Computer issues remain: this is Tom's doing, as per usual.
Texas running back Stephen Hopkins attends a high school with unfortunate uniforms. He's also one of a few bigger backs with a Michigan offer; he's also been offered by Texas A&M, Nebraska and Oregon. You can see him turn linebackers into goo at ESPN. Tom interviewed him over the weekend, and it sounds like Michigan is a strong contender.
TOM: So what schools are showing interest in you so far?
STEPHEN: Stanford, Michigan, Minnesota, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, and Texas A&M are a few off the top of my head.
TOM: Being from Texas, what schools are you most interested in? Is it important to stay close to home?
STEPHEN: I’m interested in all of them right now but I know the most about Michigan and Texas A&M. Distance won’t be a factor for me, I know that. I just want to go where I’m wanted.
TOM: You’re a bigger back already, and only a junior. Do you think that gives you an advantage going into college?
STEPHEN: Yea, it kind of gives me a disadvantage though too. Sometimes there’s a stereotype that I can’t run fast, but I’m going to improve on that. I recently ran a 4.6 40, so I want to try to get that down to a 4.5. I like that I’m bigger, and don’t want to lose that, but I want to get faster too.
TOM: Are you more of a physical back with your size, or do you try to stay balanced?
STEPHEN: I’m going to try to be more balanced next year. I think I can do other things besides hit. I really want to show what I can do this year, and hopefully let the schools know I’m not just a big back.
TOM: You’ve been to Texas A&M, SMU, and Nebraska so far. What stood out to you with those schools?
STEPHEN: I liked A&M the most, because I got the most attention. I don’t want that to sound bad, but I want to be a big part of the program, and make a difference. I don’t want to just be a role player.
TOM: What other visits do you plan on taking over the summer?
STEPHEN: I’m going to KU; my family is from there so that will be easy. I’m going to Michigan April 10th too. Besides that, I’m not really sure; it depends on how my visits before that go. My biggest thing with Michigan is how they’ll use me in the offense. I know they haven’t really had any bigger backs like me before, so that’s one thing I’m going to ask the coaches. Obviously it’s Michigan, so they have great facilities, and the environment is great, I want to see about some other parts too.
TOM: I know it’s early, but what kind of negative recruiting have you seen so far?
STEPHEN: I haven’t really heard any yet. No one has put anyone down; it’s been more focused on their school. I’m still deciding on whether or not I’m going to graduate early, so when I decide that I think I’ll hear more.
TOM: What’s going to make your final decision? What do you want from a school?
STEPHEN: I want to see how I’m used in the offense mainly. Most of the schools I’m looking at have good business schools, which is important. My main thing is how valuable I am to them. I want to be a big part, and I know I can make a difference.
TOM: Where does Michigan rank right now? Do you have a top 5?
STEPHEN: If there was a top, I’d say Michigan’s tied with Texas A&M. I don’t want to say too much, but I haven’t even seen them yet, and they’re definitely up there. I’m excited to see everything up there.
Um, Michigan offered a random 5'9" guy from Texas named Tony Drake and Drake duly committed. He's probably a corner or a slot. Informative update coming.
Dallas Morning News; Drake is #5
(Not Particularly) Informative Update: Okay, Drake is definitely a running back/slot sort according to his Rivals video, which I took the unusual (for me) step of actually watching because there's very little information available on who this guy is outside of some brief mentions in game recaps. I guess we'll go with the format, but it's going to be silly-lookin' and sparse:
Whee: Drake isn't ranked by anyone yet, except this guy at "Vype," who ranked Drake… uh… #13 in the Dallas-Fort Worth area:
13. Tony Drake, Skyline The Raiders are in a situation where they are producing multiple Division I recruits each season, and Drake will be another. He only rushed for 300 yards last season, but remember again like White, he had limited opportunities because Skyline has so many talented skill players. Drake is another back with 4.4 speed.
But that's regardless of class, so… yeah, might be like the fourth or fifth best back in Dallas this year. Jim Stefani has him the #175 receiver nationally.
Michigan was his first.
See above: stuck behind two seniors at Dallas powerhouse Skyline, Drake saw limited time and only acquired around 300 yards.
FAKE 40 TIME
See above: 4.4. Fake!
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
The flimsy evidence here is even flimsier than normal, so take the following with a grain of salt.
Michigan has offered the junior backup of a talented senior again—this is a virtual replay of the Teric Jones recruitment—and are taking chance on the sparse playing time Drake acquired last year being representative of his talent. This is a risk. Given the lack of attention so far and the spots in which Drake shows up when someone does notice him, he's a mortal lock for three stars unless he has a crazy Terrance Robinson senior year.
I did watch the video, though, and the good news is that Skyline basically runs Michigan's offense. If you're going to make an offer based on just film it's nice if you don't have to make a lot of assumptions. Here there are none: the coaches have seen Drake do exactly what they'll ask him to do. They unearthed Slaton and Reynaud and so forth and so on and this is one of those positions at which Michigan can take a guy others might not get a lot of use out of and turn him into a pain-dealing jet engine.
I'm much less bothered about random three star running backs like Drake and Vincent Smith than I am about linebackers and defensive backs who don't have an unusual system to dominate in. If Michigan's staff gets leeway in their recruiting at one spot, it's tailback. They've earned it.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
There's a certain genre of recruit that is going to play a running back/slot hybrid like Dorrell Jalloh or Darius Reynaud at WVU, and Drake will be one of those guys. With three running backs graduating this year there's still plenty of room for others to come in, though they'll probably be larger angry moose sorts.
Tom's having computer problems so he forwarded this along to me. Don't be fooled by the name on it: it's his interview, as per usual.
Some background on Riley: he's got a wide array of impressive offers to play… somewhere. Michigan seems to like him best as a RB but he could play WR or DB or maybe LB in college. Conventional wisdom has USC the current leader.
Photo from the LA Times.
DIETRICH: I’m a team player. I’m not worried about the individual stats, and I don’t want the attention all on me. I want to compete and make my teammates better. I attack life every day. I go 110% on the field, and in whatever I do in life. I’ve got these scholarship offers, but it’s important to stay humble. Football wise, I can read plays on the field, and I can go both ways. Really my speed and size are my biggest assets.
TOM: You were just in Vegas for the 7 on 7 there. How did you and your team do?
DIETRICH: Our team had some great talent, and it was fun being on the field with those guys. We had Brennan Clay, DJ Morgan, Shaq Richardson, and a few other big name guys on our team. We lost in the first round to another California team. It was a bad call by the ref. They called pass interference on me when I intercepted a ball. It was more about having fun, learning, and getting to know each other though.
TOM: You’ve already got a number of big time scholarship offers. Which one were you most excited about?
DIETRICH: I got another one on Monday from Nebraska, so I’m at 10. Of course USC is up there, but Oklahoma and Tennessee was exciting. Competing in bowl games, championships, and the tradition those schools have is great. That just surprised me more than anything. It just shows the hard work is paying off. Not necessarily interest wise, but I was excited.
TOM: Which one were you most surprised by?
DIETRICH: Michigan. It’s the Big Ten. I wasn’t expecting that. They were sending me letters and everything. They told me about their players currently in the NFL. I was like wow; I can’t believe they offered me. Washington is also really catching my attention. The new staff up there is nice, and the graduation rate is 86%. That’s most important, my education.
TOM: What kind of offense does your team run now?
DIETRICH: We mix it around. Pro and spread, but it’s pretty balanced. Coach gave me some new plays to get me the ball this year. It’s going to be a whole different story. I’m bigger stronger and faster, and I’m just ready to go.
TOM: Would you like to find an offense similar to that, or will you adapt?
DIETRICH: I’ll adapt wherever I go. I like a mixed offense, with a little play action, and spread. Not too many teams in the NFL run the spread, so I like an offense that will prepare me. I do think Michigan’s offense would prepare me for the NFL. When looking at Pat White, he’s getting attention. My coach puts me in position to make things happen, and when I’m not, I make sure I pass block. I’m not selfish, and I want to do what’s best for the team.
TOM: What relationships have you built so far with coaches?
DIETRICH: The strongest relationship is with the USC coaches, we email every day or so. Second is Coach Morgan from Washington. He watched me grow up, and it’s a blessing to have him recruiting me. Coach Neuheisel from UCLA too. He was my coach’s quarterback coach when he played at UCLA.
TOM: Michigan recently offered you. What are they saying as far as where they want you to play, and how you fit in?
DIETRICH: They want me primarily as a running back, but also split me wide. They don’t have that complete back that can break the long run. I can either get out in space, or bust through and make room.
TOM: Being from California, what do you know about Michigan?
DIETRICH: I know that they’re on TV a lot, which is good. I’d be on TV all the time. They have a history of sending guys to the next level, getting guys their degree, great athletics, and the stadium is expanding. That’s pretty amazing. The weather, it’s cold, but I’ll get used to it. I’m going to have to someday.
TOM: You’re a bigger back already; do you plan on getting even bigger for college? Is that part of how you run?
DIETRICH: Coach Rodriguez told me they’re looking for the back with size and speed. I’m 6’ 1” and 195 pounds. I might be losing some of that weight. I don’t want to lose my speed and bulk up too much. I would like to stay around 205, no higher. I’m not really concerned about size though, just my playing ability, and keeping my lateral quickness.
TOM: Who are your leaders so far? Who are you still hoping to hear from?
DIETRICH: The schools I still want to hear from are Florida, Texas, LSU, and Alabama. I don’t really have a top list. All the schools that have offered so far I really like, and I’m honestly interested in. Once I take visits I’ll know more.
TOM: What camps and junior days will you be going to?
DIETRICH: Notre Dame’s in April. I've been saying I’ll go there for awhile. Oregon state, because my brother Kevin Walker goes there. The camps are definitely USC Rising star and FBU. I got invited to a 7 on 7 Academy at the Disney facilities, which is pretty cool. I’ve been talking with Markeith Ambles, and we’re going to try to set up some visits together. We’re friends, so it would make it easier to go through that together.
TOM: When are you planning on making your decision?
DIETRICH: National signing day. Depending on how many offers are on the table, maybe march. There’s going to be a lot of pressure, but I’m not worried about it. I’m already prepared for it. There’s going to be a lot of people in my ear about where to go, so I’ve got to develop a way to filter that out, and make my own decision.
Michigan's junior day netted a few commitments while this site was busy hoping the world didn't cave in the day before the NCAA tournament was selected.
Antonio Kinard is a 6'4", 200 pound linebacker from Youngstown Ohio. He committed to Michigan over the weekend. The details:
It's too early for all but the most preliminary rankings; basically all we have to go on is that he's not in Rivals' initial top 250. He's #22 in the state to Ohio High magazine, for whatever that's worth.
Just the one from Michigan, with that issued shortly after Signing Day. FWIW, in mid-February a BP mod asserted he was likely to receive an OSU offer within a week or so; that apparently did not transpire. Penn State and WVU may have been on the verge.
ESPN says 86 tackles and 6 sacks a year ago.
FAKE 40 TIME
We have two times here, one of which might not be fake:
Kinard combines size with speed. He runs the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds and is also on the Liberty track team. He has run the 200 meters in 22.8 seconds and also long jumps.
Video from Scouting Ohio.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Well, the evidence here is flimsier than normal: there's no scouting reports and only one ranking, that from a local, not national source. Preliminary indications—the Ohio High ranking and lack of other offers—are that Kinard will be a three-star sort. If the potential Penn State and Ohio State offers were
While that's not ideal, Michigan was familiar with Kinard after recruiting a couple of his Youngstown Liberty teammates and was quick to offer, so they obviously thought he was a talent they shouldn't wait on. One thing seems assured: a redshirt. Kinard is 6'4" and 200 pounds, so unless he puts on a ton of weight this year he'll need to bulk up some once he arrives if he's going to be effective.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
It's unclear what position Kinard is slotted in: it could be linebacker either inside or outside or DE—as Varsity Blue notes, Greg Robinson's schemes often deploy a "spinner" who's a hybrid DE/OLB. Kinard's also the first defensive commit of any sort, so he won't affect Michigan's recruiting going forward. They'll still pursue TX LB Caleb Lavey and so forth and so on.
Michigan received a verbal commitment from Inkster junior quarterback Devin Gardner late Wednesday. Gardner is 6-foot-3 and weighs 185 pounds. He was named to The Detroit News all-state first team after leading Inkster to the Division 3 final.
"I was surprised," Inkster coach Greg Carter said. "I thought it would be a last-minute thing. He told me he wanted his mom (Marlene McClellan) to be a part of his football experience. He knows what a Michigan education can do for him in this area when he's done playing. That's the type of conversation I had with Cam (Cameron Gordon)."
Fireworks and all that. Informative update coming, but it's going to take a bit what with a basketball game to watch. Get all the jokes about Tulsa out of your system, I guess.
To the chase: three solid sources, one of them Buckeye Planet's unionfutura, indicate that MI QB Devin Gardner has moved up his announcement date to Monday. He plans on attending the Michigan junior day festivities this Friday; you can draw your own conclusions from that. Also, both sources indicate it's looking very, very good for M. BP has already labeled him a Michigan verbal. Party hats are likely.
Gardner would be a big pickup. Today's weird Rivals 100—which does not include Gardner or Ricardo Miller—aside, Gardner is widely regarded as one of two players vying to be the state's top prospect. (Southeastern LB/DE Will Gholston is the other.) Gardner was Michigan's top QB priority this year and has offers on the table from Notre Dame, LSU, Michigan State, and others.
Here's a TomVH interview with Gardner from last year for more detail, and some camp highlights:
He is a fantastic prospect athletically and looks great on the hoof. Is the ideal fit for the spread offense and a short controlled passing game that plays off his threat as a runner. He is a gifted player with his legs and can improvise and create positive plays when things break down. Initial quickness and ability to take off out of the pocket is excellent.… However, for all his athleticism and arm strength, Gardner's mechanics need a lot of work. Fortunately he is blessed with height because he has a very low release point and is a side-arm passer that cradles the ball and tends to push it in his delivery. … Like Vince Young there is probably only so much you can do with his throwing mechanics, but lots that can be done with his feet to help him become more consistent. He is green, but talented.