike Tarpey.

"Jehu was pretty wiry at that point [6-3, 170 pounds] but he really wanted to add that component to his game because he knew it would help the team if he was an extra blocker on every running play. He put on about 10 pounds, and he really just assumed this mindset where he would challenge anyone.

"He was taking on our linebackers, and some of our bigger defensive linemen early in camp. I loved his toughness, but it got to the point where I had to tell him to back off.

"He really loves the physical game. He doesn't just want to be a guy that runs his route and catches a few passes. He wants to be involved in every play because he wants to be a great teammate.

"Sometimes those kind of intangibles get lost or overlooked by people that rank kids, but if you talk to coaches, they want those kids that believe they are one of 11 with a job to do, whether running a route, being a decoy, blocking downfield or at the point of attack. Jehu is that kind of selfless kid dedicated completely to the team."

He wasn't a half-bad wide receiver either, setting school records for receptions (129), yards (1,764) and touchdowns (22) during his three seasons.

Chesson is a consensus three-star recruit, but the evaluators will be proved wrong, his coach believes.

"His upside is not unlike a lot of high school players that didn't grow up on football," Tarpey said. "He hasn't been playing it since he was five or six, so he's only at the beginning stages of understanding and learning the game. And because of his personality, his coachability, his physical tools, he will excel. He's a true sleeper.

"He could easily be a 6-4, 215-pound guy someday that is just a nightmare to match up with. Will that happen? It's up to him, but I'd expect it because Jehu is a hard worker. Academics don't come easy to him yet he gets good grades. Getting bigger is a struggle, but he's added muscle and weight every year with us. He's the kind of kid that always applies himself, so the sky is the limit."

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