2010 Recruiting: Ray Vinopal Comment Count

Brian March 8th, 2010 at 4:52 PM

Previously: S Carvin Johnson.


Youngstown, Ohio - 5'10" 178
ray-vinopal Scout 3*, #103 S
Rivals 2*, NR
ESPN 2*, 68, #270 ATH
Others NR
Other Suitors Wisconsin, Kent State, Bowling Green, Air Force
YMRMFSPA Brandent Englemon
Previously On
Commitment post. Brief interview with Tom.
Notes Cardinal Mooney puts out a lot of talent every year.

Ray Vinopal is the second member of Michigan's Rodney Dangerfield duo at safety, a two-star who was a surprise commitment at a time when Michigan had considerably higher-rated prospects on the board. Rich Rodriguez took some time to defend his new deep safety on signing day:

I hope people don't get too hung up in stars. I don't know what Ray's star rating was. Ray Vinopal I think is -- you know, valuable a recruit as anybody we have, because of what we've seen and what we think he's going to bring to the table. And I'm very excited about Ray. He's a guy, again, that kind of came out of nowhere in some people's minds, but not in ours. Tony Gibson did an outstanding job of reciting Ray.

It's more of the same when it comes to gurus and the players and the quotes and the laven:

Vinopal said he doesn’t put much stock in Internet evaluations of his play, either.

“I use it as motivation,” he said. “I know what I can do, the coaches obviously know what I can do, that’s why they offered me. I mean, it’s Michigan and the Big Ten, they’re not throwing out offers because they want to be nice. There’s a reason behind it.”

There is also a reason that the internet folks are down on Johnson. The common thread running through Vinopal's evaluations is a lack of athleticism. ESPN's mostly negative take:

Lacks desired length and height as a high-point safety as well. He is an active run defender who will come down and fill hard; provides good secondary support. Shows adequate closing burst and makes solid contact as a tackler with better-than-adequate pop. Overall underneath range and speed is good but he does not fill with great downhill burst and sharp angles; loses outside leverage on the ball at times. … Lacks quick diagnosing and reaction skills which is a concern. Not a guy who projects well playing down over the top of slots in man coverage schemes and feel he could struggle mirroring/breaking down on quicker skill players in space.

At the time of his commitment I compared him to Jordan Kovacs; Touch The Banner also referenced Kovacs in its scouting report. Again with the small/slow bits:

And that's the problem I have with the Vinopal offer and commitment. When I watch him, I don't see a whole lot to fix. He's pretty technically sound. He reads plays well, he accelerates well, and you can see that he goes full-speed. He goes all out . . . and I'm still not impressed. He's not a great tackler. He's not extremely fast. He's going to get overpowered in the run game, outrun in open space, and outjumped in the passing game. When he gets to full speed, his running form goes completely out of whack, although that's something that may be able to be fixed.

Even folks who are trying to talk up Vinopal's potential tend to mention his general failure to be Adrian Peterson:

"Ray's a kid that when you look at him, he's always going to be underestimated because he's not as athletic as most of the Division I safeties probably are. But Cardinal Mooney guys are pretty darn successful. If you look at a guy like Kyle McCarthy at Notre Dame, he's probably not as big, as fast or as athletic as any other defensive back there [at ND] but he led them in tackles each of the past two seasons.

"Ray Vinopal could be similarly productive, and he has more speed than McCarthy."

I'm on the record as a big Kyle McCarthy fan—he and David Bruton were everything Michigan safeties were not the last couple years—but while McCarthy just put up a 4.65 at the NFL combine he also finished second amongst safeties in the bench press, three-cone drill, and shuttle. McCarthy is a big, athletic guy who happens to be a little slow. Vinopal is a considerably smaller player who many people knock for his lack of athleticism.

On the other hand, there are some indicators that Vinopal is actually pretty fast. He is a member of Mooney's state championship 4x100m relay that has won back-to-back state titles and will go for a third this spring. As a freshman in a (no doubt hand-timed and still probably FAKE) 4.5 40 at an underclass camp. He claimed a 4.41 electronic time to Sam Webb on signing day.

Afterwards, Vinopal was getting a ton of letters from all over, but none of them materialized into offers save for scattered MAC teams and service academies until Michigan stepped in. Wisconsin said he was "definitely an offer guy" after he hit their summer camp, and on Signing Day Vinopal did claim a late Badger offer. Other than that, the BCS was indifferent. Notre Dame brought him in for a visit and was considering an offer, as were BC and Pitt, but Michigan short-circuited that by picking up his commitment.

So. Previously I explained my bullishness on Carvin Johnson despite his who-dat status. Vinopal doesn't have any of those same indicators except maybe the late offers, and Vinopal's only got the one from Wisconsin. That doesn't match Johnson's three or four from programs like Tennessee. Vinopal got a small bump from Scout after committing to Michigan but actually lost ground at Scout. Rivals was unmoved. And there's no one out there other than Vinopal's coach

“He is extremely physical, extremely explosive,” Fecko said. “He did some things where there were some balls, fades thrown up along the sideline, and it looked like they were going to be a completion and he was coming across just smacking people, dislodging footballs. A great run-stopper that was a sure tackler, and when he had his chance to lay a lick on you he definitely did.”

…saying the kid is someone who should have grabbed more attention.

Now… I feel bad, right? I read articles in which Vinopal or Johnson says stuff about people not liking them or needing to prove people wrong and I think that I am a person who they believe needs to be proven wrong—needed to, in Johnson's case. But the goal of this series is to assemble information and guess, and the information assembled doesn't paint a picture of a major contributor.

However, it is just a guess, and Michigan's long, inglorious history at safety is significantly crappier than, say, Wisconsin's. Or Iowa's. Or a whole section of Big Ten teams that put out good defenses with guys you've never even heard of. So maybe Rodriguez and company found a guy who can be Tyler jimmer-jammin' Sash. It's possible. McCarthy, an extremely successful college safety from Mooney, was a meh 5.5 three star to Rivals. These things are not stone.

Why Brandent Englemon? Small two-star safety who had poor other offers and average athleticism. Englemon is sort of a default comparison. And it should be noted that Englemon's presence in the program was a positive. He was an off-and-on starter.

Etc.: Vinopal is an academic ninja with a GPA greater than four—AP classes. Senior stats are 1,112 rushing yards, 12 touchdowns, 78 tackles, and three interceptions.

Guru Reliability: High. Cardinal Mooney never lacks for attention and this year they had a big time running back in Braylon Heard, who ended up going to Nebraska, so Vinopal was thoroughly scouted. He was healthy throughout high school, too.
General Excitement Level: Low. If there's ever going to be a low, it's got to be a guy with Vinopal's offers and rankings.
Projection: Well. If Vinopal is ready he will play from day one. I don't think anyone expects that to happen since everyone on the roster will have more experience or better rankings. A redshirt seems likely and then a couple years of special teams time, at which point he'll have an opportunity to start as an upperclassman if he develops.



March 8th, 2010 at 5:22 PM ^

was a HS Valedictorian, and somewhat of an academic ninja himself.
I'm really looking forward to seeing Vinopal on the field, even if it means waiting until 2011.


March 8th, 2010 at 5:35 PM ^

for sticking to his guns and doing it, all of it, his way.

Alas, I just have never once* felt, regardless of the man's skill, experience and talent, that this was anything more than the work of a brilliant man 6 hours after the Titanic hit the iceberg.

(*confession: after the 2008 Wisconsin game, there was like 18 minutes when I thought the ship had been righted)


March 8th, 2010 at 5:39 PM ^

You need brains to read the offense and to have the mental discipline to make the defense work. You can have all the athleticism in the world, but if you're out of position it won't do you any good.


March 8th, 2010 at 5:54 PM ^

Being in the right place because of your smarts can help offset some lack of athleticism, but admittedly not all. This is similar to where freak athletes can make up for mental mistakes because of their speed. I'm excited to see what this guy can do, since there seems to not really be any high aspirations for him from the fans. I want to see him prove people wrong.


March 8th, 2010 at 10:23 PM ^

So, Blake Gideon was a total left field commit to UT three years ago. It was a close race between UT and Rice--that's right, Rice. Two years later, and he's a two year starter. He's clearly limited athletically, and he dropped that interception against Tech, but man, he knows where to be on the field. And if there's one thing that I'm tired of seeing in the Big House, it's safeties who look like they accidentally wandered onto the field.

And also, Gideon has beaten out two four star rivals 250 types to keep his spot, so here's hoping Ray can likewise contribute.


March 8th, 2010 at 6:35 PM ^

Is it possible that the coaches were looking for a high GPA, character, depth athlete to fill out the team in those areas rather than a guy who will start as a freshman or Sophomore?


March 8th, 2010 at 9:45 PM ^

Strong Safety David Ritter comes to mind when comparing Vinopal, NOT Englemon - those of you who watched during the Desmond era might remember him making a timely sack of Jason Verduzco in the 1991 Illinois road game. Desmond caught his 20th TD pass of the year on the next play in the 20-0 victory.

15 years ago, before the advent of the "experts" on the Internet, this is a normal kind of pick-up that Michigan would make, develop for 2-3 years, and then unleash on the conference to be a solid producer as an upperclassman. Now, people with blogs, random high school coaches, and bricklayers determine that the star players on undefeated state champion teams are NOT GOOD ENOUGH to play at Michigan. We're pre-judging these kids a year before they even get a chance to try and make their careers. How sad.

In the 1970s, we would have been calling David Brandon a two-star bust from Plymouth. He's turned out alright, heh?

Players like Ray Vinopal, who are smart, conscientious, and successful, are necessary for successful programs, and to a larger extent, universities (honestly, would you have rather have Vinopal or Larry Harrison wearing that winged helmet?). I look forward to his success at Michigan.


March 8th, 2010 at 10:10 PM ^

I think Ray will be a nice addition to the team and, who knows, might impress people. We talk about how Tate is gaining weight and strength under Barwis, so I have to imagine that the same could be possible for Vinopal. Furthermore, not everyone has to be a 4* stud - the best teams are always the ones that discover studs in the 2* and low 3* bargain bins and turn them into productive members of the team.

Beyond that, it's not like every other guy in this class is going to be a roaring success - guys wash out all the time, leave for other programs, etc. At this point, he looks like a winner who'll play hard, expects to win, and will at least help with special teams. If that is something I can get for a scholarship toward the end of the recruiting cycle, I'm happy.


March 9th, 2010 at 9:29 AM ^

"Furthermore, not everyone has to be a 4* stud - the best teams are always the ones that discover studs in the 2* and low 3* bargain bins and turn them into productive members of the team."

USC, Florida, Texas, and Alabama are on line one to discuss this with you sir.


March 10th, 2010 at 4:55 PM ^

Alabama takes a bunch of lower-regarded kids but then forces them out when somebody better comes along, so I'm not going to read much into their "depth." USC, Florida, and Texas certainly pick up quite a few top-rated kids, but they do have some 3* guys and, to be fair, lots of those kids get the "Big Team" bounce in the rankings. But I see your point that there are a few outliers.

Cosmic Blue

March 9th, 2010 at 9:31 AM ^

Vinopal got a small bump from Scout after committing to Michigan but actually lost ground at Scout. Rivals was unmoved.

im guessing one of those Scouts should have been ESPN. doesnt really effect what you were trying to say, but this is what we do here right? point out typos...

J. Lichty

March 9th, 2010 at 10:50 AM ^

I expect we will see him on the field more than some would like, but I am rooting for him. Of course, a kid like this can be valuable even if he plays little. Bringing an intensity and drive to practice alone will help make the other players better.

Section 1

March 9th, 2010 at 6:46 PM ^

Anything competitive this spring? Does anybody know, can he attend the spring game as a 'civilian', free from NCAA regs? (God forbid that he spend more than 4 hours in any one day or a total of more than 20 hours traveling here from Youngstown, or that any Quality Control staff at Michigan wish him luck on his Chem II midterm in April.)


March 9th, 2010 at 7:41 PM ^

I agree completely on any comparisons with Pierson and Curtis. Marcus Ray would be another modern day comparison. Just watch the 69 OSU game on YouTube. The best player in the most important game in Michigan history was a smart, under-sized saftey from the UP named Barry Pierson . . . he returned a punt to the 3 yard line to set up the deciding TD and had 2 ints (I think). Michigan needs guys like this on the team. I think he'll be starting by his Junior year.


March 9th, 2010 at 12:11 PM ^

God bless his cotton-pickin' maize-and-blue stumpy little legs.

Whatever he accomplishes on the field, I'm pretty sure he will represent the team and the University with class, and will go on to significant accomplishments after he graduates with a Michigan degree.

None of which will garner a single word in print from Rosenberg or Snyder.


March 9th, 2010 at 8:57 PM ^

Rich said from day one he wanted to build competitve depth. I am not aware of another team that has a three deep of four and five star studs in the secondary. You have to have a few two and three star sleepers on the team. Periodically they turn into an important contributor. I'm just glad the team will actually have three deep at any defensive position.