Previously: S Vlad Emilien, S Thomas Gordon, CB Justin Turner, CB Adrian Witty, LB Isaiah Bell, LB Mike Jones, LB Brandin Hawthorne, DT Will Campbell, DE Anthony LaLota, DE Craig Roh, OL Michael Schofield, OL Taylor Lewan, OL Quinton Washington, and WR Cameron Gordon.
|Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - 6'1" 180
||4*, #17 WR, #169 overall
||4*, #14 WR, #104 overall
||82, #8 WR, #69 overall
||#60 to TAKKLE, #53 on the Athlon consensus list, #40 to TSN.
||Georgia, Penn State, Tennessee, Illinois
|TomVH interviews Stokes.
||Tennessee decommit; Army AA; brother is 2010 QB
When Je'Ron Stokes committed to Michigan I was in an airport about to board a plane for Egypt by way of Germany, and as soon as he did I logged off and forgot all about him. Ever since when something reminds me of that commitment, it's like a weird bonus: oh, yeah, that universally-praised wide receiver in the class I never remember. He's like a ghost recruit.
So it's ironic that Stokes is one of the best-scouted and most-well-known players in the class. He first burst onto the scene as a sophomore, when he started hitting camps and killing them:
Stokes, 6-foot-1 and 171-pounds, was named the MVP, with a 28-inch vertical, 8’8” broad, 4.49 shuttle, 4.62 40, 21 reps at 150-pounds, and a number of circus catches during 1-on-1’s.
From appearances he went to virtually every camp within reasonable driving distance of Philadelphia, establishing his athletic bonafides time and again. It's gotten to the point where people in Pennsylvania name-check Stokes when they're trying to hype up their own kids:
Harrigan said of Jackson: "…for my money, not even that kid from Northeast [Tennessee-commit Je'Ron Stokes] has anything on Malik when it comes to athleticism."
This familiarity led to an avalanche of early offers. By the time he committed to Tennessee he had a boatload of major ones:
Stokes had offers from all over the map, including UCLA, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan State, N.C. State, Oklahoma and Rutgers.
Penn State and Notre Dame were also on that list; later Georgia would try to get involved. Oddly, Rich Rodriguez's offer gun would skip Stokes until a few days after his commitment. This would become relevant when Phil Fulmer went out the door, Lane Kiffin entered, and Tajh Boyd got cut loose. Understandably leery of Tennessee's quarterback situation, Stokes re-opened his recruiting, focused on Penn State, Michigan, Illinois, and picked Michigan on signing day. Divers alarums.
Ghost recruit can play. ESPN was extremely enthused, saying he's a "really good football player, no matter how you slice it" and ranking him well within their top 100. Details:
He's a high-motor player who is aggressive in everything he does. Always seems to be going full speed. Has very good height and a wiry build that can take on additional bulk and get stronger. Has exceptional foot quickness and appears faster than he is. He's sudden, shifty and explosive. May not be a true burner, but his long speed is very good. Can line up outside or in the slot, where he shows very good zone awareness. Knows how to find open holes, settle in soft spots and work the intermediate zones. Has the quickness and acceleration to separate from man-to-man coverage. He's very explosive out of the break. Shows soft hands and plucks with ease on the run. He's a very good leaper who can elevate to high-point the ball and make difficult catches in traffic. Has the ability to threaten defenses vertically because he reaches his top speed so quickly. Works the middle of the field a lot as a slot receiver and shows some toughness.
ESPN does provide some notes of caution about route-running, but yow! The Pittsburgh Sports Report echoes:
An electrifying game breaker with excellent speed, Stokes could use more size on his current 6’1” and 180 pound frame. He has great hands, knows how to get open, makes a lot of acrobatic catches and is terrific after the catch.
"Great hands" was a descriptor I came across with regularity during this googlestalk. Another example, this from a major combine where Stokes took home the offensive MVP:
Stokes, from Philadelphia (Pa.) Northeast, was dominant in the one-on-one drills, showing off his excellent route-running, quickness in and out of his cuts and great hands en route to his award. It didn't matter what route he ran, he was smooth, got separation and caught any ball within reach.
Aaand how about one more from Athlon:
When the ball is in the air he has what scouts like to call ownership of the ball. It is his and his alone. He uses solid leaping abiliy, good hands and tremendous body control to make tough catches in traffic.
Though Stokes is slightly less well-regarded on the other major sites, he started off around the same level on Scout, where he was a five-star at one point, and Rivals, where he was in the top 50, before a steady drop over the course of his senior season. Why? I couldn't find any explanations, except a mention in that Athlon article about Stokes playing mostly defense towards the end of the year.
I did get an email from a reader who had corresponded with a local preps guy not fond of the shift key who was not a fan, claiming his average per catch—around 10—to be lowest among city leaders and citing a lack of willingness to go over the middle. The guy's opinion seemed heavily biased by dislike of the family, though, and I don't put much stock into the scouting prowess of one bitter guy with no track record versus, you know, everyone else.
Where will he play? Maybe the slot. Maybe on the outside. In this AMP video prompted by Stokes' early commit to Tennessee, Rivals' Mike Farrell projects him as a slot receiver and has high praise for his abilities:
Stokes is a guy capable of turning the short gain into a big play. His lateral quickness and good feet give him great change-of-direction. He also possesses excellent speed. When he makes the first defender miss and gets a seam, he can take it the distance.
In Michigan's signing day press conference Rodriguez suggested that Michigan would use Stokes both in the slot and on the outside; that flexibility will help him see playing time early. In the long term, Stokes will probably settle into one spot or the other based on the receivers around him.
And now, here's Pat Summerall not being even slightly hyperbolic:
HE'S TAKING OVER THE CITY. HE RUNS A 4.3. SEND IN MOTHRA.
Etc.: Hard to decipher these highlights, but they exist. Fluffy article with some good insight into Stokes' family background.
Why Mario Manningham? Stokes ended up a bit lower on Scout and Rivals but ESPN and a wide array of ancillary ratings ranked Stokes around where Manningham was. Stokes is about the same size and is praised for his ability to make catches in traffic, plus his athleticism. What about that slot stuff? Well, remember that Citrus Bowl when Michigan came out in the spread and Manningham jetted all over the field taking handoffs and darting from place to place? Yeah. Manningham could have been a slot in this offense, too.
Guru Reliability: High. Stokes participated in every camp he possibly could and made an All-Star game appearance. If there's anyone in the class the recruiting services are intimately familiar with it's him.
General Excitement Level: High. Stokes has the offers, the ratings, and the praise. Also, the scratchy voice seems like rich material for RBUAS, should Johnny emerge from hibernation.
Projection: Where he starts will depend more on Jeremy Gallon's SAT score—about which I know nothing, to forestall the inevitable questions—than anything Stokes does. If Gallon makes it, Stokes will probably slide outside and fight for a spot on the second unit behind Mathews and Hemingway or Stonum. If he doesn't, he'll probably shoot it out with the slots. Either way, a redshirt is a 50-50 proposition:
"They never promised him that he would start or anything," Ronald Stokes said. "But they said that if he came in and did the things that he's capable of doing, there would be a good shot that he would not be redshirted the first year.