Previously: Last year's profiles. S Josh Metellus, S Khaleke Hudson, CB David Long, CB Lavert Hill, LB Elysee Mbem-Bosse, LB Devin Bush Jr., LB Devin Gil, LB Josh Uche, DE Ron Johnson, DT Michael Dwumfour, DT Rashan Gary, DE Carlo Kemp, OL Ben Bredeson, OL Michael Onwenu, OL Stephen Spanellis, TE Nick Eubanks, TE Sean McKeon, TE Devin Asiasi, WR Eddie McDoom, WR Nate Johnson, WR Kekoa Crawford, WR Chris Evans,
WR Brad Hawkins, WR Ahmir Mitchell, RB Kingston Davis.
|Wayne, NJ – 6'1", 210|
|Scout||5*, #28 overall
|Rivals||4*, 181 overall
#6 RB, #5 NJ
|ESPN||4*, #45 overall
#4 RB, #2 NJ
|24/7||4*, #328 overall
#12 RB, #9 NJ
|Other Suitors||OSU, FSU, ASU, AUB, Bama|
|YMRMFSPA||Denard Robinson, RB version (but slow!)|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace. Some scouting from earlier today.|
|Notes||Twitter. Early enrollee. DePaul(Michael Dwumfour).|
There's also a Bergen Catholic-Depaul Catholic game on Youtube in which Walker gets 23 carries. Ace compiled that into an every touch video:
Kareem Walker, The Number One Running Back In The United States, committed to Ohio State at halftime of the national championship game. That was a public relations move that ended up backfiring when Walker re-opened his recruitment due to the audacity of Harbs and eventually flipped to Ohio State's ancient enemy. Then recruiting sites had to go and ruin it by tumbling Walker down their rankings, because recruiting sites don't know a good story when they see one.
Walker's rep took a huge hit right at the end of the cycle, with Rivals dropping him from the cusp of five star status to #181 and 247 dropping him over 200 spots to a fringe four-star guy. He was vulnerable to such a hit for a few reasons. He couldn't participate at the Opening because of a sprained ankle. Walker's Hudl film stops abruptly after his sophomore year, leaving just a couple of highlight reels of the variety that irritatingly slow-mo any missed tackle.
It was in this environment that Rivals yanked his fifth star before the Army game. In San Antonio they wanted him to "prove something" at an exhibition:
Walker recently lost his fifth star and has gone from a decisive, one-cut brute at running back to a bit of an indecisive runner who questions his instincts and dances a bit too much. Ball security is also an issue.
Five-star brute Walker rushed for 1607 yards as a junior. Indecisive dancing Walker rushed for 1517 yards as a senior en route to a state title. Both halves of that assessment are goofy. Walker was never a "brute" in the vein of De'Veon Smith, and at least in that Bergen Catholic game above his ability to ghost through the melee at the line of scrimmage was impressive. One man's indecisiveness is another man's patience.
So. A gimpy Walker playing behind an offensive line trying and failing to deal with the ridiculous 2016 defensive line class didn't do so hot, and a couple of sites were already looking at him with a skeptical eye. Per Walker himself his first day was "slow" because he was unfamiliar with the plays and "going through the motions"; he picked it up later. The first impression lingered, however. Afterwards got absolutely bombed by 247 and Rivals:
Walker has been indecisive and has not hit the hole with authority. He did not seem to get a good read on the play as it developed and he has lacked explosion the last few days.
…needs to hit the opening faster and then fall forward when getting tackled. Sometimes, the Michigan commit hesitates as things develop.
Walker does not have the same running instincts that Miles Sanders, the other running back on Team Armour, shows. Walker continues to run timidly.
Thus the big dips. On the other hand Scout and ESPN were like "whatever, he rules." Scout's Dave Berk did note an "up and down" day, citing a lack of comfort, but blew it off because he'd seen Walker plenty already. Their ranking barely budged.
[After THE JUMP: this one is long enough to have a jump!]
This is weird. It's not uncommon for these posts to have wildly divergent takes on players lower down the totem pole. Walker is not down the totem pole, and yet there's little clarity from the scouts. Scout's quick analysis in his profile lists "instincts" as a strength and "vision" as an area to improve as if those aren't synonyms in this context. That's a Kareem Walker scouting microcosm. I found the takes here a bit baffling. This is Scout's three-sentence evaluation of a guy they rated as a five star:
Walker runs well between the tackles and is explosive through the hole. He runs with a low center of gravity and is difficult to bring down on first contact. He can get to the edge but needs to improve on finding the hole when the play isn't blocked well in front of him.
Pretty lukewarm, that. Meanwhile I watched that Bergen Catholic game because of the contradictory nature of the takes and came away with the impression that Walker is an upright runner with middling power and an outstanding ability to suss out where a crease might appear and burst through it. Ace's independent reaction to that game:
His vision was very good, and he does subtle things that will become more apparent on the next level… the instincts that Michigan's backs have often lacked of late are present in Walker.
…eventual size, strength and speed combo in college could be at a premier level. Hits the hole quickly and in decisive manner. … Would benefit from a bit more patience at times … explosive in-line burst out of cuts to split the seam or to bounce and get the corner. Quick feet and lateral agility for a bigger back jump cutting on the move without losing much momentum. Can turn it on and really accelerate … Strong downhill runner who breaks through most first contact … Very good balance and lean …complete back that still has major upside as his body continues to fill out and physically develop.
…tremendous lateral agility and very good feet. He shows a great burst out of his cuts and has great speed. …plenty of room to add weight naturally without losing any quickness. …able to maintain balance after contact and run with power. …runs tall, but will lower his pad level when making contact. His change of direction skills for a player his size are outstanding. …potential is through the roof.
…hard to find weaknesses in his game. … runs through contact and finishes plays. He has good long speed, so he can put pressure on a defense to take proper angles. More importantly, he has good feet in the hole, can make some people miss in small spaces, and can avoid taking big hits. He also has the ability to make jump cuts and lateral movements to get to the outside and find creases in the defense. His vision helps him identify cutback lanes at the second and third level ….sometimes hurries through the hole and could afford to be a little more patient.
…runs with great authority as a downhill type of back that also has speed to take it the distance. Outstanding burst into the second level….hits the hole with decisiveness and power. … explosive first step…picks up a lot of yards after contact …ability to make people miss in the hole. …dangerous jump-cut and spin move. Can work on keeping pad level lower and not running so upright at times.
We have negative scouting reports bashing him for his timidity and positive ones that mention he could be a little more patient. The former are mostly based on the Army game; the latter appear to be based on his high school performances and earlier camps.
And even Rivals described pretty much the same guy earlier in the cycle:
…bigger running back with great vision. His ability to change directions quickly is impressive for someone 6-1 and 210 pounds. Once Walker gets to the second and third levels, defenders have a very difficult time of bringing him down. If he can get to top speed, he will break away from defenders.
They also described him as "an easy mover who glides over the field with a good burst and change of direction"; "a powerful, upright runner with good burst"; a player whose "combination of speed, size and athleticism is rare" with "great vision and strength."
In the aftermath of the UA game, however, Rivals asserted that he "does not look like the same running back" because he "seemed hesitant, a little slower," and had a couple fumbles. I don't know, man. It feels like Rivals overrated Walker, realized they did so, and then pointed the finger at Walker instead of themselves. We're talking about practice.
Walker's spring was relatively quiet. The massive imbalance in depth between the second-string DL and OL resulted in a lot of carries where he got swallowed up in the backfield. The main event of note was a carry late in the spring game that featured one flattened walk-on:
There too you can see the natural running back instincts Walker has, as he bends that run outside and cuts just off his lead blocker's butt. There were some generically positive mentions in press conferences. The end.
FWIW, Walker's been through a lot to get to Ann Arbor. He says he "grew up really rough":
Growing up, I saw some crazy things in my neighborhood that people shouldn’t see. I was able to remain focused when seeing those things. I was able to stay focused and that’s something that people don’t really know. I credit it some to my mom, my grandmother. My dad passed away. For the most part I like to take a lot of responsibility.
Wheatley referenced that on MGoBlue:
Kareem is a very intelligent young man who understands what he wants out of life. He is well beyond his years -- meaning that he had to grow up a lot faster and earlier than what was expected. Kareem has handled himself in situations where others would not have made it and he has done well.
When Walker re-opened his recruitment and was deciding between Michigan and various Southern schools it was emphasized to me that he didn't have much of anything and that this made his decision a lot tougher. It had been made clear to him that certain other schools were offering considerably more than room and board. He went with Michigan anyway, and Harbaugh played a big role in that:
“He looked at me in my eyes, really, the whole time,” Walker said of his first encounter with Harbaugh. “A lot of recruiters don’t do that. That just showed me that he’s a man of his word and a man of integrity. So, it was real cool to get that.”
There aren't a lot of guys who would make that choice, and hopefully for his sake and Michigan's that indicates something about him that will translate to success. His UA coach loved his attitude…
“… he’s been extremely explosive, and he has great vision. The most impressive thing about Kareem is his ability to adapt to coaching. He’s extremely receptive to constructive criticism, he has a positive attitude, and exceptional work ethic. Obviously, he’s very talented.”
…and while that can be generic coachspeak sometimes I did like the extremely specific nature of his response to a question about improvement he's seeking to make:
“I want to work on getting my feet higher,” Walker said. “A lot of big touchdown runs I could have had last year stopped from my legs getting tackled, or I’m seconds away from breaking a tackle and I get leg-tripped.”
When I started this profile I expected it might come out like Ahmir Mitchell's. Guys who take big ranking hits at the end of the cycle sometimes don't fall far enough—Derrick Green is a good example—because recruiting sites aren't just evaluating the player but also their own opinions. I thought I'd be like "meh, next" except nicer about it. Instead I think Walker is a good bet to be a productive running back who makes the most of the blocking in front of him, with a decent chance that the 225-230 pound version of Walker is in fact the star he was reputed to be at halftime of OSU-Oregon.
Etc.: The worst part of doing a profile for an OSU/M battle is having to wade through a metric ton of Bill Kurelic's crap:
And by the way, landing Walker is another jolt to Michigan and Harbaugh. There were some that felt Harbaugh had a very good shot at landing Walker. Now the Buckeyes not only have Walker, but it takes another top prospect away from Michigan and means the Buckeyes won’t have to play against him every year.
I gotta stop clicking on this stuff just in case there's an actual scouting tidbit in any of it. Salty salty:
"I don't know how many I've blocked on Twitter, but it's over 20 fans I've blocked," Walker told Webb. "When I get on Twitter, it just be a whole bunch of Ohio State fans. My thing be, if y'all got a better back, why y'all still salty I left?. 'Oh, Antonio Williams is better than Kareem.' Alright cool. Why y'all still tweeting at Kareem?"
Why Denard Robinson? Walker is a weird back with chicken legs and a wily ability to shoot into creases in the line, and the running back version of Denard Robinson we saw against South Carolina is the closest thing in the recent history of Michigan football. Both guys have excellent agility in tight spaces, the vision to make it count, and reasonable power largely dependent on not getting hit square and spinning through for a couple extra yards. Walker will end up bigger—he's got an inch or two on Robinson and is already around the same weight Robinson got up to his second year in the NFL—and slower—he is not Denard Robinson.
When he was an OSU commit their people compared him to Ezekiel Elliott. Elliott was almost exactly the same size coming out of high school; he ranked a little bit higher (70th in the composite). Over the course of his career he got up to 225; his NFL draft profile reads a lot like a best case scenario for Walker:
Elite combination of vision and decisiveness. Instinctive, short strider with instant reaction time. Has a bona fide jump-cut to elude penetration in the backfield and enough burst to elude chasers when he bounces runs to the outside. Able to change directions with no hesitation or wasted motion and is always headed forward. Has innate feel for developing blocks in space and is excellent at setting his blocks up and accelerating from behind them when the linebacker is trapped. When it's gridlocked inside, finds yards on his own.
I think Walker has a lot of that.
Guru Reliability: Moderate-plus. Heavily scouted guy with a lot of similar scouting reports… and some wildly divergent ones. Big ranking split.
Variance: Low-plus. Not much projection. Not much doubt he'll get to the right size. Ton of high school production.
Ceiling: High. Great burst, very natural runner. Does not seem superhuman.
General Excitement Level: High-minus. A little doubt arises with the late drop, but I still like Walker a lot.
Projection: A redshirt would make sense since Michigan has a ton of tailbacks; unlike Kingston Davis, Walker probably isn't a guy who helps you on special teams. With his early enrollment and the position he plays I am doubtful he gets one. He'll see scattered snaps and get a bunch of carries late in blowouts.
In year two he'll probably back up Ty Isaac. As an upperclassman he's a very good bet to be the starting running back. Kingston Davis would have to hit his ceiling to pass him. The combine freaks in the 2017 class would have a better shot if only because people shaped like O'Maury Samuels and AJ Dillon should not be able to move like them.