Previously: S Carvin Johnson, S Ray Vinopal, S Marvin Robinson, CB Courtney Avery, CB Terrence Talbott, CB Cullen Christian, CB Demar Dorsey, LB Jake Ryan, LB Davion Rogers, LB Josh Furman, DE Jordan Paskorz, DE Jibreel Black, DE Kenny Wilkins, DT Terry Talbott, DT Richard Ash, C Christian Pace, WR Drew Dileo, WR Jerald Robinson, WR DJ Williamson, WR Jeremy Jackson, and WR Ricardo Miller.
If you liked Brandon Minor but thought he was too tall, too fast, and insufficiently bowling-ball shaped, you'll love Stephen Hopkins. ABC should bring Keith Jackson out of mothballs just so he can call Hopkins a "hoss" enough for the descriptor to be dubbed over every subsequent run in his career, NCAA XX style ("He used POWER").
Calling him a workhorse is almost insufficient: as a sophomore, Hopkins ran 322 times for Marcus. (They managed to cut him back to 275 as a junior.) People still do, though, with the Dallas Morning News going so far as to call him "the definition of a workhorse" as they named him the area's top back for 2010. He says the things that workhorses say, too:
"We ended up pounding the ball and pounding the ball," Hopkins said. "That was a great team we beat, so it's really satisfying".
All those carries added up to a grinding mountain of stats: 1,663 yards and 16 touchdowns as a sophomore, 1,689 yards and 22 touchdowns as a junior. In his senior year Marcus finally found a couple guys to share the load and Hopkins got a less frenetic workload, but still put up 1282 yards on just over 200 carries. As I was saying: hoss.
Stephen Hopkins is Brandon Minor, but moreso. ESPN doesn't use the word "Minor" but just about says so($):
Hopkins has big-back size with deceptively good feet and lateral agility. … 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. … 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. Opens his body to direct shots, which is concern in a high carry role at the next level. Can see and hit the cutback creases, but is not a natural pick and slide zone runner and may be limited to more downhill schemes in college. Shows good initial quicks through the hole but lacks great top-end speed when breaks free in the second level and an extra gear to separate.
Could you craft a better Brandon Minor scouting report than that? No. Also, Michigan's coaches, by way of Hopkins himself, say so:
"They told me I'm a lot like Brandon Minor and the other big backs they've played in their system."
And Hopkins says so too:
“I think I’m a pretty strong runner just like Brandon Minor is,” Hopkins said. “I’m a little bit bigger than he is, but I think I have a lot of the same attributes he does running the ball. He gets tough yardage, breaks first contact, gets a lot of yards after contact. I think I’m a lot like that.”
Jordan Kovacs woozily concurs after getting trucked twice in a row in the spring game. Also he probably says "momma."
We have established the equality of Brandon Minor and Stephen Hopkins, but there's more stuff too, stuff that makes Hopkins seem ever so slightly distinct. One: he's slower. More Hopkins on Hopkins:
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.
Two: he has even more RAGE. An observer of the coaches' clinic scrimmage:
The guy is just a freaking monster and he breaks tackles. Now, I can’t say he can block, or knows the offense or can catch the ball. Plus, he fumbled twice (once he was hit at the handoff, on the other instance it might have been the QB’s issue). But man is he a tough tackle on the belly if he can get (even) a yard of momentum.
In several different reports, Rivals calls him($) "a physical, punishing back" who "never hesitates" and "goes for positive yardage on practically every carry," praises his($) "tremendous overall size" and ability to "always … fall forward after being tackled," and says almost the exact same things($) in a third game report. (A caveat: report two says "he would have to be a short-yardage and goal-line back in the spread offense run at Michigan" and says he'll probably be a middle linebacker, two things that betray a scant knowledge of both Michigan's roster and the blood-strewn area on the backside of the Michigan offensive line that appeared whenever Brandon Minor had fewer than six broken bits.) Minor was pretty good at getting forward but he was taller and skinnier and more prone to get lit up for running too high. It sounds like you'd pick Hopkins if you had fourth and one.
As a potential bonus, his coach claims he's good out of the backfield and with the blocking and whatnot:
"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."
A year later, Erwin would say he's "great" at both blocking and receiving and the "most complete back that I've ever coached." He also knocked down that criticism from Rivals above:
"He's a great inside zone runner, which in that scheme, he should do well," noted the Marcus head coach. "When they do get in the I-formation, he's going to be fantastic. He does both those things for us. We still run a lot of I-formation and he's tremendous on tall sweeps and off-tackle plays."
The locals were also impressed. A message board focused on 5A Texas football has a thread in which the denizens say these things:
He is a very impressive player. His size is rare with RBs today. He can run for speed and power. … 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.
With the crying need for a hippopotamus back on the roster and Rodriguez's RAGE-friendly belly schemes, Hopkins is going to be a tailback at Michigan all the way. In the I-formation he'll line up behind the fullback and iso like mad. In the spread 'n' shred he'll be the Owen Schmitt (who ran the ball some 57 times as a senior) to someone else's Steve Slaton. The coaches have told him he's not a fullback. He won't be. He will be a horse.
Etc.: With Hopkins looking like a four-year contributor, get used to this:
As a junior, went Biakabutuka (313 yards) in a heartbreaking loss to Southlake Carroll. There is a petition for one Stephen Hopkins to be signed to "Sporting Hinton" permanently. Doctor Saturday as emirate? Random quote:
"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.
Hopkins made the All State team in the largest Texas division… second team… and they put four running backs on each team. Everything's bigger in Texas.
Other guy named Stephen Hopkins: Guys named Stephen Hopkins have a rich history in American… uh… history. One of them was on the Mayflower and signed the Mayflower Compact; another was one of Rhode Island's signatories on the Declaration of Independence. Hopkins beats Jeremy Jackson hands down.
Why Leroy Hoard or Brandon Minor? Minor is obvious. As for Hoard: take it from the guy who is cited above as Practice Observer, who was talking with a guy who played with Leroy Hoard, knows Leroy Hoard, watched Hopkins practice, and said "that's Leroy Hoard."
Guru Reliability: High, I guess. No reason a four-year starter at a major Dallas school wouldn't get the crap scouted out of him. Everyone thought Minor was going to be a fullback, too, though, and none of them seem to realize that Michigan has run plays that people other than Steve Slaton can run.
General Excitement Level: Moderate. Obvious, immediate contributor that fills a hole on the roster but unlikely to be a big star.
Projection: Fills a niche in the Michigan backfield that needs filling (see: worst play of the Decade #4) and will play this year. His worst case is the short yardage and goal-line back; his best case is Runaway Beer Truck next to a Vincent Smith.