High School: Garfield Heights HS; Garfield Heights, Ohio
Welcome to Melvin Fellows’ Recruitment. I’m Melvin Fellows! Melvin appeared on several team’s radars early into his junior season of football. Pittsburgh, Nerdwestern, Wisconsin and Purdue were all in contact with him. South Carolina had made inquiries as well. Of all the school sending early inquiries regarding Melvin, no two stood out more than Notre Dame and Illinois. Notre Dame brought Melvin in for an unofficial visit to watch the Irish play the Middies, which may have been just the most unfortunate timing for Notre Dame. Melvin didn’t get as much mileage out of the loss as I — and the rest of America — did. Rather than think critically about the program for the loss, Melvin gave positive remarks about the atmosphere, the campus and the “quality of a Notre Dame degree” that only Notre Dame alums mention. Illinois was the more important player here. Zook has targeted Ohio — especially NE Ohio — for intrusion. His method of attack: be the first BCS offer for some Ohio kids that Ohio State may be more methodical in evaluating. This was the case for Melvin, as the Illini were his first offer. He visited Champaign for their home game against the Badgers and liked what he saw. In fact, he really liked what he saw, it seems.
Melvin Fellows Commits to Illinois. It’s not like Illinois was the only program recruiting Melvin. It’s not like he didn’t want to be at Ohio State. He was on a visit to Ohio State to watch the Buckeyes pound on the Nerds in 2007. He had even gone so far to say that it was his dream to be recruited by Ohio State. It was therefore a bit of a surprise when he committed to Illinois in early December 2007. That’s crazy!
Though he had expressed to Kurelic a few months earlier that he was “wide open” and considering all options, apparently Zook’s ploy — being the first foot in the door — worked.
“I know it’s only a verbal (commitment) but right now, it’s Illinois … Illinois was the first college to offer me a scholarship, they’ve kept in constant contact with me and I love Ron Zook.”
It was probably a good thing that Melvin seemed somewhat noncommittal on his commitment, because Ohio State’s staff didn’t appear to think too much of it. In essence, the Buckeyes’ staff seemed to be interested in the home state product, but were Zooked before they ever got to make their case to Melvin. In a move portending, perhaps ironically, the “gentlemen’s agreement” comment that came a couple months later, Tressel offered Melvin a full ride to Ohio State two weeks after his commitment to Illinois. Ohio State assured Melvin that they had wanted to pay a visit for awhile, but it appears they came short of admitting that the quick verbal commitment to Illinois was what eventually got them out for a visit. Taver Johnson paid a visit, watched some film and asked for his grades — a solid 3.0 GPA — before returning back to Columbus. Afterwards, Johnson called Melvin and said they were going to offer him and that he should check his mailbox. Melvin was excited, and even indicated that his verbal commitment to Illinois could now be considered “soft”.
“I’m not going to say I’m staying with Illinois,” Fellows said. “But that’s where I’m at right now.”
Aside from formally signalling the staff’s interest in Melvin as a prospective player for the Scarlet and Gray, the offer was the clearest possible signal to Ron Zook: It’s on.
Now that the it had been formally on-brought by Ohio State’s staff, the momentum swung in Ohio State’s favor. Beginning January 2008, Ohio State started to make its move on Melvin. Jim Heacock — his would-be position coach and coordinator — stopped by his high school, resulting in an agreement for a visit on the weekend on January 19-20. The visit went well. Melvin offered positive reviews of the academic facilities, the WHAC, and Tressel and Heacock, but he gave no indication when he’d make a final decision (between Ohio State and Illinois). Melvin said those two schools were the only two he was considering now, but the discussion of a “final decision” raises an interesting philosophical question about the essence of the “decision” he made in early December.
This was essentially the situation for the next 3 months leading up to Ohio State’s Spring Game. Melvin was really interested in Ohio State, even saying that it’s “every player’s (from Ohio) dream to play for the Buckeyes”. However, he still felt beholden to Illinois, with the verbal commitment in December serving as an implicit bond between Melvin and Illini’s coaching staff. Ohio State started to make some serious advances in Melvin’s recruitment to weaken that bond. By the end of January, Melvin started to discuss taking more visits to Ohio State, including the Spring Game. However, since Illinois and Ohio State’s spring games would be on the same day, Melvin had an important choice to make. Tressel, the top dog himself, even paid a visit to his high school (w/ Taver Johnson) at the end of the month, though Tressel was not allowed to talk with the junior Fellows. Rather than talk to Melvin, Tressel chatted up just about everyone else, making a strong impression on Melvin’s head coach. Melvin’s coach had previous experience with Ron Zook (via Sirod Williams), but seemingly not with Tressel.
The visits to Ohio State became more frequent as well. Melvin even attended Ohio State’s junior day with his head coach and high school principal, offering glowing remarks about the experience. In his words, “There are no bad things about Ohio State. I can’t think of nothing bad about it. Everything just fits.” He insisted that he was still committed to Illinois, but it certainly seems less and less like a commitment with each comment. He wasn’t done taking visits either. He came back at the end of March to watch a spring practice, one of the first the Buckeyes had in pads that year. The remarks — as always — were positive. He wasn’t done taking visits to Ohio State, either. In fact, the late March visit seemed to be enough to make an important decision for Melvin by this time in his recruitment: he was going to attend Ohio State’s spring game, and not Illinois’ spring game held the same day. He had assumed earlier that he would go to Champaign that weekend instead of Columbus.
Melvin genuinely enjoyed his visit to the Spring Game, though the comments didn’t seem to portend something important coming up in the near future. He said the only negative comment was the rainy weather for that game. After that, everything was wonderful. He met Dorian Bell, Terrelle Pryor and DeVier Posey. He genuinely liked the camaraderie among the incoming players. However, he held to the line that he liked Ohio State, but was still committed to Illinois. Further, he had plans to visit Champaign in a few weeks.
Melvin Fellows Decommits, Commits to Ohio State. That’s Crazy! If it was a shock that Melvin committed when he did to Illinois, it was a shock of comparable or even greater value that he switched his commitment to Ohio State a day after providing relatively nondescript comments about the Ohio State Spring Game experience. However, the news here was obviously much better.
So what brought about this change of heart? Melvin mentioned a host of factors that he mentioned in other recruiting articles months earlier. He loved Ohio State’s tradition. He liked the coaches, and was impressed with Heacock’s coaching style. He’s an Ohio kid, and good Ohio kids aspire to play at Ohio State. As he had just mentioned, he liked the team atmosphere among the players, both current and incoming. There were all sorts of things he liked about Ohio State. However, distance may have been the proximate cause to his change of heart. Of course, Ohio State had always been closer to his Cleveland-area home than Illinois, but it had begun to dawn on him how important it was for him to stay close to home so his parents could see him play. It was something mom had mentioned.
Fellows’ mother is happy with her son’s decision.
“Yes I am,” Desiree Fellows said. “It’s closer for us. I’ll be able to go see him play. And he’ll be able to come home more often.”
Melvin called Jim Tressel to tell him of his decision. An excited Tressel congratulated him and advised him to start preparing to help his high school team win a state championship. Melvin later called Illinois’ staff to inform him of his decision. Understandably, they were not going to give up on him and were going to send a coach out to his high school shortly. Melvin said he was 100 percent committed to Ohio State now, though it’s understandable Illinois didn’t think he was. After all, he was 100 percent committed to Illinois and done with recruiting in December. Unlike that previous commitment, this one didn’t change. Illinois tried for the next 3 months, even trying to get him to come out for a summer camp. Making no progress towards changing Melvin’s mind, the Illini conceded defeat in mid-July.
Melvin’s April 24th commitment makes him the 11th commitment in the class and, in my typology, the last of the Spring Game commitments (Bell, Hall, Melvin Fellows’ Safari Planet). His switcheroo is also a clear signal from Tressel and staff to Ron Zook to stay out of Ohio, deadbeat. Keep your ugly fucking goldbricking ass out of our beach community. Ideally, I’d link that last line to YouTube. Someone with some spare time on their hand needs to upload that scene from The Big Lebowski to YouTube. Not now, but right now.
Where He Excels: Again, Melvin is an enthusiastic young man going with an abiding love of punishing blockers and all of God’s creatures who stand between him and the ballcarrier.
The Buckeye fan is sure to tent his/her fingers with glee with a softly spoken “niiiice” while watching Melvin’s highlight film. There are a lot of things that he does well. He plays to the whistle and can be a terror on backside pursuit. He plays through his legs, overpowering — and basically embarrassing — his designated blocker. A tailback staying back in pass protection does not impress Melvin. His closing speed can be outright scary, reducing the otherwise sympathetic Buckeye fan into a sympathy for the pain that awaits a ballcarrier in Melvin’s sights. If pressed for a simple response here, I think his upper body stands out the most. It’s not uncommon for a 4 or 5 star prospect at his position to not know how to use his upper body. Thus, they’re ineffective at shedding blockers. This is basically not a problem for Melvin. He knows leverage and he knows how to hand-fight in the trenches. Further, his bullrush is really nice.
Though not one of the tangible attributes of Melvin, anyone who’s coached him or been around him at Garfield Heights speaks very highly of his character. Melvin may be a monster on the field, but he’s something of a teddy bear off it. Never underestimate how important this character attribute can be for something like “coachability”. By all accounts, Melvin is well-behaved, takes care of business in the classroom and in the weight room and is — if I can make a reference to one of my favorite cartoons1 — good to his mother.
Must Work On: I didn’t see a lot that stood out to me from what I was able to watch. The only red flag that immediately jumped out to me is how Melvin isn’t very careful with his feet nor is he too explosive out of the gates. Every now and then, he’ll make a weird stutter-step. It’s not a move, per se, it’s just a wasted step. I think it’s reducible to his ability to fire off the ball when snapped, and it’ll be something for him to work on while at Ohio State.
Redshirt? Unless Melvin really impresses when he gets here, it doesn’t appear that he’ll get too much playing time immediately. The defensive line is the deepest unit on the team in 2009. Considering his injury a few months ago as well, and it seems like a redshirt may be in order.
Highlights: Fortunately, the internets has a little more on file of Melvin than they do of some other players in this class. You can watch some junior year highlights below. You can also watch a 9 minute interview session with Bucknuts as well.
- Melvin and classmate Chris Fields have been fast friends since playing against each other in the 10th grade. Fields texted Fellows soon after he committed to Ohio State.
- All references to the SNL skit here are in good intentions and are not meant to be mean-spirited.
- Melvin met Marcus Hall on his weekend visit in mid-January. They exchanged contact information and have been friends ever since. Melvin expected to meet up with Marcus again at Junior Day, but Marcus was not able to attend. Instead, Melvin made acquaintances with Jonathan Newsome, who was able to attend.
- Melvin was the unquestioned leader of his Garfield Heights team. It was a huge blow for the team when his season ended prematurely with a knee injury. Melvin isn’t even sure how he injured his lateral meniscus, and it seems like the swelling and pain he encountered was attributable to growing into his body while playing at such a high level (read: stress-inducing) of football. The injury was catastrophic for the Garfield Heights team. They started 4-0 when Melvin was 100 percent, but as the injury slowed him down, the Garfield Heights team shut down. They finished 4-6.
- The story presented here was basically a battle between Illinois and Ohio State. For the sake of parsimony, I necessarily ignored overtures made by Notre Dame at the end of February and the brief interest from Southern California in mid to late March because I felt they were inconsequential (overall) to the story.
- His injury also sidelined him for the Under-Armour All-American Game, which he opted to play for in lieu of the Army All-American Bowl. He was one of five Buckeyes in attendance, joining Jack Mewhort, CJ Barnett, Duron Carter and Jaamal Berry.
- Melvin was the subject of the most exhaustive Signing Day profile on Bucknuts. This feature was reprinted in the Bucknuts magazine edition and is worth reading, mostly for the discussion of the injury and how Melvin is rehabbing.
- Melvin Fellows counts Thaddeus Gibson as one of his idols. He wears #90 partly in tribute to him (and Julius Peppers). I’ll let him explain:
“He’s a big inspiration to me,” Fellows said about Gibson. “In high school I started watching him in my freshman year and that’s why I actually got number 90, because of him and Julius Peppers. So after that, when he went to Ohio State, we kept in contact. And ever since then he’s kind of been my mentor, telling me what to look for, and telling me as a freshmen what I should look for, even before I committed to Ohio State.
“So it kind of helped me a little bit to know that I was going to have somebody there for me to help me out. That was another reason why I chose Ohio State.”
- I didn’t notice this until I looked at the calendar, but this feature is going live a year to the day after he committed to Ohio State (April 24). Cooool. I didn’t plan this, since I wanted this to go online yesterday.
- Pre-compiled stats, courtesy of Bucknuts:
* Vital Statistics: As a senior, Fellows had 79 tackles, 10 sacks and 21 tackles-for-loss despite dealing with a knee injury most of the season. He was a first-team All-Ohio pick in Division I as well as a member of the Ohio High magazine All-Ohio team. That senior year capped a remarkable career where he made 263 tackles, a school-record 51 tackles-for-loss, 24 sacks and forced nine fumbles. As a junior, Fellows had 97 total tackles as a junior (39 solo, 58 assists) with 23 tackles for loss and seven sacks. He boasts an 81-inch wingspan. Fellows was selected for the Under Armour All-American Game but was unable to play after undergoing knee surgery. But he should be recovered in time for his freshman year at Ohio State.
* Rankings: He is rated as the No. 1 overall senior prospect in Ohio, according to Ohio High magazine. Also rated as the No. 1 overall prospect in the state, according to The Ohio Football Recruiting News. Fellows is rated as a national top-150 prospect by ESPN.com. That site ranks him as the nation’s No. 124 prospect overall and also as the nation’s 10th-best defensive end. SuperPrep considers Fellows as an All-American, ranking him as the nation’s No. 30 prospect overall, the second-best prospect in the Midwest and the nation’s No. 8 defensive lineman.
All things considered, I think Melvin is now better known.
That bird better PRAY he don’t screw up my credit.
Parrot: (in background) I’m Melvin Fellows!
|Class of 2009|
|Name||Position||Hometown||Better Known?||Name||Position||Hometown||Better Known?|
|CJ Barnett||DB||Clayton, OH||02.20||Marcus Hall||OL||Glenville, OH|
|Dorian Bell||LB||Monroeville, PA||04.10||Adam Homan||FB||Coldwater, OH||01.29|
|Adam Bellamy||DT||Aurora, OH||Carlos Hyde||RB||Naples, FL|
|Jaamal Berry||RB||Miami, FL||James Jackson||WR||Grand Ledge, TSUN||03.05|
|Zach Boren||FB||Pickerington, OH||01.22||Storm Klein||LB||Nerk, Ahia||02.02|
|Corey Brown||WR/DB||Monroeville, PA||Corey Linsley||OL||Youngstown, OH|
|Duron Carter||WR||Ft. Lauderdale, FL||Sam Longo||OL||Belbrook, OH|
|Dominic Clarke||DB||Frederick MD||02.11||Jack Mewhort||OL||Toledo, OH||02.05|
|Melvin Fellows’ Safari Planet||DE||Garfield Heights, OH||04.24||Jonathan Newsome||LB/DE||Glenville, OH|
|Chris Fields||WR||Painesville, OH||04.02||John Simon||DE||Youngstown, OH||03.26|
|Reid Fragel||TE||Grosse Pointe, TSUN||Jordan Whiting||LB||Louisville, KY||03.12|
|Kenny Guiton||QB||Aldine, TX||Jamie Wood||DB||Pickerington, OH||02.26|
|Jordan Hall||ATH||Jeannette, PA||04.20|
- …and a tacit shoutout to Mom back home in California since she knows this reference. [↩]