Recruiting Update: Part I (Early Enrollees)

WR Ricardo Miller is one of six early enrollees for Michigan.

WR Ricardo Miller is one of six early enrollees for Michigan.

It’s been a while since I posted any updates on football recruiting, and with the Feb. 3 national signing day less than a month away, I figured I’d catch up on everything before the class completely rounds out and renders my opinion entirely irrelevant. In part one, I’ll be looking at the six players who have enrolled early. Tomorrow, I’ll examine the other commitments to the Wolverines, and over the weekend I’ll be breaking down the recruits who could round out the 2010 class.

Six players were able to enroll early at Michigan. Unfortunately, for those hoping to see a three-way quarterback showdown in the spring, Inkster QB Devin Gardner was not one of the six. The athletes that were able to arrive on campus for the winter term, however, have the potential to be immediate contributors to a team in need of just that.

Jeremy Jackson, Ann Arbor Huron (Rivals 3*, #92 WR): Jackson, of course, is the son of Michigan running backs coach Fred Jackson. Don’t let that convince that he is just a legacy recruit, however — his combination of size (6-3, 194) and hands give him the potential to be very valuable as a receiver. I was able to scout one of Jackson’s games this past season, and my impressions of him pretty much fall in line with those of the scouting services. He has great hands, and adjusts very well to the ball, allowing him to catch most everything thrown in his direction. However, Jackson takes a while to hit his top speed, and he lacks the high-end speed that one would desire in a Division I wide receiver. He could have trouble getting separation from defensive backs at the college level. Despite his lack of speed, I could still see Jackson having an impact at receiver (or potentially tight end, although he’s coming in at wideout) — his reliability separates him from most prospects at this level. I don’t think he’ll ever become a superstar, but Jackson fits the Jason Avant mold of a solid possession receiver.

Stephen Hopkins, Flower Mound, Texas (Rivals 3* RB): Hopkins immediately leaves an impression because of his size for a running back — at 6-0, 235 pounds, he looks like a linebacker in the backfield. This should give him a leg up on the other incoming running backs for playing time. With mighty mite Vincent Smith and the speedster Michael Shaw in line to share carries for Michigan in the fall, there’s an opening for a bigger back who can grind out carries in short-yardage situations. Hopkins was able to do just that in high school, rushing for over 1300 yards and 19 touchdowns on 211 carries in his senior season after a 1600+ yard, 22 touchdown season as a junior. Hopkins should get a crack at playing time as a true freshman, and could develop into a great complement to the speedier tailbacks that Rich Rodriguez has been known to recruit.

Ricardo Miller, Ann Arbor Pioneer (Rivals 3*, #67 WR): Miller, who moved to Ann Arbor from Florida for his senior season after committing to the Wolverines, has been rated as high as four stars from Rivals (and now is example 1A for message board conspiracy theorists who think there’s a southern bias in recruiting rankings) and boasts offers from Florida and Tennessee, among others. He’s another big wide receiver, standing at 6-2, 208 pounds, and while he also lacks elite speed, he boasts a tremendous pair of hands and great jump-ball instincts. Miller has always been somewhat of a personal favorite, as he transferred to my alma mater and has been instrumental in helping convince uncommitted recruits to come to Michigan. I see Miller as having Junior Hemingway (on a good, non-injured day) abilities, a guy with great size who can be a reliable deep threat without sprinter speed. He’ll get ample opportunity to contribute right away with the graduation of Greg Mathews and Laterryal Savoy.

Christian Pace, Avon Lake, Ohio (Rivals 3*, #7 center): Although Pace’s size — he’s just 6-3, 262 — limits both his potential position (he’s a center, and that’s that) and his recruiting rankings, he’s a perfect fit for Rich Rodriguez’s offense. Pace is a strong player for his size, but also boasts the athleticism to allow him to get to the second and third level on run plays, which should come in handy when he’s tasked with mastering the pulls and reach blocks that are so prevalent in the zone read. Pace almost certainly won’t be asked to play right away, as Michigan has a very good center in David Molk, but the spring practice time should allow him to learn technique and the playbook while apprenticing under Molk. It won’t be good for Michigan if Pace is forced into action early in his career, but he has the potential to develop into a very solid interior lineman.

Jerald Robinson, Canton South, Ohio (Rivals 3*, #47 WR): Robinson is a great athlete and another very solid deep threat — he amassed 756 yards and seven touchdowns on just 34 receptions as a junior — who could use to add a little weight to his 6-2, 175 pound frame. Robinson is known for his ability to go get the ball in traffic, and strikes me as a Roy Roundtree-like threat — not the biggest guy, and not the fastest guy, but a player who will make plays when called upon. We’ll have to see if Robinson can compete for early playing time with Miller and Jackson, who boast more college-ready bodies, but if he does see the field, you can expect to see a player who can make an impact both at outside receiver or in the slot.

Austin White, Livonia Stevenson (Rivals 3*, #10 all-purpose back): White is truly an all-purpose back, having lined up as a tailback, wingback, and wide receiver in high school and having an impact at all three positions. I was able to scout his game against South Lyon in the fall, and he didn’t fail to impress, rushing for 173 yards and three touchdowns on just eight carries. White is a lanky back, at 6-0, 186, and he is more of a speed back than a power guy. He runs a bit high for my liking (think Brandon Minor, without all the crushing broken tackles), but shows very nice speed and shiftiness, and he also has great hands out of the backfield. White could have an immediate impact as a tailback who can also split out and catch passes, especially with a solid knowledge of the offense after he gets spring ball under his belt. The Michigan backfield is certainly crowded, but White’s ability to do a little bit of everything should open up the opportunity for him to see the field early.

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