WMU adds grad transfer corner Kareem Ali Jr.

On Sunday, Temple alum Kareem Ali Jr. tweeted out his commitment to Western Michigan, meaning he’s transferring to the program as a graduate student.

Out of high school — Timber Creek HS in Sicklerville, New Jersey — Ali was a four-star prospect by Rivals and a high-three-star guy by 247sports (0.8711 composite score), but didn’t get to see the field too much as an Owl.

After redshirting the 2015 season, Ali’s had an on-again, off-again relationship with the Temple roster due to a nagging shoulder injury that he suffered in 2016.

From a Rivals report back in April of last year, 51 weeks ago:

After being removed from Temple’s roster earlier in the spring, redshirt-junior cornerback

Kareem Ali rejoined the team last week.

Ali, a former 4-star recruit from South Jersey’s Timber Creek High School who held offers from the likes of Penn State and Florida, met with Geoff Collins last Monday to discuss the idea of returning. His mother, a former track athlete, and father, who played receiver under the name Kareem Gilliard, both graduated from Temple.

Collins said he’s looking forward to seeing a healthy Ali, who tore his meniscus last spring. Ali also dealt with a shoulder injury for most of the 2016 season, his redshirt freshman year.

“I’m excited about him,” Collins said. “The big thing about him is special teams play. He’s had an unfortunate career, being banged up and in and out with injuries. Just excited for him to be healthy and play at the level that he knows he can play on.”

Ali was not available to reporters following Friday’s practice at the STAR Complex, although the defensive backs and coach Nathan Burton are scheduled to talk Thursday. (Rivals)

Fast forward four months into the future, the Philadelphia Inquirer quoted then-Temple coach Geoff Collins being more pessimistic on Ali’s status.

Collins announced that Kareem Ali, a former four-star recruit from Timber Creek, won’t be playing for Temple.

“It is an accumulation of injuries, and it is probably best he doesn’t play anymore,” Collins said. “That is a doctor’s decision and family decision, and I can’t stress enough how much we love him and and how much we think about that family and the respect we have for them.”

Ali appeared in five games for Temple, and Collins suggested that Ali would still help the Owls in their athletic department. (The Inquirer)

An incoming WMU grad student that came out of high school with plenty of hype that couldn’t put it all together on the field because of injuries? Wouldn’t be the first time Tim Lester invited that onto his program.

Last year, that was Drake Harris’ situation. Harris was a four-star wide receiver that spent his undergraduate years with Michigan, but the injuries kept him away from the field and didn’t score his first collegiate tuddy until WMU’s 40-39 win at Miami. It ended up being his only touchdown of the season (27 catches, 255 yards), but that’s still a fairly productive season.

WMU took on Juwan Dowels last year as a grad transfer corner from Syracuse too, and after missing most of the 2016 season with a knee injury then playing the 2017 season as a reserve corner, Dowels played in every game last year, made 33 total tackles, made two interceptions and 11 passes defended.

Dowels is currently [still] waiting on the NCAA’s decision on whether or not he can have sixth year of eligibility.

According to the S&P+ breakdown of the team, WMU had the second-worst passing defense in the country last year (129th), third-worst team on plays on passing downs and 107th on plays on standard downs. The Broncos need all the help they can get.

WMU has some returning safeties to like, but there’s not a lot of certainty coming back at corner, again. If not Dowels, the best returning corner for the Broncos is Anton Curtis, who made the switch from receiver to corner last year, had 20.5 total tackles with three pass breakups and two picks.

After that? A lot of young talent that Lester and Co. have been able to recruit to the program that haven’t been tasked with being full-time players. Well-liked recruits by the prospect grades and offers received during high school, they’ve been on the sidelines last year and there will be more looking from the sides again this year. This could be an area where Ali could be expected to be a leadership. He knows what it’s like to be that four-star, three-star recruit with 20+ FBS offers in high school and not be a contributor like he had hoped. And last year, he spent the entire season on the sidelines without pads on.

There’s a lot of help to be had on the field to better WMU’s passing defense. There’s a lot of help to be had on the sidelines as incoming recruits always need an older teammate with stories worth telling & listening to. Playing time and health be damned, the benefit of having Ali in Kalamazoo is a pretty obvious one.

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