I did not make this headline up
PA DE/OLB Ken Wilkins committed to Michigan today at a press conference containing 2% suspense. (He did take a last visit to Pitt.) At 6'4" and around 240 pounds (probably), Wilkins is ticketed for deathbacker, where he'll compete with Jordan Paskorz.
GURU RATINGS & CHATTER
|4*, #32 DE||3*, #35 OLB||77, no position rank|
The words with Wilkins are "potential," "athleticism," and "tweener." ESPN's evaluation was mixed:
At his best playing in a phone booth; demonstrates good short-area power and burst as well as strong hand technique locking out blockers and shedding quickly and violently. Really uses his hands well at the point of attack and is difficult to turn out of the hole with his strong base and above average leverage. Strong tackler who shows good explosiveness from his hips and equally impressive upper-body strength tossing down backs for minimal second efforts. Very active and disruptive as a vertical attacker. Has deceptive quickness off the ball and utilize his long arms and hand strong hand technique to work the edge.
The downside was mostly linebacker stuff:
Coverage skills and overall hip-fluidity when needing to breakdown and mirror in space are marginal and do not project well if asked to play in space. Overall, we like Wilkins' potential as a Sam 'backer in a traditional 4-3 defense. A guy who could play up on the line on situational run downs and also stack the tight end from normal LB depth. Stock would be higher if had better hips and change-of-direction skill.
This continues the earlier theme where Michigan is picking up defensive players who project well in their defense but have issues, whether it's size or coverage problems, if asked to play in a traditional 3-4 or 4-3. Both Wilkins and Paskorz are somewhere between linebackers and defensive ends and punished in the rankings; maybe they can find a place at Michigan that fits their skills to a T.
The Pittsburgh Sports Report's recent top 25 placed Wilkins #15 in Pennsylvania:
Lean, 6'3" 225 pounder with a good physique, though he will need to get even stronger at the next level. He has good speed and athleticism. Many schools are looking at him as a linebacker, but he may ultimately be too stiff there, so there's a good chance that if he can gain the weight, he will eventually end up at end.
Their "bottom line" is that he's more of an athlete than a polished player but "could prosper in the right situation." I'm not sure if that weight is more or less accurate than the 244 cited by Mike Farrell here. Probably "more" since the Pittsburgh combine Wilkins was at shows him at 222.
His coach echoes the sentiment about his upside in an article about Wilkins making the all-state team as a junior:
"The sky is the limit for him," Dalton said of Wilkins. "He's one of the most phenomenal, naturally gifted athletes I've ever been around. He was born with gifts that a lot of people couldn't imagine having. … His only downside is his consistency," Dalton said. "He has to push himself to a higher level. He has a great motor but he needs to go at full speed every play and he knows that."
Various talent evaluators who've seen him at combines agree:
Kenny Wilkins, DE/OLB, Junior, Washington, Pa./Trinity
Wilkins was one of the most striking big men at the Pittsburgh combine. This 6-3, 220-pound defender ran a solid 4.7 40. He had a very good day and was physically one of the most impressive-looking athletes at the UPMC Sports Performance Complex. … Wilkins is a very good defensive player who definitely passes the "eyeball" test.
His coach again*:
"He is an unbelievable physical talent," Dalton said. "And he is only going to get better. I have had some great players here, but nothing like Ken physically. I am not saying he is going to be better than Yancich and Sweat, but he is the most physically talented player I've had."
*(This article has died and gone to 404, but is replicated several other places on the internet.)
Wilkins had an impressive set of offers but lacked heavy-hitters outside of the Michigan one:
Pitt, Michigan, Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland currently lead, and all have offered. Other offers include Wisconsin, Boston College, North Carolina, NC State, Illinois and Rutgers.
Wilkins made 84 tackles including eight sacks during his junior season.
FAKE 40 TIME
This one gets two FAKES of three:
At 6-4, 245 pounds and a 4.6-40-yard dash time on his resume, Wilkins used his size, speed and quickness to terrorize opposing offenses.
No, not so much. Wilkins' impressive combine showing above was at 220 and he ran a 4.74 there.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Wilkins, like a couple other guys in the class, seems underrated because he doesn't fit into a lot of defenses like he does in Michigan's 4-3 under, where his combination of size and athleticism will serve him well. Let's not get too carried away with that theory, though: USC plays the same defense and doesn't recruit a bunch of three stars with an eye on their defensive scheme. Wilkins has a lot of work to do in the weight room and with technique before getting to a point where he can use his athlecism; thus the rankings.
The combination of effusive praise like we see from his coach above, his "hello, nurse!" appearances at combines, the offers, and the "eh-plus" guru rankings indicates a boom-or-bust sort who could put it all together and terrorize or float out to sea on the SS Alain Kashama.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Wilkins, Paskorz, and maybe Antonio Kinard likely fill Michigan's deathbacker quota for the year. Some of these guys could end up at linebacker, I guess, but they're all large (6'3", 6'4") project sorts who will probably end up between 240 and 260 pounds, weakside defensive ends all. I don't think you'll see any more of these sorts recruited unless Michigan can get its sweaty mitts on MI DE Will Gholston, which they probably can't.
Michigan could use some strongside defensive ends, though, and has a number of offers out for guys who will play closer to 280.
TOM: So, you made your college decision, which is....
KEN: Michigan. I chose Michigan today.
TOM: Ok, congratulations. The decision was between Michigan and Pitt right?
KEN: Yea, it was between Michigan and Pittsburgh. It just came down to how I felt last Saturday at the barbecue, so I went with them.
TOM: What was really the difference maker between Michigan and Pitt?
KEN: Just the way that Michigan is going to be on the rise, and I want to be a part of something special. Michigan was my favorite team growing up, which also had something to do with it.
TOM: Was that one of the messages that the coaches spread at the barbecue? We're on the rise, and get on board now.
KEN: Yea, they said it's a great time to be a Michigan Wolverine, and jump on board. I feel the coaches are going to do something special there, and I wanted to be a part of it.
TOM: What coach did you bond with the most?
KEN: Coach Gibson, I built a good relationship with him and Coach Tall.
TOM: So aside from the coaches, when you were at the BBQ, did you get a chance to meet with any of the other commits or recruits?
KEN: I got a chance to talk to Jordan Paskorz. I've known him for awhile, since he's from the PA area, and we go to a lot of the same camps. I also got to meet Kyle Prater, which was pretty good. It was pretty cool to meet some of those guys, and see what they're thinking about.
TOM: You thought you felt comfortable around them too?
KEN: Oh yea, I felt very comfortable.
TOM: Have you talked to Greg Robinson at all?
KEN: Yeah, I talked to him before the barbecue started, and we sat down and watched Denver Broncos film from when he was there. We talked about some of the stuff he wants to do with me when I'm up there. He said I can drop back, line up inside, outside; a lot of versatility stuff that a lot of other guys can't do. He sees that with me, for the quick position.
TOM: So, your recruitment is over and done. Congratulations.
KEN: Yea, man, I'm completely sold on Michigan. This is the school I'll be attending for the next 4 years. I'm going to start trying to recruit some kids now like Cullen Christian and Brandon Ifill. I know they've got interest in Michigan, and I met them at the Scout combine, so I'll try to get them up there.
Update 5/12: Linked to video of MN OL Seantrel Henderson, articles on FL RB Darion Hall(video), PA LB Ken Wilkins, FL DE Corey Lemonier (second), MI DT Jonathan Hankins (second), MN OL Seantrel Henderson, CA RB Brennan Clay, FL RB Corvin Lamb, IA QB AJ Derby, NY DE Dominique Easley, FL LB Jeff Luc (second), FL DT Richard Ash, SC OL Eric Mack, MD LB Troy Gloster, PA DE Ken Wilkins, MD LB Lamarcus Coker, FL CB Lo Wood, FL CB Spencer Boyd, IA QB AJ Derby, IL WR Kyle Prater, OH OL Christian Pace. Moved PA DE Jordan Paskorz to committed. Commit article on Paskorz. Moved OH OL Christian Pace to committed.
Prune time: removed TX QB Jeremy Johnson(WVU), FL CB Merrill Noel (dropped M), PA DE Dakota Royer (dropped M), GA S Daunte Carr(dropped M), SC DE Corey Miller, SC DE Brandon Willis (dropped M, both of them), FL QB Christian Green (dropped M), SC RB Marcus Lattimore (dropped M), GA RB Mack Brown.
Editorial Opinion: Recruiting board lives here. Wow. That is a ton of stuff. A lot of it is not particularly newsy, so what's below just focuses on items of direct interest.
A bloody week as a number of prospects cut their lists and dropped Michigan. In groups:
- Southern longshots to shrug at: SC DE Corey Miller, SC DE Brandon Willis, GA S Daunte Carr, GA RB Mack Brown.
- Minor disappointments: FL QB Christian Green, SC RB Marcus Lattimore, PA DE Dakota Royer
- Probably wasn't feelin' the love: TX QB Jeremy Johnson.
Johnson committed to West Virginia; he claimed a Michigan offer but with Gardner in the fold Michigan is probably going to be selective with their second QB in the class.
Lattimore released a top eight that lacked Michigan about a month after saying he'd visit officially, so there's the disappointment. Green, meanwhile, apparently wants to be a wideout in college, which considerably changes the attractiveness of Michigan to him. Royer's higher-rated than Michigan's current and prospective OLB/DE commits and is likely headed to Penn State.
The other thing worth mentioning is that I did yank FL CB Merrill Noel after he announced he would announce, but then he announced he wouldn't announce; I haven't added him back. If something happens that suggests he should be re-added, I will re-add.
The BBQ weekend came and went without any immediate commitments but OH OL Christian Pace dropped Monday and PA DE Ken Wilkins has scheduled a press conference for next Tuesday at noon. MGoBlog recruiting heuristic #3 is "a recruit announcing soon after a visit to a school is likely to pick that school," and the reports from the BBQ reinforce that:
"I liked it a lot," Wilkins said when asked about his trip to Michigan over the weekend. "The coaches brought out their families to show they have a family atmosphere there. I liked the enthusiasm of coach Rodriguez. You could see he is ready to turn the program around."
The 6-foot-4, 235-pounder has 27 scholarship offers including Michigan, Pitt, West Virginia, Virginia and Maryland.
"I'm going to decide (on a college) in the next week or so," Wilkins said. "Michigan and Pitt are my top two. They are dead even. I just have to see which school I like best."
Despite that public stance that Pitt is even, most observers are expecting he'll pick up a block M hat if he does the hat thing.
A few guys expected to show up didn't make it in, including MI DE Will Gholston, OH TE Dan Schneider (no offer, Pace's teammate), and OH DT Jibreel Black. Black says he was sick and will be up soon:
"I'll go up there on June 20," Black said on Sunday night. "And I'll try to make it to Michigan State, while I'm up there."
One surprising name was OH TE Alex Smith, a Cincinnati commitment. Visit = soft commitment; he'll be a guy to watch in the near future. Other big names of moderate intrigue include FL CB Tony Grimes, who made the long trip to participate and came away duly impressed, and IL WR Kyle Prater, who yes is an ACK WR but is also perhaps the best ACK WR available this year. I've bumped Grimes back up to yellow from red, and removed my mental red tint on Prater's existing yellow.
Prater, shockingly, is talking up Michigan considerably:
“I like Oklahoma,” Prater said. “I like Michigan, too. I went to the barbeque they had on Saturday (at the Big House). It was real nice. I liked the relationship the coaches had and the people around the coaches. I have a strong interest in USC, too. Tennessee is another one I like, and Miami."
Holy pants. That quote wasn't even provided to a Michigan site: it was something Bucknuts mainstay Bill Kurelic collected and posted on a Penn State site. Even with all the wide receivers in the fold, you have to take a guy like Prater; that would just about assure the move of OH WR Jerald Robinson to safety. It's not like that's going to happen any time soon, though: Prater intends to take all of his officials.
I'm not getting too hopeful on Grimes, as it appears a high school coach of his is posting on BuckeyePlanet occasionally. The ungrammatical upshot:
To be honest, in the beginning all he wanted was a offer from da U. I help convince him to open up to the possibility of leaving home and getting away. After an UGA visit he was in love them and really wanted an offer and to commit there. But now he's in a tough position he say. You already i talked up OSU for a couple of months so he was really trying to get noticed by them. Me and a couple of other coaches really pushed Hayes and Fricell (something like that) to come see him...and that was when he only had 1 offer from FAU. Im just glad the young man as options now. It's going to be hard turning down DA U for him.
That was posted pre-Michigan visit, so there's some chance the BBQ radically realigned his perceptions; until he comes out and says something to that effect, though, the expectation is he stays south.
MI DT Jonathan Hankins, an instate recruit at a position of need that's having a crappy year nationally, also turned up:
“Michigan has been my childhood favorite," said Jonathan to GoBlueWolverine. "I like them -- I mean it is Michigan and it helps that it is close to my home. They are in my top three.”
Hankins has offers from Oklahoma, Illinois, and Wisconsin already and plans to camp at Michigan, at which point you have to figure Michigan will extend an offer of their own unless some crazy awesome stuff goes down with PA DT Sharrif Floyd or something.
More on Paskorz
The Free Press did some reporting on new commit Jordan Paskorz—slow week I guess—and came up with some quotes from his coach:
DeMatteo was most impressed that Paskorz would often arrive at 6 a.m. for workouts.
"It's pretty tough for high school kids getting up that early," DeMatteo said. "He's the strongest kid I have had the opportunity to coach. On the field, he uses his strength very well and uses leverage to make him seem taller than 6-4."
Sure to burn the ears of Mountaineers fans is the revelation that Paskorz has a friend who played at West Virginia who "spoke very highly of Rodriguez." Also, the article claims an Illinois offer in addition to the trio of Pitt, Virginia, and Minnesota that had been previously reported.
MD LB Troy Gloster has a Michigan offer and M appears to be a contender:
“When I got the offer, I was very excited,” he told GoBlueWolverine. “I started thinking about all the tradition that Michigan has, and everything else. I’ve been offered by Boston College, West Virginia, Stanford, Iowa, Michigan State, Syracuse, Louisville, and North Carolina. When I got the offer from Michigan, I felt like it was my biggest offer so far.”
Gloster plans on visiting M, Stanford, and WVU over the summer, with a decision to follow soon after. Those three schools plus local Maryland, where his older brother plays, appear to comprise a tentative top four.
Michigan is probably going to take a third tailback in the class, and CA RB Brennan Clay is perhaps the most likely. After an early period where it seemed like Clay would stay on the West Coast at all costs, he's settled on a top three of Oregon, Oklahoma, and Michigan, with Tate Forcier proving a major attraction for Michigan:
"I think it will be huge," Johnson stated. "The thing with Brennan and Tate is that they know each other. They know what each other can do on the football field. Tate being at the school is a huge factor in (Brennan) wanting to (possibly) go to that school. Tate is a tremendous athlete and Brennan and Tate kind of fit (together) because they are playmakers. I figure that if Brennan goes to that school it would be a really good show just like how it was here at Scripps Ranch."
Clay's certainly got chemistry with Forcier. Check his junior-year numbers:
During his junior campaign the 6-foot, 191-pounder amassed an impressive 1,486 yards on 170 carries and 27 TDs on the ground. He added another 1,055 yards on 70 catches and six TDs through the air. Then for good measure he returned two kickoffs for TDs as well.
One team to watch out for, if they offer, is USC. Obviously. Clay's already set up officials to his top three; Michigan will get its shot September 19th.
Meanwhile, FL RB Corvin Lamb is still, I believe, waiting on an offer, but Michigan remains strong with him. Try to reconcile this:
Who is coming after Corvin the hardest right now?
"Probably Michigan, North Carolina, and Ole Miss."
"I have not talked to Michigan in a while. I will probably call them soon. Torrian Wilson, my teammate, received an offer from them. We have been talking about them a lot."
…and, well. Uh. We're good with the emails, I guess? Either way, it seems Lamb is willing to wait on Michigan, and Wilson is probably still leaning to the good guys.
Rivals AMP going on; not a lot of news here:
Henderson came in for a mention in Mike Farrell's latest rumor blast:
Sources say there are a few schools to watch out for with Henderson. The schools that get mentioned the most when digging around for information on Henderson are Minnesota and Michigan, followed by Ohio State, Notre Dame and USC.
Minnesota is then named the "team to beat," which I guess if Baylor can pirate away a Texas safety commit anything is possible. That's based on their recruitment of local quarterback JD Pride, who Henderson would like to go to school with.
PA LB/DE Ken Wilkins is a new offer of Michigan's radar from Washington Trinity, the same school that sent Andrew Sweat to Ohio State and Mike Yancich to Penn State. Wilkins' coach says he's more physically gifted than either, or just about anyone else:
"The sky is the limit for him. He's one of the most phenomenal, naturally gifted athletes I've ever been around. He was born with gifts that a lot of people couldn't imagine having."
Wilkins is strongly considering Michigan. Tom Van Haaren got the latest, but first some highlights:
TOM: I don't think a lot of people know about you yet, so tell me about yourself.
KEN: I’m really aggressive, and I’m pretty speedy. I can pretty much do anything on the field. I play a lot of positions. I play linebacker, defensive end, tight end, and quarterback sometimes. I’m just real versatile.
TOM: You live in Pennsylvania, so is the Midwest where you want to play college ball at?
KEN: Distance doesn’t matter to me. I just want to find the best fit for me. I’m going to check out all the schools, and see where I think I fit in the best.
TOM: You're 6'4" and 235 pounds, as a junior. Like you said you play LB, DE, and TE. What are you the best at? What position, and inside that position.
KEN: I’m best at defensive end. I have a real quick first step, and I have a nose for the ball. I can play that hybrid role, the linebacker and defensive end role pretty well too. Schools say I could play both, but I think the hybrid role is best for me.
TOM: You're pretty fast for your size, is that something you've been focusing on, your speed?
KEN: I do parametric, and our school has a speed training coach. We work with him two times a week. I’m gaining weight pretty quick, so I want to keep my speed too. We just started doing that this year, but I can already tell the difference, it’s definitely helping. I can’t wait for next year when it really kicks in.
TOM: You've got offers from almost every school in the east and Midwest. How are you going to narrow this down?
KEN: I just want to see the area, the environment, and the school. What the whole school is about and the overall program. The biggest thing for me is the relationships with the coaches and players, and how I feel around them.
TOM: When do you plan on making your decision by?
KEN: Probably mid June or July. I just want to get it over with before my season starts, so I don’t have to focus on it anymore. I have enough offers that I can make my decision, and be done with it. Once I commit, that will be it.
TOM: Do you already have a good idea of a top 3?
KEN: I don’t really have a top list, but Michigan and Pitt are near top. Michigan was always my favorite team growing up. Coach Gibson has been coming in lately, and I’ve been getting to know him. I also have a good relationship with the Pitt coaches.
TOM: Where does Michigan factor into all this, are they near the top, or at the top?
KEN: If I had to name a leader I would say it is Michigan. Once I go up there, if I like it I’ll pull the trigger and commit. I’m talking to my uncle about it, and I think I’ll be up there in about two weeks. I think I fit what they’re trying to do right now, and the coaches that I do know are all great. Everything about Michigan is great, and I could definitely see myself there.
TOM: What do the coaches talk to you about? What is it that you like about them?
KEN: They’re really laid back. They’re like a good friend, and not a recruiter. I really like that they aren’t pressuring me about the school. Coach Gibson told me that all these schools are good, even if it’s not Michigan, they’re all 5 star hotels, it’s just which one you want to stay at. So it was nice to talk to someone who didn’t try to tell me what to do. He’s like a good friend.
TOM: I saw a play on your highlight film, where it actually looked like you ate someone. Are you one of those guys that just throws his body around, and loves to hit?
KEN: Yeah, I love to hit. I just always played defense, and I find the ball easy. It’s just fun to go out there and hit somebody.
TOM: Have you been in contact with any other recruits? What do they say?
KEN: I built a relationship with some guys from my area, Chad Hayden is one. Most of the guys around me, I’m trying to see if they’ll come with me and play with me.