The Michigan Wolverines have landed their share of smaller/quicker tailbacks over the past few years, but Brandon Minor's performance last season dispelled the uninformed notion that a bigger back can't excel in Rich Rodriguez's offense also. In the rough and rugged Big Ten, the power back will always have his place. As Minor enters his last season donning the winged helmet, Michigan appears determined to make sure it secures other ball carriers that can pick up where he leaves off. The Wolverines are "Big Back Hunting" and will work hard to bring a few that fit that description in 2010.
La Canada, California RB/LB (and Minor-play-alike) Dietrich Riley broke the news of his Michigan offer to GoBlueWolverine yesterday. Less than an hour later, Flower Mound (TX) Marcus high RB Stephen Hopkins shared similar news.
"Today I got the letter," Hopkins said late Thursday afternoon. "The running back coach sent a little hand written letter saying that they are offering me."
This youngster's appeal is obvious. Hopkins' running style has been compared to that of former Ohio State standout Chris "Beanie" Wells. He can punish defenders with his 6-0, 210-pound frame, but can pull away from the pack with his deceptive 4.5 speed. Last season he amassed over 1700 yards on the ground, and left numerous battered and bruised defenders in his wake.
"I think I'm the type of person who gets a lot of tough yards in between the tackles and that does all of the dirty work with running the ball," Hopkins stated. "I think I deliver the blow. I don't take blows."
Texas A&M, SMU, Stanford, Kansas, and now Michigan have already made it clear just how much they covet his talents by extending scholarship offers. The Wolverines entry into the mix has sparked a desire to learn more about a program that he has always appreciated and respected from afar.
"I know about Michigan," he said confidently. "If you know about college football, you should know about Michigan. I know about the running backs that they've always had, so that's a plus."
Currently, Michigan isn't the only Midwest school making an impression. Notre Dame and Wisconsin are among the most aggressive of his suitors that haven't yet offered. For a young man who didn't have high expectations heading into his recruitment, these recent developments are exciting. He is approaching the process with an extremely open mind.
"I never actually expected offers," Hopkins said. "I have no idea who is going to offer me before they do. Who's my leader is a question I always get. (That won't be determined) until I talk to all the coaching staffs and I see where I am with them. I probably don't have a leader yet because a lot of schools like Stanford, A&M, Michigan and (Kansas) -- they are all pretty good programs -- and especially Michigan is a good program. Until I figure out where I am with them and talk to them I probably won't know (who the leader is)."
One factor that isn't likely to carry much weight is distance from home. Luring top players out of Texas has often been a daunting proposition, but this Lone Star standout insists that convincing him to cross the border is far from impossible.
"I was born in Kansas City," Hopkins explained. "My mom went to KU and my dad went to Kansas State. I was never really a fan of one team. I was just a fan of football in general."
The lessened significance of proximity creates more of an even playing field for all programs giving chase. They will be measured against a list of criteria that the Maize & Blue is already partially living up to.
"Definitely program strength (is a factor)," said Hopkins. "Michigan has obviously one of the best programs ever. I'll also look at the coaching staff and where I am when I get to the program -- how early I'm going to play? Not necessarily in my freshman year or anything like that, but I don't want to sit on the bench until my junior year."
Hopkins plans to take his time determining which of the schools best fits him. Getting to the various campuses will be a major component in the weeding out process.
"I've been to some junior days," he said. "I'm not sure which other than junior days (will be attended. Camps? I haven't decided yet."
"I'm thinking I'll probably make my decision in the fall," he continued. "Probably towards the end of it so I can focus on my football season first and get my official visits in."
GoBlueWolverine will have more on Hopkins in the coming weeks.