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, DT Terry Talbott, DT Richard Ash, C Christian Pace, and WR Drew Dileo.
|Washington, PA - 6'3" 240|
|Scout||3*, #63 DE|
|Rivals||4*, #15 WDE, #9 PA|
|ESPN||3*, 77, #42 OLB|
|Other Suitors||Wisconsin, North Carolina, Pitt, West Virginia|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Commitment post. Tom's interview with Wilkins, and one after he committed.|
I managed to forget about Kenny Wilkins, who should have shown up sometime before Christian Pace signaled a shift of this series to the offensive side of the ball, but that doesn't mean you should in your fevered explanations of how this recruiting class is not a defense-free debacle that will inevitably doom Rich Rodriguez. Kenny Wilkins exists and should be heeded.
Here's as good a reason as any why, a quote from his coach:
"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 [Mike] Yancich and [Andrew] Sweat, but he is the most physically talented player I've had."
With Yancich and Sweat waiting in the wings at Penn State and Ohio State, respectively, that is praise with some heft behind it. Here's some more for good measure:
"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."
The picture painted is clear: freakish physical talent that needs serious molding.
Also, like many of Michigan's DL recruits this year, Wilkins is a guy with an uncertain position. Wilkins is listed at anywhere from 220 to 250 pounds by the articles on Gooogle, and that's not necessarily time-lapse stuff. The above article with the coach raves says he's "6-4, 245 pounds" despite only being a junior, but ESPN's positive combine report ("striking … physically one of the most impressive-looking athletes … definitely passes the eyeball test") lists him at 220 despite occurring a couple months later. The Pittsburgh Sports Report listed him at 225 twice, though they did say he had "the frame to add a lot of good weight." This profile goes with the official site's numbers, which are 6'3" and 240.
Whatever he is now, he will be large in the future. Multiple reports that evaluate him as a linebacker complain about "stiffness." Scout's Bob Lichtenfels says he's excellent going North and South but needs to be "more athletic when changing directions." Here's PSR again:
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. … Looks better in combines than on film, but he is a good athlete that could prosper in the right conditions.
Their other evaluation describes him as a "rangy and productive end who plays sideline to sideline," invoking Jeff Casteel's magic word ("rangy") when it comes to what West Virginia looks for in their defensive ends.
ESPN, meanwhile, evaluates him mostly as a linebacker($), causing those complaints to pop up again:
Not real fluid overall as a defensive prospect, but doesn't stay blocked for long when scraping and supporting the outside run. Loses some in transition opening to turn and run but flashes good range and acceleration making plays sideline-to-sideline which sometimes surprises you with his stout frame and good physicality he shows on the line of scrimmage. However, he is susceptible to getting sealed off on the edge; is not real reactive or quick/agile pursuing laterally. Opens his whole body up to the cutoff block and while he has the strength to consistently shed at the high school level, he could potentially get engulfed at the major college level. 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. … Stock would be higher if had better hips and change-of-direction skill.
This is a bizarre place to evaluate him given his strengths:
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.
Sounds like a DE to me, especially since they mention he has "a lot of experience playing on the line of scrimmage" and that his "tall, well-built frame" has room to pack on more pounds. Theory: the evaluation was written after the combine at which he weighed in at 220, causing the evaluator to dismiss the possibility he'd play DE despite it being totally obvious given the evaluations. At least ESPN can take solace in the fact that they weren't the service with the most peculiar projection for Wilkins's position: Tom Lemming evaluated him mostly as a tight end, though he did say he "shows great burst and closing speed" as a DE.
All that was enough for virtually every BCS school within 1000 miles to offer. He got quick ones from Pitt, Maryland, Illinois, and similar schools, and by the time of his commitment he'd just picked up #27 from UConn to go with WVU, Virginia, Wisconsin, North Carolina, NC State, and others. Ohio State was continually on the verge of an offer, but never actually came through with one. Penn State found itself in a similar situation. Once Michigan came in, though, Wilkins was ready to get things over with, committing before his senior season started.
Finally, what does Kenny Wilkins have in common with a sorority girl? Lots.
"I get paranoid if I do miss a single workout," Wilkins said. "I'm in the gym three or four times a week, sometimes five." …
"He's an unbelievable physical talent," Trinity coach Ed Dalton said. "He's very muscular, and he has a 28-inch waist. He looks like an NFL player today. He's not going to take a year in college to get that physical look. He already has it. He's blessed physically."
Why Tim Jamison? Jamison had a considerably higher recruiting profile than Wilkins did after an explosive senior year saw him leap from so-so to top 100 lists, but other than that the fit is pretty tight. Jamison was listed at 6'3", 240 as a recruit, eventually getting to 270 by the end of his career. He was something of a LB/DE tweener with explosive athleticism rushing the passer but never really reached the potential implied by his rankings because his play remained inconsistent, just like Wilkins's coach warns above. By the end of his career he was a solid Big Ten DE (ten TFLs, 5.5 sacks) but not a star.
Guru Reliability: Moderate. They got to see him in person and ranked him as they will, but the split in opinion is considerable and the confusion about his position brings the ESPN evaluation into serious question.
General Excitement Level: Moderate. It will take a lot of development to get Wilkins up to a playing weight, and his lack of technique could hold him back. He's a boom or bust (or meh) sort of guy.
Projection: Should redshirt as Anthony LaLota and Jibreel Black are more ready to play than he is amongst the new crop of defensive ends. With the DE positions set for 2011, too, he'll probably be a backup until 2012, at which point he will be in a battle to establish himself.