Michigan Commit Film Study: Junior Colson

Eric Rutter

As soon as Brentwood (Tenn.) Ravenwood four-star outside linebacker Junior Colson committed to Michigan, the Wolverines added a prospect that offers a unique blend of versatility as an athletic outside linebacker.

“I think my playing style is definitely more of a hybrid between essentially a linebacker and a corner, kind of like how Isaiah Simmons plays it," Colson told Wolverine Digest. “I like to be used in multiple positions, so I try to be multi-verse in being able to play most spots.”

Throughout the recruiting process, Michigan has sold Colson on the prospects of lining up at the Viper position, a spot previously held by Khaleke Hudson and Jabrill Peppers. Unlike those two players, though, Colson is a much taller athlete, and his pass rushing skills at outside linebacker are some of the best in the 2021 class.

At this point, Colson is 6-3.5 and 224 pounds, and he has expressed a strong desire to play multiple positions at the next level. The Viper seems to suit that desire well as Colson could still play in the box and blitz into the backfield when not dropping into coverage.

On film, Colson flies off the edge and has a quick burst once the ball is snapped. Colson’s get-off allows him to gain a step on offensive tackles, and he has the bend and leverage to slip around the outside or jump inside on a stunt if need be. That skill is only emphasized by Colson’s play recognition, which is one area the dynamic prospect said he is working on over the offseason.

Awareness is already a strength of Colson’s, though, and his ability to peel off of receivers and pursue the football is a clear strength. Many of Colson’s tackles on film come from his ability to chase down plays from the back side, which highlights his tenacity and pursuit.

In coverage, Colson as the coordination to drop back without flipping his hips and snagged a couple interceptions out of a back pedal last year. This aspect will allow U-M defensive coordinator Don Brown to use him virtually anywhere on defense.

According to 247Sports.com director of scouting Barton Simmons, Colson presents a bevy of strengths on film and should be an impact player early in his career at the next level.

“Formerly slender, athletic linebacker with length that has already begun the process to add mass to support an in-the-box role on the next level,” Simmons said. “Former wide receiver that brings that kind of athleticism to the linebacker position. Loose hips and a natural in coverage. Good ball skills. Attractive as a nickel linebacker. Comfortable operating in space as a perimeter tackler. Good athlete that checks the combine testing box. Extremely productive on a one of the best teams in Tennessee. Sure tackler but not ferocious. Nothing jarring about point of attack physicality. More equipped to be an uncovered run and chase defender than a downhill box defender but is starting to evolve in that regard. Has flashed pass rush ability as a blitzer. Athletic traits and physical development points to an eventual Power Five impact starter with the potential to be a mid-to-late round NFL Draft talent.”

But given Colson’s size before even entering his senior season, it is reasonable that the four-star prospect grows by the time he reaches college. If that were to happen, Colson could easily slide down to the weak-side defensive end position or even attack the quarterback with his hand off the ground as an outside linebacker.

One player that could serve as a decent comparison is former Miami Dolphins great Jason Taylor. As a long player who brought havoc on the edge, Taylor was a pass rushing phenom that bounced between playing with his hand in the dirt or lining up in the linebacking corps. Taylor’s measurable listed on NFL.com are 6-6 and 244 pounds, so a 20-pound weight gain from Colson over the next couple years would not be unheard of.

Either way, Colson has the athleticism required to excel at either position as one of the more versatile defenders in the nation.

Where do you see Junior Colson playing at the next level from a position standpoint? Is he more likely to play as a Viper or a defensive end in college or even a bit of both? Let us know!