Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Stephen Hopkins, Ex-Wolverine

Spring 2010: Walk-on Phil Monolo, Stephen Hopkins, Michael Shaw, coach Fred Jackson,
Fitzgerald Toussaint, John McColgan, and Vincent Smith
Junior fullback Stephen Hopkins has left the football program.  He tweeted that he would get his degree from Michigan.  Hopkins was recruited by former Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez to play tailback in the spread offense, but he was just occasionally effective as a runner.  As a freshman in 2010, he had 37 carries for 151 yards (4.1 yards/carry) and 4 touchdowns.  When Brady Hoke arrived in 2011, that signaled a move to fullback for Hopkins, who proceeded to run just 11 times for 43 yards (3.9 yards/carry) as a sophomore, along with 1 catch for 28 yards.  Hopkins played as a blocking fullback in 2012 but never touched the ball.  Altogether, he ends his Michigan career with 48 carries for 194 yards (4.0 yards/carry) and 4 touchdowns, with that 1 reception for 28 yards added on.

Hopkins's departure is one of the losses that I had heard to be rumored last offseason.  Hopkins seemed not to be thrilled with the fullback's role in the offense, since he came to Michigan to be a tailback.  He decided to give it one more go in 2012, but his commitment seemed to be iffy.  He lost playing time to a less physically talented player in the form of redshirt freshman Joey Kerridge, and not touching the ball all year likely bothered him.  By comparison, Kerridge had 1 reception for 12 yards against Nebraska and was targeted a couple more times throughout the year, in particular on a wheel route against Notre Dame.  Hopkins did a poor job of blocking in the Ohio State game, and it seemed like he wasn't really giving 100%.

Hopkins's departure leaves just two fullbacks on the roster - Kerridge and freshman Sione Houma.  Sophomore Thomas Rawls might have the ability to contribute some at fullback, and 2013 recruit Wyatt Shallman has some potential there, too.  However, this shouldn't be a huge concern, because the fullback position can often be filled by walk-ons and position-switchers.

This is the 14th member of the 2010 recruiting class to depart early from Rich Rodriguez's largely doomed class.  The class of juniors and redshirt sophomores is already down by more than 50%, and a couple remaining members of that same class have yet to see the field (Jordan Paskorz, Ken Wilkins).  However, this opens up a 24th scholarship for the class of 2013.  The coaches are expected to take at least 25 commitments in February.


  1. "... fullback position can often be filled by walk-ons and position-switchers."

    That seems fair, but how about a thought experiment?

    Most would agree that going from a walk-on to a 4/5-star at QB would make a huge difference.

    How much difference do you think a 4/5-star player at FB could make? Just wondering.

    1. I don't think it makes that much of a difference. Running backs generally get their star ratings for what they do with the ball in their hands, not for their blocking. So while Hopkins (and other fullbacks) is probably a more talented runner than someone like Kerridge, it doesn't matter because he never touched the ball. Blocking is mostly about intelligence, attitude, and strength/size. Those things are somewhat easier to find than elusive or speedy running backs with good vision and hands.

  2. They'll almost certainly be able to take more than 25 now (which may be why they are suddenly offering a bunch of people). If Mike Jones doesn't get a 5th year, that's 25 right there and there's always some random attrition over the off season. I wouldn't be surprised to see the full 28.

  3. Watching Hopkins HS highlights a couple years ago, I was surprised to find that he was a 5 YPC RB who needed a ton of carries to get yardage. Not sure what RR had in mind, but he did not fit the mold of a spread RB in terms of wheels and showed no ability to break a run over 10 yards. And it's clear that RR's staff never suggested FB to him in the recruiting process. Most of the 2010 class gave you the feel that the coaches were blindly throwing darts at a dartboard. Anyway, credit Hopkins for getting his degree in 3.5 years. He could pull a Mike Cox and play a grad school year at a smaller school.

    1. Yeah, he wasn't very elusive or fast. I think Rodriguez still thought he was recruiting for the Big East. Hopkins could have been a decent short yardage runner in the Big East, and I even think he could have done it at Michigan, but he was never going to be an every-down player. Put him in a 3rd-and-2 situation and he's a threat.

    2. Hey - the let's blame RR's recruting game - I've played this before.

      The 2010 class was relatively weak in terms of rankings, but that's what happens when you lose so many games the last 2 years.

      It was RR's worst class, but I don't think 'throwing darts' is fair at all. The class was very clearly trying to address the debacle transpiring on defense. 8 DBs, 5 DL, and 3 LB (including Jake Ryan). 16 guys for defense, not counting

      Offensively though - it was a terrible class. Too much emphasis on WR numbers (a repeated error), basically ignoring the OL (though a small class was understandable - 1 is TOO small), and transparently bad decisions at RB and WR (White, Williamson and others were criticized right away).

      I liked Hopkins as a reliable power-back from good proven program in Texas. His ceiling was limited but I think he had a clear role for Rodriguez. It's a shame that ability didn't translate to Hoke because, on paper, it should have.

    3. Lanko, I feel like this comes up whenever a Rodriguez recruit doesn't pan out. One of these guys quits the team, somebody (like me) points out that Rodriguez did a poor job of recruiting, and then you swoop in and defend Rodriguez. This process happens over and over and over again.

      At some point, I would think you'll realize that Rodriguez didn't recruit up to the level that a Michigan coach should recruit. And it's not about the system, either. Hopkins could have easily been a tailback for Hoke - who loves big running backs - but he couldn't get the job done. All those defensive backs, linemen, and linebackers who left weren't because of Hoke - they left because they couldn't hack it at Michigan, either academically or athletically.

      These transfers and dropouts aren't because guys don't fit the system; they simply don't fit the program. They're too slow, too small, too dumb, too troublesome, etc.

    4. My point was primarily to disagree with the notion that Rodriguez didn't have a vision in his mind - the "blindly throwing darts" comment. Clearly, there was a direction and intent with the 2010 class, if nothing else. Rodriguez was clearly trying to fix the awful awful defense. He failed to do so.

      My intent isn't really to defend Rodriguez so much as accurately criticize him for the things he DID suck at. I don't think recruiting was one of them. It wasn't great, but he was on par with Carr's recruiting of the previous years. He got good, Michigan-caliber, players and the recruiting rankings (and offer lists) reflect that. The problem was he didn't retain or develop that talent - particularly on the defensive side of the ball.

      The 2010 class was Rodriguez's worst and it still yielded Gardner, Ryan, Avery, Black, and Hagerup. Is that enough? No. It's 5 kids and only 2 or 3 more of them are going to be significant contributors. Unlike '08 and '09, it's a bad class. The losses the previous 2 seasons began to have an effect. Some of what you say is true (White, Rogers, Jones, Dorsey, Williamson were fool's errands.) But one of the guys with huge academic question marks is arguably Michigan's best player - Jake Ryan.

      Other guys are Michigan caliber plays who might have worked out if Rodriguez had stuck around (Johnson, Talbott, Vinopal, Christian)...especially if, you know, Rodriguez actually hired coaches who knew how to develop talent on D. I'd put Hopkins in that group too. He had a role under Rodriguez but Hoke moved him to FB. He was the starter there - that hardly means he "couldn't hack it" on the field, and he claims to be graduating, so hardly not hacking it off the field either. Maybe he just didn't feel like being a fullback. Is that impossible? Maybe he would have been happy and productive as a Rodriguez RB.

      And I don't know about judging his retention rate. A lot of these kids ARE transition casualties. Rodriguez is so demonized that he gets blamed for Carr's recruits, his recruits, AND Hoke's recruits. It's ridiculous.

      Hoke's already lost a lot of HIS guys from the '11 class (Barnett, Carter) and there are a couple others who don't look like they can necessarily 'hack it' at Michigan either. Too early to judge on '12 obviously...We can't really settle this argument for a few more years. Once the Rodriguez guys are totally purged from the program and Hoke's had a chance to put in all his guys, we'll have a better apples-to-apples comparison.

    5. I WANT Hoke to be better at recruiting. I HOPE Hoke will be better at recruiting. He HAS to be, frankly, because Michigan is punting on strategy and banking on superior talent.

      Rodriguez brought in good offensive talent.

      Look at the QBs he landed: Forcier, Denard, Gardner. Those kids can play.
      Look at the OL he landed: Lewan, Schofield, Omameh were fantastic fits for the spread offense and Barnum probably too (though he had injury issues).
      Toussaint at RB. Roundtree was fantastic for Rodriguez. Gallon, Odoms.
      He whiffed a lot and there is no depth, but we're talking about only getting 2 full classes in.
      That was going to be an excellent spread offense, even without any reinforcements from 2011(Fisher, Watkins, etc.) and 2012 classes.

      Defense had issues, but again, not about talent. Roh, Campbell, Washington, Gordon, Gordon, Ryan, Morgan, Countess are all quality starters. Some of the transition guys might have helped too. Given a decent defensive coaching staff I believe we'd have a solid defense by now. Not as good as what Mattison/Hoke had, but WAY better than the 2010 debacle.

    6. We've had this discussion before, and we're always going to be at loggerheads because we refuse to agree on this point. You think that recruiting and development/retention are two separate things. I think they're all part of the same idea. Does it really matter if Rivals thinks your recruiting class is awesome but the guys can't play football? Conversely, does it really matter if Rivals thinks your class sucks but a bunch of those guys turn into studs?

      I agree that Rodriguez had successes, as every coach does. Every coach has failures, too. But a lot of Rodriguez's guys are not only leaving Michigan (and have left Michigan), but they're doing absolutely nothing. It's not like the guys who have left are turning into solid players elsewhere - they're sitting on the bench or they're mediocre. Christian and Vinopal are on the bench at Pitt. Carvin Johnson is a decent player...at Hampton. Greg Brown is at Findlay. Tony Posada's out of football, along with Tony Drake, Austin White, DJ Williamson, Taylor Hill, Anthony Lalota, Marcus Witherspoon, etc. I mean, this isn't a case of guys not fitting the system and going elsewhere. It's a case of guys not fitting FBS football.

      And maybe this is a fault of mine, but I have a hard time blaming Hoke for bringing in a couple guys over the last three or four weeks of the 2011 recruiting cycle. Tamani Carter, Chris Barnett, etc. were guys that Michigan had to really scramble to get, without fully vetting them first. Michigan would have had a bunch of empty scholarships without going for guys like that. Rodriguez, meanwhile, came from nearby (West Virginia, which recruits heavily in Ohio and Pennsylvania) and should have had a good handle on the talent in the area, who would be available, etc. and still brought in a bunch of duds like Hill, Witherspoon, etc. He also had twice as much time as Hoke, and he had Michigan's winning tradition (9-4 in 2007, 11-2 in 2006) to sell. Hoke had a month and was selling a fired - not retired - coach's program who went 16-22 over the previous three seasons. Hoke was in a much more difficult position than Rodriguez.

    7. I don't think it is fair to fault a coach solely if a player busts out. But I do fault them in two cases:

      1. If the bust also looked mediocre in HS film or was on obvious misfit to the scheme.
      2. If the bust had "character/grade" concerns, was was not talented enough to warrant the risk.

      That 2010 class was loaded with examples of both cases. I was cool with guys like Ryan, Black, Carvin, and Pace because they all had good senior film. It didn't work out for those guys, but their appeal as prospects was evident. But a high percentage of 2010 guys (like Hopkins, Paskorz, Rogers, Ash, Kinard, etc.) fall into one of the groups above and are legit goof-ups by the staff.

    8. I don't even count Pace as Rodriguez's "fault", because injuries are a part of the game. I'm not sure why you say "it didn't work out" for that list of guys, though, because Ryan and Black are both having good or decent careers at Michigan.

      The problem is that second group you list - Hopkins, Paskorz, Rogers, Kinard, etc. I haven't even given up on Ash yet, since he's a lineman with a couple years of eligibility left. For all I know, he could develop late like Quinton Washington. I have doubts, but I'm not writing him off just yet.

    9. I meant to write "it didn't work out for all of those guys"...

      I was disappointed when Pace got hurt. Not sure if he would have been able to put on the weight. But he was dynamite in HS.

    10. Does it matter what Rivals thinks 4 years after the fact - no, of course it doesn't. But even if you recruit an equal quality class every year (in terms of talent), you're going to end up with years where things work out great and others when they don't. I mean -- you KNOW John Beilein is a great recruiter, and his recruiting is better than the Rivals guy's assessments, but he still whiffs (e.g. Cronin, McLimans, Brundidge.) Football is littered with far more examples. It's simply an uncertain venture. Every coach has busts - some years many, some years few. I don't think Beilein is a bad recruiter, even if 3 of the 4 guys in the next class don't pan out.

      Generally, the rankings are good are reflecting incoming talent. They're the best indicator we have available. The number of busts is a wildcard and I think coaches really have limited ability to assess that. I think that's the fundamental issue on which we disagree.

      I see Cullen Christian and Justin Turner's offers list and I think - if Rodriguez made a mistake here it was a mistake that some indisputably good coaches were going to make also. The frequency with which these guys didn't pan out says to me they weren't coached/developed well because obviously they had talent that many good coaches recognized.


      Regarding Hoke vs Rodriguez in transition years -- I don't think either really deserves much blame, but I don't buy your logic that Hoke gets a free pass and Rodriguez doesn't. Rodriguez is from West Virginia; Hoke is from Ohio. Hoke had less time and was more plugged into California recruiting - yes, but both took the same approach of keeping offers to the guys that already had them. The one guy I can think of that Hoke pulled the offer for was Lucien - which you've criticized him for, but I think was the justified approach given the WR numbers.

      The bigger issue I have is with the approach to transfers. Mallet goes and people blame Rodriguez for not keeping him. Fisher, only a commit, goes and people blame Rodriguez for not addressing OL. To me - you should be consistent. Either blame the new coach for keeping guys around or don't.

      Just in general - Hoke is being lionized and Rodriguez demonized. One has done a good job and one has done a bad job, but that doesn't mean we have to take a black and white view on everything they ever did. With regarding to recruiting: In my view; Hoke is making some significant errors in recruiting judgements, just like Rodriguez did, but is doing a better job overall (in terms of rankings) - so that is good. He has been helped by the situation in Ohio though... I think Rodriguez did a pretty great job getting talent for his offense. I think that, for defense, he did OK - but did such a terrible horrible no good very bad job on developing/coaching that talent it's impossible to ever see it.

      I mean - just look at what this coaching staff has done with RVB, Roh, Washington, Campbell, Demens, Kovacs, Gordon, Floyd -- it's night and day. Rodriguez's guys would take that talent and do nothing to improve it.

      I honestly think that if you gave Mattison et al the raw material of guys like Turner, Christian, Emilien, Johnson, and Talbott, He'd put together a solid defensive secondary within a couple years.

      I mostly agree with Painter Smurf's comments. Of course it's easy to say now, but some of those kids appeared highly questionable. I was vocal about my doubts on White and Teric Jones, but optimistic that someone like Rogers was worth a shot. I would not put Hopkins in that category though, especially since he evolved into a starter and had some decent freshman year production. Hopkins was a low-risk, low-ceiling, role player type.

    11. Every coach is going to have hits and misses. I don't think anyone's arguing that. The difference here is that Rodriguez's number of misses is astronomical, and the most ridiculous thing is the guys that never made it to campus or left very, very early in the process. The list of those guys is inexcusable.

      I know you agree with the Lucien thing, but right now we have a very unproven and unproductive receiving corps. Meanwhile, he was a contributor on a surprisingly good UCLA team, although he was sidelined with a broken collarbone for a big chunk of this year. Even so, he appears headed for a decent career. Michigan could use him right now. They're certainly not using Tamani Carter...

      The "people" you're talking about regarding Mallett, Fisher, etc. aren't me. I really have no response to that part of your argument, because I've never criticized Rodriguez for Mallett or Fisher.

      There's more to recruiting than "raw material." There are character issues to consider. Johnson and Talbott got in trouble, and Turner couldn't keep his head on straight. If there were indicators in high school, those guys may not have even been recruited by Hoke/Mattison. Christian hasn't played a ton for Pitt, and Emilien has been a part-time starter for Toledo. There's a very good chance that these guys just aren't very good at football. I've said this before, but it's not like these guys have gone elsewhere and had solid careers, and almost all of them are playing a lower level of competition in the MAC, the Big East, FCS, etc.

      Wait, wait...I take that back. Justin Turner had a great season for a JUCO. So there's that.

      Not to toot my own horn, but I was pretty critical of several of these guys when they were coming out of high school. I didn't want Austin White, wasn't high on Terrence Talbott or Hopkins or Teric Jones or DJ Williamson or Cullen Christian or Ray Vinopal. I'm not a professional talent evaluator, and I could see flaws in their games. I took a lot of flak in the Rodriguez years for being down on a lot of his recruits, and those reservations have often proven to have some foundation in the way that these guys have performed in college. That's not to say that I'm always right or anything, but I'm not changing my views based on hindsight. I'm a guy who generally sticks to my guns, and I'm glad I did.

    12. "Rodriguez's number of misses is astronomical"

      I'm not convinced that's true due to the costs of transition. It's impossible to know what could have been with some of the kids in the '08-'11 classes if Rodriguez sticks around. That's why almost any coach deserves to have 4-5 years.

      Regarding guys that left or didn't come: Lucien is a backup but is headed for a good career and Christian is a backup and is negatively portrayed as "on the bench" and "hasn't played a ton". That's the sort of framing that I take issue with. (Yes, Lucien is a year younger but Christian had to transfer and they're both young players.)

      You have criticized Rodriguez for OL recruiting and we've argued before about Fisher.

      The whole character thing is a matter of perception. I see Smith and Denard and Lewan and Roundtree and Kovacs and I love the character they have. I see Larry Harrison and Chris Barnett and Kellen Jones and I don't like the character they have. It's a matter of perception and spin.

      I know you were very critical of many recruits and I often, even usually, agree with you. Your independent view is why you have the readers you do. This isn't really about that. Besides, most of those guys you listed were 2 or 3 stars (Christian being an exception), so I don't think you were going out on a crazy limb or anything.

      Where the recruiting rankings fail is the guys like Dorsey and Forcier -- but those guys also had offers from half the programs in the country...

    13. I have criticized Rodriguez for OL recruiting, yes, but not for Fisher. I have mainly criticized him for only bringing in one offensive lineman in 2010 (Christian Pace).

    14. I meant you didn't credit Rodriguez for Fisher and didn't criticize Hoke for not keeping him. Which is fine, it's just that you can't kill Rodriguez for OL recruiting when it wasn't a problem for him.

    15. It wasn't a problem for Rodriguez only because he wasn't around long enough to let it become a problem.

  4. Bummer. Seemed like a good kid and I don't really see anything that Rawls does that Hopkins can't (maybe holding on to the ball?).

    Don't think it's a big loss on the field, but it's always a shame to see a kid leave disappointed. That's the way it goes with many RBs though.

  5. Comment on the 2:07 and 2:37 comments:

    I think it's fair to say that Rodriguez made some bad recruiting decisions, particularly with players who were shaky academically. It's an example of where he appeared to lack an appreciation of how UMich differs from, say, West Virginia.

    Still, it should be acknowledged that, for pretty much the whole time he was at Michigan (the back part of the '08 class excepted), he was recruiting with challenges (say, coming off a 3-9 season) that Michigan coaches haven't faced in the modern era. Was it his fault that they went 3-9? Partly, of course, if not mostly. But, lots of coaches (even Hoke) might find it challenging to get a typical Michigan class when their own job security is in question.

    1. My point has been that EVERY coach makes bad recruiting decisions. It's a high variance game with great uncertainty.

      The shaky academic thing - I think there is probably something to that, but it's overstated. Michigan always took marginal cases, they just seemed to take more under Rodriguez. But the key word there is SEEMED. Supposedly the kids did well in school and we're outsiders looking in.

      From 2002 to 2007, Carr's classes averaged a national rank of 10. Rodriguez's classes ranked 10th, 11th, and 19th. The 2008 class was fine. The 2009 class was fine. The 2010 class was bad - but, like you say, that's where 3-9 and 5-7 start having an effect. Everyone acts like Hoke has 'turned it around, but last year we were 7th and this year it should be something in the 7-10 range as well. That's improvement, but not a leap that will turn Michigan into a powerhouse.

      Recruiting rankings aren't perfect but they're the best measure we have and Rodriguez's results indicate he was maintaining what Michigan was doing on the talent front, despite losing.

      That's why I don't buy the "Rodriguez didn't recruit up to the level" argument. He didn't COACH to the level. He didn't manage the program to the level. He made bone-headed errors on many fronts. But recruiting was a relatively minor problem for Rodriguez. I mean - the team went 11-2 last year with 90% of the team being his guys.

    2. Michigan always took marginal cases, but not as many as Rodriguez did. The story goes that Carr used to be able to squeeze in one, maybe two, kids per year. Rodriguez had Conway, Dorsey, Drake, Jones, Kinard, Rogers, Witherspoon, and Witty, along with several guys who had questionable character and struggled immediately upon entering college (White, Forcier, etc.); that's not to mention a couple other guys that he DID actually succeed in squeezing onto the team, like Justin Turner.

    3. Forcier didn't struggle immediately, Witherspoon was a Carr guy, and I think it's safe to say it's more than one or two per year but yeah - Rodriguez clearly was less familiar with the academic expectations at Michigan and SEEMED to take more academically marginal recruits (of course we don't actually know, but that's what Bacon's book says and others have hinted at.)

      I file that as an error in cultural understanding, not recruiting.

      That's really the best thing about Hoke - he gets what Michigan is about and why it is different than other schools.

    4. Forcier was struggling by the time Winter 2010 came around, so by the time his freshman season was ending, there were warning signs. I'd say that's pretty immediate.

      You keep parsing words, saying that academics doesn't have anything to do with recruiting. The term "recruiting" encompasses so much more than you allow, as if checking transcripts and getting clearance from Admissions doesn't have anything to do with the recruiting process. Does it matter if you "successfully" recruit 5-star/4-star kids if they're not allowed into your school? Absolutely not.

    5. What matters is results - players performing and delivering results. But there's a lot more to that than just recruiting - which is why you have people arguing recruiting doesn't matter and making up reasons for why every 3-star recruit Michigan gets "is actually really good but is ranked low because..."

      Iowa and Wisconsin have been very good programs despite low recruiting rankings. Oregon came up to prominence by recruiting 2 and 3 star kids. Are they good recruiters or good coaches? I say they're good coaches. Maybe they have some niche needs that other programs don't value as much, but I'll venture that it's mostly that they run a system and develop their talent well.

      If it's just about results, go ahead and give credit to Rodriguez for recruiting Kovacs and Kwiatkowski (which he didn't do.) If it's just about results - then credit Rodriguez for recruiting the team that went 11-2.

      The only data we have for recruiting is recruiting rankings - so that's what I use to evaluate coaches recruiting ability on. After that, the water gets muddy. Anyone can sit and list examples of this guy or that to fit their side of the argument - me listing all the guys that panned out or could have and you listing the opposite proves nothing. But the rankings - they are the best objective data we have for assessing recruiting, which is why people get so worked up about how Michigan does in these rankings.

      Yes, doing academic and character evaluations is part of due diligence in recruiting. I don't really think Rodriguez failed at that other than a lack of cultural understanding about the different expectations at Michigan. The kids he recruited generally would/could get in at other schools. It's not like he's the only one: Hoke met with, recruited, and had enrolled Kellen Jones, Tony Posada, Chris Barnett and none of those guys lasted through the season. Anyone who thinks we'll make it through the entire '12 class without any off-field attrition is kidding themselves. It's the nature of the beast.

      I think this notion that Rodriguez recruited off-field question marks is exaggerated badly to fit the narrative of "Rodriguez Bad: Carr/Hoke Good"

    6. This is what I'm talking about, that we've rehashed over and over: Rodriguez didn't develop the players that he recruited. It took someone else like Hoke/Mattison to develop those players. I say that's part of the recruiting process, to find guys who fit your scheme and use them properly. You disagree. There's no need to go over that again, because we've had that discussion numerous times.

      Rodriguez recruited off-field question marks. Look at the numbers. It's obvious.

    7. Yes, I think that talent development and talent recruiting are separate issues. To me - that is "obvious"

      I'll just add that everyone recruits off-field question marks; including Hoke and Carr.

      I agree the conversation has run its course.