Michigan's third Westside Cub in the 2012 class, Royce Jenkins-Stone is also the second consensus four-star linebacker and second Cass Tech kid covered in this series. As a recruit he's a lot different than his Police Athletic League compatriots, though: where both James Ross and Terry Richardson are praised for advanced skillsets and knocked for their size, Jenkins-Stone is an A-level athlete who needs some molding.
Jenkins-Stone's name first started popping up when he was a rising junior hitting the camp circuit all Cass Tech kids hit hard. Barry Every came back with this evaluation($) from the 2010 Columbus NTFC:
Has quick feet, long arms and a great frame for adding more muscle mass. … Displayed tremendous lateral movement during the 10-yard boundary drill, basically taking away any chance of a running back just trying to hit the sideline. CONCLUSION: Detroit Cass Tech has another future star in the making. He has the size and speed to become not only one of the top prospects in Michigan next year, but a national recruit.
That was borne out as Jenkins-Stone went on to a productive, aggressive junior year. He racked up 90 tackles and a handful of sacks as he spearheaded the Technicians' defense. When the recruiting sites started releasing rankings, he was first or second in the state; Rivals had him the only Michigan kid in their top 100. ESPN's evaluation($) was last updated in June of 2011 and serves as a snapshot of where his star was before his senior year:
Has the size and athleticism for the outside linebacker position at the major level of competition. This guy is a strong knock'em back tackler who will punish ball carriers when the opportunity presents itself; should be very productive early as a special teams player. … Although we detect some hip tightness we see the flexibility, balance and agility necessary to play in space; does a very good job getting a jump on the ball; is quick to key and read, displaying a tough downhill attacking style vs. inside and edge running plays. Shows the playing strength necessary to shed blockers while moving through traffic; keeps leverage on the ball showing good change of direction skills. … Does a great job with run and pass blitz timing; has the explosive playing strength to beat blockers through gaps and put immediate pressure on the quarterback; is responsible for quite a few sacks and hurries. This guy has very good instincts; plays with the intensity and toughness necessary to create havoc anywhere on the field.
Allen Trieu's assessment is similar, listing aggressiveness, athleticism, and toughness as assets and discipline as a drawback:
Has solid size and good speed and athleticism. An aggressive player who is best when in attack mode and shooting gaps. Good ability in coverage, as he has good ball skills and length. Improved as a junior in reading plays, but can still have a tendency to over run some plays. Often times, he is beating blocks with speed and sheer aggressiveness, so he will have to learn to take on and shed blockers at the college level.
Unfortunately, since then his star has waned a bit. Cass got annihilated in their season opener against Harrison and Jenkins-Stone did not have an impact. Josh Helmholdt($) on that:
With a Rivals100 ranking, more was expected of Jenkins-Stone in his senior season opener, but the 6-2, 215-pound prospect did not disappear completely. He registered a couple tackles for loss and showed off great speed, but got bottled up too often and had trouble picking his way through traffic. Jenkins-Stone moves well in space and when he hits you, you're going down. He made a great play ripping the ball from a Harrison back to force a fumble in the second quarter. The awesome physical tools were still recognizable, but this was certainly not Jenkins-Stone's best performance.
Helmholdt followed that up with some commentary on why Jenkins-Stone dropped like a jenkins-stone in Rivals's postseason rankings revamp:
"As a junior, Jenkins-Stone played an aggressive, downhill style of football player and was all over the field. We saw him live in two and a half games as a senior, though, and he had lost that aggressive style and was playing back on his heels. Jenkins-Stone has also grown very little since we saw him the first time as a sophomore and that raises questions about his ability to add the necessary strength and bulk to play inside in college."
Much like the last time I saw him play, there was a concerted effort by his opponent to run away from him, but I must admit I was still disappointed by his performance overall. RJS has all the physical tools you'd like to see in a BCS-caliber linebacker, but it appeared either his effort or instincts were lacking at times (my, er, instinct is that the latter is more the issue, since RJS appears to be very into the game emotionally at all times)—this is no more apparent than in the third clip from the video, in which he bites hard on an end-around fake and leaves a huge gap for the quarterback to take off up the middle.
This is not to say that I don't think Jenkins-Stone is a good player—when he's aggressive, he does a good job of finding a way to the ball and either making a play or forcing the ballcarrier into the rest of the defense. I like the way he's able to shed blocks to get to where he wants to go, and his athleticism and size combine to be a huge asset, and if anything, he's just got to harness that athleticism and play more under-control.
A later game against De La Salle was better; Ace pointed out that RJS also got 22 carries as a meat-grinding tailback and that Cass Tech's reliance on him on both sides of the ball suggests his motor is excellent. Cass did claim a whopping 145 tackles for him as a senior. I'm a little skeptical of that since his numbers in the three games that were heavily scouted add up to maybe 15 tackles.
After his somewhat disappointing senior year, Jenkins-Stone fell out of top 100s everywhere but retained his guy-we-rank-and-give-four-stars status. ESPN and Scout continued to list him just outside of their top 100s, but ESPN still has a fire-and-forget tendency.
You may note the weird offer list, with huge national names but no Penn State, Notre Dame, or Ohio State. (MSU did offer, but they're going to offer any four-star prospect in the state every year.) That's probably the local powers wanting Cass kids to actually show up on campus before they seriously pursue yet another player headed to Michigan. The recruiting articles on Jenkins-Stone mention a planned Notre Dame trip, but are silent about the result of it—it probably never happened. The powers halfway across the country were tossing the offer out as a way to get interest.
The local heavies hesitancy was well-founded. RJS was the first Cub to commit, taking himself off the market in mid-April($) right after Kaleb Ringer. Like Richardson, he flirted with visits to some of the power offers he picked up but ended up backing off after getting a stern phone call about the consequences of doing so.
At Michigan he'll start out as part of the MLB/WLB battle royale. However, the depth chart suggests someone is moving to the strongside. With Brennen Beyer and Frank Clark poised to duke it out at WDE, Jake Ryan's only backup is actually older than him. Michigan is going to have to slide someone down.
With Joe Bolden looking like the heir apparent at MLB and James Ross too small, the prime candidates are Jenkins-Stone and Ringer… except Ringer is listed at 6'0" most places and is not regarded as a vertical attacking threat in the same way RJS is. Michigan had already moved Beyer when Ringer showed for spring practice and he was still playing on the inside.
If Michigan wants to start grooming a Jake Ryan replacement this fall, RJS is the guy. While most of the sites list him as an inside linebacker, various analysts note the possibility he'll move outside. More Trieu:
He is truly has the physical presence to play inside, and the athleticism to move outside depending upon where Michigan needs him and has the potential to compete early. An aggressive player who is best when in attack mode and shooting gaps.
From both a roster standpoint and a player fit standpoint, that seems like the move. Most of the evaluations above hint that he's better as an athlete who can operate in space instead of a play-reading, traffic-evading inside linebacker. SLB is the land of insane athletes who can terrorize quarterbacks and take on tight ends without having to worry about guards or seam routes, and that sounds like Jenkins-Stone.
“They’re getting a kid that is athletic,” Wilcher said. “A kid that has great hands, catches the ball well. Good feet. Strong and has great speed for the linebacker position. One that can cover backs coming out of the backfield. Michigan runs the same style of defense we run, so I think hell fit right in. He’ll know all the calls and all the gaps, and I think he'll adjust quickly.”
Why Jake Ryan? Ryan is an often-irresponsible (but getting better) vertical attacker around 6'2" who has filled out into the 230-240 pound range and spent his high school career terrorizing backfields as a blitzer.
It's not a fantastic fit because the recruiting services missed on Ryan thanks to his late emergence and he played as an OLB in a 3-3-5; RJS was an inside linebacker in a 3-4. It's still pretty good. If you were going to list three assets and a drawback for Ryan you'd be hard-pressed to deviate from Trieu's formulation of RJS above: aggressive, athletic, tough… and a bit undisciplined.
Guru Reliability: Very high. Healthy, heavily scouted, same (or very similar) college position, and an All-Star appearance.
Variance: Moderate. Does need to put on some weight, may end up a bit of a tweener between the inside and outside, and has some boom/bust potential.
Ceiling: High. Seems a notch below the nutso athleticism that would get him a "very high" but easy to see him topping out at an all-conference level.
General Excitement Level: Moderate-plus. A little leery of the senior-year backslide a lot of responsibility on offense may have had something to do with that. Probably needs to make an adjustment to a position he hasn't played before. Doesn't seem as likely to hit his ceiling as Ross or Bolden, but still nice bullet to have in the chamber.
Projection: Jenkins-Stone is the most likely of the four incoming linebackers to redshirt. Bolden and Ringer came in for spring practice and Ross has a reputation as a guy who sees the game ahead of his years. Even if he makes the move to SLB Michigan has two solid options in front of him. Given the evaluations above, burning a redshirt for special teams activity seems highly inadvisable.
After a hypothetical redshirt year, RJS will find the linebacker depth chart largely in place. Only Kenny Demens departs after this year; with everyone else back it'll be tough to fight past Bolden, Morgan, Ryan, Gordon, et al, to find the field. He should get plenty of time on special teams and some garbage time drives. He'll probably find his way onto the two-deep as a redshirt sophomore and will be a prime candidate along with Mike McCray to replace Ryan in three years.
Yes. Michigan has a touted guy they shouldn't have to unearth until he's a redshirt junior. On defense and everything.
Not relative to the other players but from what I would expect a 4 star to look like at that stage. Also don't understand the yelling/screaming vid in after several plays that were fine but nothing special. He's a Alabama-monstrous-OL pancake away from toning that down.
But I don't see Ryan staying more than two more years. We all know that the Big Ten guy who piles up sacks is pretty much garunteed a draft spot... and I could see ryan having that type of season, if not this year than nest.
"Pat Fitzgerald is coming on shortly. He seems like a guy who knows his way around an oatbag." @bearringer
You make good points concerning RJS looking like a SLB. He seems like a good fit to put on the end and turn loose his athleticism.
I get the feeling he won't redshirt for a couple reasons; Too physically ready to contribute now, seems like a natural for special teams duty from the get-go, and with any type of injury to Ryan or the oft banged up Cam Gordon could put RJS in the two deep.
he's a definite RS candidate because he's raw as hell. Doesn't play with techniques and relied on athleticism. As much as I love seeing Cass Tech pipeline, coaching is lacking and most of them really need to re-learn techniques and disciplines. He is a talent, but would need a couple years of coaching up before seeing time at LB
We've got 1,000 linebackers now. At least one or two of them should be able to redshirt; otherwise, it's a waste to have so many on the roster. I don't have a problem with RJS playing if he can help, but then Bolden and/or Ringer and/or Ross should redshirt.
We May have 1000 LB's but only only 2 SLB's on the depth chart. The road to playing time for RJS is not crowded if he indeed moves to SLB. Anyway SLB aside, I think RJS gets turned loose on special teams early on. Maybe not against Bama but at some point in September.
Besides, LB depth is not as great as you contend as you can see by the depth chart. I wouldn't be surprised if all four true frosh LB's play this year
Your predilection with redshirts may not be shared by the coaches. Hoke and Mattison are going to play the best players regardless of class. There are only 11 linebackers on the depth chart, so playing 12 isn't an option. As you mentioned 4 are going to be true frosh, leaving only 7 returnees, one of which (Poole) redshirted. So we have 6 returning LB's with playing time and three of them (Gordon, Jones, Hawthorne) were passed up by a true freshman (Morgan) last season, it very well could happen again this season. What seems apparent to me; Hoke and Mattison are not enamored with Jones and Hawthorne, could lead to true frosh again passing them on the depth chart. It would not surprise me if due to injuries and abilities, 3 of the 4 frosh LB's end up on the 2 deep next season. RJS behind Ryan, Bolden behind Demens, and Ross behind Morgan. It will definitely be interesting to watch unfold
Then there are special teams.... all these frosh LB's could conceivably contribute on special teams.
Although I agree with you that if he's ready he'll play, I don't think he'll be ready. As a linebacker, he's not only raw, but he's small. Sometimes true frosh play despite being raw, and sometimes they play despite being undersized, but rarely do we see true frosh play who are raw and undersized. Compound that with a solid depth chart, and I doubt RJS sees the field.
He could be solid on special teams duty, but not better than Jones or Hawthorne or Cam Gordon or a number of other defensive non-starters who wouldn't need to burn a redshirt to play. Remember - technique is important on special teams too, and a guy who is in his second or third year in the program will probably have better tackling form than RJS at this point.
Keeping in mind how much attrition there is in college football these days, I believe in striking while the iron is hot. Talent trumps. If I were a betting man, I would bet RJS plays. Shit, Brennan Beyer got on the field last season, that kid looks like he ought be competing in a 100 Butterfly.
On the flip side, Jake Ryan took a redshirt and he probably should have played. Lord knows M's defense needed Ryan as a true frosh. Kid is a playmaker. Had RR played Jake Ryan as a true frosh he might still be employed in Ann Arbor
Regarding Cass Tech players: They coaching must not be as big a detriment as you think. The only one to redshirt was Thomas Gordon, he of the major position switch, from QB to Safety. I guess he had to perfect his "prison abs" before seeing the field
EDIT: it was Michigan4Life and not WolveinLA who mentioned the coaching at Cass Tech
Yeah, although I agree a bit with Michigan4Life that the Cass Tech guys don't tend to be as polished off the bat, I think it's more a case by case, position by position thing. Of the guys you mention, CBs usually redshirt less than other spots simply because less bulk is needed, and I think we all agree that BWC should have redshirted.
That said, I think the bigger reason those guys didn't redshirt was the lack of depth ahead of them, not their readiness necessarily. If Woolfolk hadn't gotten injured and we had more than one other upperclassman CB, I bet Hollowell wouldn't have seen the field either.