Of the official visitors that made their way to Michigan last week, none raised more eyebrows than Kareem Walker. The Wayne (N.J.) DePaul Catholic star has long been verbally committed to Ohio State, but satisfying his curiosity about the Maize & Blue was something he felt he had to do.
“I just told the (Ohio State) coach I want to take my visit,” Walker told The Michigan Insider. “I’m still committed to Ohio State 100%, but this is my future. I understand that I’m committed, but this is my future. You can’t be wrong with the decision you make. You’ve got to be right because don’t nobody else got to live with it but me… whether it’s good or bad. So he was really understanding of that.”
What the five-star tailback saw when he arrived in Ann Arbor was a team and program in far better shape than it was when he originally ended his recruitment back in January. The Wolverines’ 38-0 dismantling of #12 Northwestern was indicative of that.
“I'd been there before with the old staff, but I couldn’t really get a feel for it,” said Walker. “But with the new staff I liked it. I see the vision that they’re trying to (implement). You can tell with how they’ve been playing lately that they’re playing with a chip on their shoulder.”
Among Walker’s most significant observations during the visit was Michigan’s use of multiple tailbacks. Michigan expressed that as part of its aforementioned vision even beyond this year. There are many prospects with whom splitting time and carries would be a problem. Walker isn’t one of them.
“Them using multiple backs really isn’t a problem for me,” he said. “Even in high school I didn’t become the main running back until my junior year. That was because another running back was hurt. This year I spilt time with another running back, but I’m the main running back. So as far as (Michigan) and how they use their backs… that’s not really (a problem) to me because that how I’ve been brought up.”
“I think a team needs other running backs to come and get 10 yards to move the chains when you need a breather. I just think it’s harder to prepare for a team or a running back when it’s not just you they’ve got to worry about (because) the second string can come in and do good things too.”
Walker plans to be a mid-year graduate so he can enroll early and give himself the best chance possible to earn early playing time wherever he winds up. That was among the topics he discussed with Michigan’s coaching staff.
“(Playing right away) is definitely what they were pitching to me,” Walker said. “I’d need to come in and work my tail off and there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be starting, or I that shouldn’t be in the rotation as one of the backs teams are game-planning against. I definitely should playing.”
The point-man in stating Michigan’s case to the Garden State star has been Michigan running backs coach Tyrone Wheatley. It hasn’t taken the former Wolverine great long to build a strong rapport with his would-be protégé.
“Awww man… Coach Wheatley is a real good dude,” Walker. “He is real. He is definitely going to keep it real with you, whether it’s positive or negative. So I really like Coach Wheatley.”
That quick bond with Wheatley is complemented by the one he has had for far longer with his host for the weekend, Michigan redshirt freshman defensive back Jabrill Peppers.
“(The time with Peppers) was real good,” said Walker. “I hadn’t seen him in a long time. The last time he came home I didn’t get to see him. I was away. But it was good being with Jabrill. He had some (sage) words for me.”
The obvious question in the aftermath of that experience is where do things now stand with Michigan? While he dismissed the possibility of returning to Ann Arbor this weekend for the Wolverines’ clash with Michigan State, he didn’t dismiss them from consideration.
Far from it actually.
“I really like (Michigan’s) coaching staff,” said Walker. “I really like what they’ve got going on. I see what they (have) planned for me in the future. And with what Jabrill had to say to me… it would be a good place for me. As of right now I’ve just got to sit back and weigh my options once I take my visits.”
Walker has yet to schedule any of his remaining trips.