The Wolverine

Sept 2023

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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SEPTEMBER 2023 ❱ THE WOLVERINE 51 ❱  COMMIT PROFILE BY ZACH LIBBY M ichigan's third verbal commitment in the 2025 recruiting class came from a player who not only grew up a fan of the Wolverines, but also lives less than 30 minutes away from Ann Arbor. Rising Howell (Mich.) High defensive lineman Bobby Kanka announced his pledge to U-M on Aug. 1, two days after returning to campus for the annual BBQ at The Big House. He's the first in-state prospect in this recruiting cycle to com- mit to U-M. "My parents were really good about letting me choose where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do," Kanka told The Wolverine. "My mom was in tears. I can go home anytime I want. Having that is crucial for me, and it definitely helped with the decision process. It's always a plus. We're all super happy." The 6-foot-4, 263-pounder, who picked Michigan over Penn State, Mich- igan State, Tennessee, Northwestern, Kansas, Minnesota, Syracuse and Lou- isville, visited campus at least 10 times after getting an offer in February 2022. "I couldn't be happier," Kanka said. "Now, I can focus on the high school football season and try to win every game we can. "It feels great. It was the thought of, 'Why wait any longer when Michigan is top tier in everything?' That was my thought process when knowing that Michigan is the place to be." Proximity, growing interest in the program and his close relationship with defensive line coach Mike Elston led to Kanka shutting down his recruitment before the start of his junior season. Several of Kanka's visits to Michigan included working out in front of Elston, who sought the former's length and frame for well over a year. "I want to learn all I can from Coach Elston," Kanka said. "He's sent guys to the NFL and will continue sending guys to the NFL — guys like Kris Jen- kins and Mason Graham. "I'm just looking forward to learning as much as possible from him. At the workout I had with him [at the BBQ ], I learned a bunch of stuff that I'm already using right now. He sees me as a big D- tackle for him." Kanka and his family sat down indi- vidually with head coach Jim Harbaugh on their late July visit, and the defensive line prospect was able to experience the true side of Harbaugh. "I tell my friends all the time that Coach Harbaugh is the most real coach you could have," Kanka said. "Some coaches talk about NIL or other things, but he'll come up to you and ask, 'Hey, how's your family?' He's the best coach that I could play for. He's a great guy out- side of football. I know that he's going to develop me as a football player and as a person going forward." Support in Kanka's decision also came from Howell High head coach Brian Lewis, who was a graduate assistant at Michigan under the Brady Hoke admin- istration; Cincinnati St. Xavier three- star defensive lineman commit Ted Hammond, who first met Kanka at the Penn State spring game last April; and Michigan's director of strength and con- ditioning, Ben Herbert. One of the BBQ's marquee moments was when Herbert led instruction inside the weight room with Kanka and the rest of the visitors. The latter's father, Tom Kanka, worked as a collegiate strength and conditioning coach following his stint in the NFL with the Detroit Lions and Pittsburgh Steelers. "I liked everything that I experienced in the 30-minute session with him," Kanka said. "I didn't want to leave. I grew up with a strength coach at home with my dad. But he did it back in the '80s, where it was heavy weight and low reps. It's still sort of like that now, but there's more science to it. "You can do all of this special stuff now. I could already tell that Coach Herb is going to make the best of what he has. There also isn't a judgmental piece from him. He wants everyone to be the best players they can be." Kanka started on both sides of the ball for Howell as a sophomore. He finished as the Kensington County leader in sacks with 4, while compiling 36 total tackles, 7 tackles for a loss, 2 forced fumbles and 3 pass deflections. Last season was Kanka's first at Howell after transferring from nearby Pinck- ney (Mich.) High. He was named first- team all-conference and first-team all- county, and he also received honorable mention all-state recognition from the Detroit News. ❑ 2025 Defensive Lineman Bobby Kanka Stays Home With U-M Kanka recorded 36 tackles, 7 tackles for a loss and 4 sacks as a sophomore at Howell (Mich.) High. PHOTO BY ZACH LIBBY PLAYER EVALUATION STRENGTHS: "You just love Bobby Kanka's toughness and physicality. He plays with a re- ally high energy level on both sides of the ball. He's very active and finds ways to affect the game. He's active as a pass rusher and strong against the run, gets off blocks, sets the edge and makes a bunch of plays. "You flip over to offense, and he's playing tight end. He looks to have gotten bigger and more athletic over the past year, which is encouraging. It's easy to see why Michigan would like him based on his sophomore film. He projects as a big defensive end. I think this guy has a lot of qualities that fit Michigan's style of play." AREAS OF IMPROVEMENT: "He needs to continue putting on size during his last two years of high school football. It remains to be seen what his physical upside will be. But on Friday nights, I think he's showing very encour- aging signs of improvement." MICHIGAN PLAYER COMPARISON: "I like the comparison of Kanka and [freshman defensive lineman] Brooks Bahr. They look similar physi- cally, but I think Kanka still needs to be bigger. He might be further along than Bahr at the same stage, based on where they were before their junior years. But they're big defensive ends who can set the edge and make plays." — On3 director of scouting and rankings Charles Power

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