Freshmen Faces: Makari Paige
Coming out of West Bloomfield (Mich.) High, Makari Paige was considered a four-star prospect, the No. 244 overall player nationally and the No. 25 safety in the country according to the 247 Sports Composite. Paige was a key piece of a very good defense in high school and really looks the part of a future college safety. The rangy defender had 94 tackles, including five for loss, two fumble recoveries, two interceptions and seven pass breakups as a senior.
Paige committed to Michigan on July 30, 2019 after playing things very close to the vest for the majority of his recruitment. Paige was targeted by Michigan early in the process as a local product, especially from the pipeline high school that is West Bloomfield. The long, lanky safety racked up more than 30 offers over his high school career and had some very solid options to choose from. He had opportunities from schools like Iowa, Minnesota, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Penn State, West Virginia and Wisconsin among others.
Player Breakdown/Player Comparison
Build wise, Paige has an outstanding frame. He's all of 6-3 and still looks thin as he gets ready to embark on his college career. He's not necessarily skinny, and actually plays a pretty physical brand of football, but he's definitely got room to add weight and turn into a menacing presence at safety. He runs really well and has very long limbs, which allows him to play even longer than his listed height.
At 6-3, Paige is actually taller than most starting safeties in the NFL, but he looks a lot like Justin Simmons of the Denver Broncos. Currently, Simmons checks in at 6-2, 202 pounds with long arms and legs.
Coming out of high school, Simmons was 6-2, 175 pounds, which is only about 10-15 pounds lighter than Paige is. On MGoBlue.com, Paige is listed at 192 pounds, which is already a little heavier than he was when he finished his career at West Bloomfield.
Simmons was viewed more as a cornerback coming out of high school, but eventually shifted to safety while at Boston College. As he prepared for the NFL Draft, Simmons was described as having a lanky frame with broad shoulders and long arms. That's definitely how most would describe Paige. Simmons was viewed as someone who covers a lot of space, does a good job playing centerfield and also as a willing tackler. All of those traits perfectly describe Paige as well.
The knocks on Simmons were that he was a bit thin, showed some stiffness in his hips and played a bit too tall. Paige hasn't been described as playing too tall necessarily, but he does need to bulk up and is definitely a safety; he doesn't have the hip fluidity to cover like a corner, but he's serviceable.
Simmons ultimately ended up being a third round pick by the Broncos and is now one of the more productive safeties in the league. If Paige can play/start for three years, get drafted in the first half of the draft and carve out a role as a reliable safety in the NFL, Michigan fans would have to be happy with that.
Michigan is in great shape at safety heading into 2020 with senior Brad Hawkins and sophomore standout Daxton Hill holding down the top two spots. Behind them, however, it's pretty thin. Paige is thin, but he's got great overall size and length making him a pretty intriguing player as a freshman. He could definitely stand to add some weight and strength, but he can run, cover and defend in ways that shorter defensive backs can't. It wouldn't surprise me if he didn't play in 2020 and took a redshirt, but he could push for time in the two deep because there are probably some potential snaps there; not many, but some.