To say it's been a long road to this point for former Oregon State offensive lineman Will Hopkins would be an understatement. The Austin, Texas native has battled mono, injuries, a coaching change and more throughout his college career that has hampered him playing as much as he wanted, but now a healthy 295 pounds, he's looking to the next chapter of his college career.
Hopkins made the decision after spring ball to leave Corvallis, Oregon and potentially head back towards Texas for his final season of eligibility.
"I came to the conclusion to transfer because I really wanted to play in my last season. I've always been the swing guy at Oregon State," Hopkins said. "That's not a bad position to be in as a young guy, but when it's your last season, you kind of want to get out there and play a little bit. I also thought if there was a chance to get a good master's degree at the same time, why would I pass up that opportunity?"
That move back to Texas is not set in stone, but Rice and SMU have secured his first visits with his family as he makes his decision. Kansas, Nevada, Tulane, Utah State and others are also looking at Hopkins.
The distance along with solid graduate programs at Rice and SMU are the reason he's got them in the mix.
"That'd mean a lot to me. That's a big pull for SMU and Rice," Hopkins said. "One is about three hours north and one is about three hours south. Be a lot easier. I think my dad has been taking four and a half hour flights to Oregon to watch me play the last four years."
While Rice is looking at Hopkins as a big tight end, SMU is looking at him as an offensive tackle, which could help him get on the field quicker.
"It's tough to discern between the two. Both have great grad programs and a lot of playing time available," Hopkins said. "Obviously, you've got to earn the starting spot. I wouldn't expect to walk in and get a starting spot and wouldn't want it that way. Work hard and get in there and do it. That's the vibe I get from both.
"It's definitely helpful. I'd rather have a good chance of getting a starting spot and compete for rather than just provide depth. I'd rather compete for a starting spot. That's what I'm being told at both."
Jess Loepp, who recruited Hopkins at Tulsa, got Hopkins in touch with Chad Morris and Dustin Fry, who have taken over his recruitment. http://www.scout.com/college/southern-methodist/story/1779983-rb-jahmyl-...
"Kind of a family atmosphere and very open," Hopkins said. "One of the things he (Morris) said was to build SMU back to its glory days and to do it with Texas kids. I'm from Dripping Springs, which is a small town outside of Austin, and when he coached in Austin, he had a Dripping Springs address and there aren't many of those out there. Lake Travis and Dripping Springs are big-time rivals so it could be funny to even get coached by a guy at a rival school."
It took Hopkins time to get back from a bout with mono earlier in his career, but he's now back at 295 pounds and feels good carrying it around.
"I've been about this weight for the last year so now I'm feeling pretty good. The staff at Oregon State has been good about getting me ready to play football. Hopefully, no mono relapses," Hopkins said.
SMU almost landed Hopkins out of high school due to its proximity, then defensive line coach Bert Hill's relationship with him and the academics, but Hopkins opted for Air Force Prep before landing at Oregon State.
Hopkins said he doesn't have a leader right now as things continue to be fluid for him in his recruitment. Being on the quarter system makes it tougher to visit, but he'll do just that this weekend to Houston and Dallas. A source told Scout that Hopkins will visit Rice on Thursday before heading to SMU on Friday with his family.
"I'm trying to do it as quickly as I can so it's good for all parties, me and the coaches. I'd rather know where I'm going," Hopkins said. "Next two weeks is what I've been telling people. That depends on visits and everything. I don't want it to lag out past that."
Stick with Pony Stampede for more on Hopkins' decision and SMU's search for offensive linemen.