Just trust me on this one.
Though his Inkster team fell to Ann Arbor Pioneer by a score of 35-32, Devin Gardner showed last night why he is considered one of the top prospects in the nation. After seeing 4.5 high school football games over the course of three days, it was painfully obvious which player was the best: Devin Gardner. After Friday's Huber Heights Wayne game, I walked away impressed with QB Braxton Miller, and fully understood why he is considered the top dual threat QB in the 2011 class. However, Gardner was on a whole different level, with game-changing ability that can't even be quantified at times. The best thing to do is simply go to the...
Video Evidence (High Def, baby!):
Gardner's final statline was approximately 10/13 passing for 97 yards and a touchdown, and 16 carries for 113 yards and another touchdown. He also had two incomplete passes on two-point conversions, and one successful run for 2 points. Gardner was hurt in the fourth quarter on a dive toward the pylon, and exited the game for two plays. However, as I tweeted, "On the third down he rose again," passing for a touchdown on fourth and goal.
MGoBlog hopes to scout more Inkster games this year, and if nothing else, there's excitement practically guaranteed.
For round 2 of The Great Ohio Creeper Van Trip, Paul and I traveled to Dayton to consume part of the Skyline Chili™ Crosstown Showdown, wherein the Talbott brothers' Huber Heights Wayne team took on the Princeton Vikings of Cincinnati.
Terrence Talbott missed the game with an injury to his left leg or foot (he was on the sidelines in an aircast and crutches), but Terry was a full-go, and the defensive tackle performed well for the Warriors. Also playing for Wayne was 2011 QB prospect Braxton Miller, who impressed as well (don't hold your breath M fans, he's highly likely to end up a Buckeye).
The Warriors shot themselves in the foot many times, including on their first drive. A big kickoff return gave them possession well into Viking territory, but QB Braxton Miller fumbled a snap on the goal line, which Princeton recovered. The Vikings drove the ball past midfield on the ensuing possession, but a long pass was intercepted by Wayne at the 1-yard line. This didn't turn out so well for the Warriors, however, as the very next play resulted in a loss of yardage and a safety. Wayne was able to strike back before half, as a big Miller run on a speed option gave the team good field position, and he finished it off with a 20(ish)-yard touchdown pass.
After the half, Wayne struck again, as the Vikings fumbled the ball on the first play from scrimmage, which the Warriors recovered inside the 10-yard line. Miller ran the ball in on an option from about a yard out, giving the team a 14-2 advantage. As the game turned to the fourth quarter, the rain picked up, and the play became a little sloppy. As Wayne was trying to run out the clock, a shotgun snap over Miller's head went out the back of the endzone cutting the lead to 14-4. As Princeton started driving the field to bring the game within a single score, a fumble led to a scoop-and-score for the Warriors, providing the final 21-4 margin.
Talbott was the Warriors' defensive MVP, e-fact. He was constantly in the opposing backfield, whether he was lined up at tackle or end. He was a quick-penetrating type, and even when the Vikings started trying to counter against that (eventually), he was harassing QBs, forcing running backs into his teammates, and generally being a disruptive force. He doesn't have the biggest frame in the world, but there is certainly potential to add some mass and be a quick-penetrating "SEC-style" (ugh, shoot me) defensive tackle when he arrives in Ann Arbor. Trust me, he may be a little underrated because he's a tweener, but I think this kid is an absolute steal.
Miller had some struggles, be it from a wet field, first game jitters, or even just a bit of inexperience. That said, the dude can freakin' play. Though his dad says he doesn't want to play in a college offense where he'll have to run the ball much (note: Terrelle Pryor ran 139 times last year, and passed for 165 attempts), he is rather fast, and has super quickness and agility. Though he's likely to end up playing in Columbus, he's someone that Michigan should really try to sway for next year's class. Wayne was running a spread-zone offense, with a QB read much of the time, so it's not something he'd be unfamiliar with. He's a very good fit for Michigan's offense, and would allow for Cornelius Jones to switch positions if need be.
Photo Gallery (Video in next week's Friday Night Lights post)
Texas running back Stephen Hopkins did, as threatened, commit to Michigan over the weekend. Brace yourselves for Ohio State uniforms:
GURU RATINGS & CHATTER
|NR||NR||77, no position rating|
ESPN gives Hopkins a meh grade of 77 and provides a scouting report that makes him sound eerily similar to a current player:
Hits the hole fast and does a job getting north quickly; does not take a lot of wasted lateral steps but shows he can bounce it outside to daylight without losing a lot in transition. At his best when he plants and accelerates downhill behind his pads. Tends to run high but still is very sturdy and strong at the high school level and breaks consistent first contact. Determined back who keeps his legs driving in the pile and fights for extra yards. Difficult for smaller defensive backs to arm-tackle when he gains momentum through the second level. However, his high running style hinders his balance, often chopped down low, and yards after contact production.
Would you change a word of that if you were adapting it to fit Brandon Minor? I don't think so.
The Dallas Morning News named Hopkins the #1 tailback in the area for 2010, declaring him "the true definition of a workhorse"; he checks in at #76 on Inside Texas' statewide top 100. All these things point to a mid-three-star ranking. Given the extensive knowledge about Hopkins' game—he's racked up almost 600 carries already—that's not likely to change.
While those ratings and rankings aren't particularly exciting, there's an informative thread at 5ATexasFootball.com in which a variety of fans who saw Flower Mound Marcus grind their team into dust offer up homage. An admin:
He is a very impressive player. His size is rare with RBs today. He can run for speed and power. I didn't see him on one of his better production days, but he's one of those guys you know is a player just by watching him operate for a few plays. Physically, he is ahead of the game for his age.
When we played them in 2007 we got the ball first and went 3 and out, or close to that. They then ran about 9 minutes off the clock and scored. Pretty much every series was like that. When the other team has the ball for 9 minutes of every 12 minute quarter scoring chances are few.
The guys is IMO the best back in the DFW area. … The off-season between his sophomore and junior year saw him put on some size and gain in speed. He has developed into a very patient runner that will wait for the hole to develop and then explodes. His power is unmatched by any back I saw last year. … Marcus added a inside/outside running game last year and was able to do that with Hopkins. The year before he was limited to getting his yards between the tackles due to not having the game breaking speed, last year that changed and Marcus was able to break the big one on sweeps, off tackles and power plays. One of his strengths is his ability to hold onto the football too.
That's echoed several times, with the only downer being someone who mentions he "lacks the speed to be an elite back"; I'll let this guy have the final word from the fans:
Hopkins is not that good. After he went over 200-225 yards against us he started to wear down
After he wore down, We stopped him COLD after only 7 or 8 yards.
Meanwhile, Hopkins' coach before his junior year:
"He's one of those classic downhill runners that gets stronger as the game wears on," Marcus coach Bryan Erwin said. "But at the same time, he does all the other things that you need from an every-down back. He can block. He can catch passes. Whatever you need him to do, he can do it."
And Hopkins himself:
"If you need me to pick up a first down in a short-yardage situation, I'm your man, but I don't want to be just a power back," Hopkins said.
"Adrian Peterson can run over you, but he can also take it 80 yards if he gets an opening. So I've really been working hard on improving my speed. I think you're going to see a lot more big plays from me this year."
As you'll see in the stats, he made good on that.
Hopkins' full slate as of a couple weeks ago, complete with pretty FAKE-ish 40 time:
Hopkins, 6-0, 220, 4.6 seconds in the 40-yard dash, has scholarship offers from Michigan, Texas A&M, Stanford, Kansas, Kansas State, SMU and Texas Tech. He's attended junior day at Texas A&M, SMU, Baylor, Nebraska, Connecticut, Texas and Texas Tech.
Though Michigan is clearly the biggest name on that offer list, that's a decent assortment for April.
The stats indicate a pounding, frequently-used back. This guy did the division for me:
But Marcus' Stephen Hopkins? That boy was proving it every Friday. Hopkins racked up 275 carries in 2008, netting him 1,689 yards and 22 touchdowns -- and that's just in 11 games! How many guys can carry the ball almost 300 times and still maintain a 6.0 YPC average?
In high school, probably lots. But it's a significant bump from Hopkins' sophomore stats:
The incoming senior has been making a name for himself since his sophomore year, when he rushed for 1,663 yards and 16 touchdowns on 343 carries for an average of 4.8 yards per carry.
That's a ton of carries. He's durable, and probably low upside, by which I mean he's not been overlooked for any reason. Recruiting gurus know all about him and say he's a middling prospect.
FAKE 40 TIME
As above, 4.6 for a 220 pound high school junior. Eh… probably not.
Try to suppress your natural desire to see the man with the ball fumble, get blown up by the safety, or go on a crazy rampage with an armory's worth of guns, an axe, and a lint roller:
There's not a lot of wow there, but Hopkins isn't a wow sort of back. He picks a hole and runs through it as hard and fast as he can.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
This one's easy: Brandon Minor. I've actually deleted Minor's name three different times as this post has come together and the redundancy became more obvious. Minor, a low four star, was slightly higher rated as a recruit, but everything else is almost identical.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan now has one scatback and one thunderous moose to fill the slots vacated by Brown and Minor; a third back in the class is likely to keep the numbers up, as Michigan has already lost two tailbacks to transfer and will lose the aforementioned seniors and Kevin Grady after 2009. At this point you'd hope they'd sit tight and swing for the fences (GA RB Mack Brown, SC RB Marcus Lattimore) but if MI RB Austin White wants to jump aboard soon—doubtful but not impossible—they'd probably take him.
Is instate RB Nick Hill going to get an offer at this point? I think he'll at least have to wait for summer camp.
OTHER GUY NAMED STEPHEN HOPKINS
He was a Pilgrim, except not really since he wasn't a member of their goofy religious cult:
Stephen Hopkins (born about 1582 – 1644), was a tanner and merchant who was one of the passengers on the Mayflower in 1620, settling in Plymouth Colony. … Hopkins was one of forty-one signatories of the Mayflower Compact and was an assistant to the governor of the colony through 1636.
If this post seems familiar, it's because Devin Gardner already sort of committed. He told his coach, and his coach told the world. But there's an official announcement today, so no better time than the present for a full-on googlestalk.
GURU RATINGS & CHATTER
|4*, #7 QB, #77 overall||4*, #177 overall||150 watch list|
Devin Gardner is a prototypical spread 'n' shred QB: 6'4", 200 pounds, and quick like a jackrabbit. He is also, unfortunately, a little raw. Check ESPN's evaluation of him, which starts off with this backhanded compliment:
Gardner is a prospect that after viewing for some time you respect his overall production level once you get past the fact that his methods more often than not are going to be very unorthodox and at times not pretty.
IE: "I guess we have to rank him because he accounted for 48 touchdowns and has sweet offers." The rest of it is what you might expect:
He can cut, shows burst changing directions and could develop into a dangerous read-option operator. Gardner shows very good arm strength and when his feet are set he can drive the ball down field and shows very good RPM's on short and intermediate routes… 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. … Overall, you have to be impressed with Gardner's measurables and athleticism. He can make plays and possesses a lot of raw tools.
Okay, by "a little raw" we mean raw like sushi. Premium, premium sushi. Reinforcing that is this fluffy bit from Gardner's Elite 11 camp experience, where he was a ball boy:
After watching him during the week, Gardner will have to learn to be tall in the pocket and take advantage of his height. He says his biggest weakness is his accuracy, which is a direct result of arm placement and how the ball is released. He has a real bad habit of dropping his release point when throwing, as well as sinking his hips and knees when throwing. This happens more when throwing shorter routes, as he tries to guide the ball.
This fall, expect Gardner to be more comfortable under center as a result of his week in Southern California. Not only did he take full advantage of every rep on the field but he also improved greatly on the chalk board. When asked if he left the camp a better player, Gardner's response was "absolutely and hands down, my ability to read and recognize coverages are much better now."
Gardner on himself:
"I think I can fit into any offense, really," Gardner told SN Today. "I work with my coach every day to be a better passer. ... Going into (last) season, everybody was talking about how I'm a good athlete, but now everybody's saying I'm a real quarterback, too. I've evened out my passing and my rushing."
Gardner's got a year to work on that stuff before he hits campus.
And then there's the Ohio State issue. OSU was considered the early favorite for Gardner, as Gardner grew up a fan. That was eventually revealed to be overblown, but Ohio State was extremely interested and there were rumors Gardner would commit on an spring unofficial. The issue: no offer.
The Buckeye-insider supported theory is that Ohio State's inability to bring in Tajh Boyd—they were forced to snatch a fourth-choice guy away after getting shot down by Miami of Ohio (not that Miami of Ohio) and Temple(!) commits just to get anyone on campus—put OSU in a tough spot. Believing Gardner to be a project and Pryor to be an early flight risk, they couldn't chance the future of the QB spot on he and Baylor Refugee. So they've focused on polished folk like Nick Montana, much to the surprise (and possible dismay?) of OSU bloggers. This is more evidence of premium sushi.
An impressive mix of run and pass:
Gardner rushed for 1,401 yards and 22 touchdowns as a junior in 2008, while throwing for 1,886 yards and 26 touchdowns, with only seven interceptions.
Perhaps even more impressive is the carries that got him those yards: Gardner averaged 12 YPC.
FAKE 40 TIME
Scout has him listed at 4.63, which is actually realistic.
You can just tell his delivery is messed up from the video. But you can also tell he's got that glide speed Young had.
(More video here.)
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
The word of the day is "raw." Gardner appears to be a version of Terrelle Pryor that's a couple inches shorter, slightly less of an athletic freak, and less likely to draw shame upon himself at basketball games. Check it:
"He expects us to be a good person," junior Devin Gardner said of his coach. "It's those little things. At Inkster you have to be a good person."
Gardner may have even more work to do on his mechanics. The good news is that he's got another year of high school to develop, and he'll probably camp at Michigan so they can work on him hard, and, god willing, Forcier will pan out and he won't be thrust into the starting job on day one. In a perfect world, Gardner redshirts and is the heavy favorite to win the job after four years of Forcier.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
It's nice to get the top QB target onboard early. (Yes, insert decommit crack here.) Michigan remains in dire need of quarterbacks and will pursue and acquire a second, with GA QB Blake Sims the target with the most imminent decision on tap.
PROSPECTIVE SLIGHTLY ANNOYING MGOBLOG NICKNAME
There's a lot of dreck in the googlestalking, but sometimes there's gold, too. Someone named Devin Gardner co-starred in the straight-to-DVD disaster of a kiddie movie you see at right: A KID CALLED DANGER. The man in the binoculars to the left has a sweet buckstache and is clearly cursing whatever gods allowed this child named DANGER to interfere with his nefarious plans.
Obviously, Devin Gardner is this kid called danger.
Etc.: Trieu interview.
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.