PA DE/OLB Ken Wilkins committed to Michigan today at a press conference containing 2% suspense. (He did take a last visit to Pitt.) At 6'4" and around 240 pounds (probably), Wilkins is ticketed for deathbacker, where he'll compete with Jordan Paskorz.
GURU RATINGS & CHATTER
|4*, #32 DE||3*, #35 OLB||77, no position rank|
The words with Wilkins are "potential," "athleticism," and "tweener." ESPN's evaluation was mixed:
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.
The downside was mostly linebacker stuff:
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. Overall, we like Wilkins' potential as a Sam 'backer in a traditional 4-3 defense. A guy who could play up on the line on situational run downs and also stack the tight end from normal LB depth. Stock would be higher if had better hips and change-of-direction skill.
This continues the earlier theme where Michigan is picking up defensive players who project well in their defense but have issues, whether it's size or coverage problems, if asked to play in a traditional 3-4 or 4-3. Both Wilkins and Paskorz are somewhere between linebackers and defensive ends and punished in the rankings; maybe they can find a place at Michigan that fits their skills to a T.
The Pittsburgh Sports Report's recent top 25 placed Wilkins #15 in Pennsylvania:
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.
Their "bottom line" is that he's more of an athlete than a polished player but "could prosper in the right situation." I'm not sure if that weight is more or less accurate than the 244 cited by Mike Farrell here. Probably "more" since the Pittsburgh combine Wilkins was at shows him at 222.
His coach echoes the sentiment about his upside in an article about Wilkins making the all-state team as a junior:
"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."
Various talent evaluators who've seen him at combines agree:
Kenny Wilkins, DE/OLB, Junior, Washington, Pa./Trinity
Wilkins was one of the most striking big men at the Pittsburgh combine. This 6-3, 220-pound defender ran a solid 4.7 40. He had a very good day and was physically one of the most impressive-looking athletes at the UPMC Sports Performance Complex. … Wilkins is a very good defensive player who definitely passes the "eyeball" test.
His coach again*:
"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 Yancich and Sweat, but he is the most physically talented player I've had."
*(This article has died and gone to 404, but is replicated several other places on the internet.)
Wilkins had an impressive set of offers but lacked heavy-hitters outside of the Michigan one:
Pitt, Michigan, Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland currently lead, and all have offered. Other offers include Wisconsin, Boston College, North Carolina, NC State, Illinois and Rutgers.
Wilkins made 84 tackles including eight sacks during his junior season.
FAKE 40 TIME
This one gets two FAKES of three:
At 6-4, 245 pounds and a 4.6-40-yard dash time on his resume, Wilkins used his size, speed and quickness to terrorize opposing offenses.
No, not so much. Wilkins' impressive combine showing above was at 220 and he ran a 4.74 there.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Wilkins, like a couple other guys in the class, seems underrated because he doesn't fit into a lot of defenses like he does in Michigan's 4-3 under, where his combination of size and athleticism will serve him well. Let's not get too carried away with that theory, though: USC plays the same defense and doesn't recruit a bunch of three stars with an eye on their defensive scheme. Wilkins has a lot of work to do in the weight room and with technique before getting to a point where he can use his athlecism; thus the rankings.
The combination of effusive praise like we see from his coach above, his "hello, nurse!" appearances at combines, the offers, and the "eh-plus" guru rankings indicates a boom-or-bust sort who could put it all together and terrorize or float out to sea on the SS Alain Kashama.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Wilkins, Paskorz, and maybe Antonio Kinard likely fill Michigan's deathbacker quota for the year. Some of these guys could end up at linebacker, I guess, but they're all large (6'3", 6'4") project sorts who will probably end up between 240 and 260 pounds, weakside defensive ends all. I don't think you'll see any more of these sorts recruited unless Michigan can get its sweaty mitts on MI DE Will Gholston, which they probably can't.
Michigan could use some strongside defensive ends, though, and has a number of offers out for guys who will play closer to 280.