2017 Season Countdown: #46 Kareem Walker

2017 Season Countdown: #46 Kareem Walker


July 17, 2017

Kareem Walker (image via MLive)

Name: Kareem Walker
Height: 6’1″
Weight: 207 lbs.
High school: Wayne (NJ) De Paul Catholic
Position: Running back
Class: Redshirt freshman
Jersey number: #6
Last year: I ranked Walker #66 and said he would be a backup tailback. He redshirted.
TTB Rating: 86

Walker had an inauspicious beginning to his college career. After enrolling early in January of 2016, he had some off-the-field and academic issues that ensured his redshirt. In fact, there were even some rumors popping up that he might be on his way out of the program.

On the plus side, he supposedly got on track this year and took some steps forward. He played in the spring game, and while he looked a bit quicker and slimmer than he did in 2016, he didn’t do much in the game. Some people were impressed. I shrugged my shoulders. I have heard various reports since the spring that he was either #2 or #4 on the depth chart, and that was before freshmen O’Maury Samuels and Kurt Taylor arrived on campus. My take is that he will be the #4 guy on the roster, but he might look like #3 at times. With Chris Evans looking like the starter and Karan Higdon as #2 or #3, it’s a matter of whether Michigan wants a more proven back (Ty Isaac) or a guy they can groom for the future (Walker). Isaac is in his final season, and without an opportunity to start in 2018, Walker might be the better guy to play at times. I think Isaac is a superior back right now, but that doesn’t always strictly play out on the field.

Prediction: Backup running back

25 comments

  1. Comments: 676
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    WindyCityBlue
    Jul 17, 2017 at 12:50 PM

    Even given my usual skepticism about coaching hype and practice buzz, my gut feeling is that Walker has the best chance to be the #2 back by the end of the season. Higdon may have less variance, and is less likely drop below #3, but I see Walker as having more speed and athleticism, and a higher ceiling.

  2. JC
    Comments: 140
    Joined: 8/17/2015
    JC
    Jul 17, 2017 at 1:07 PM

    Evans is the best back, and I don’t think anyone is pushing for those honors at this moment.

    Walker I thought looked great in the spring game. I feel he was a hair better than Higdon.

    I’m a fan of Higdon, and I think he could be something special. Apparently he was playing sick last year? Or had a severe illness right before the season started? We will see if that’s the case this year.

    I think the difference between Walker, Higdon, and Isaac is rather minimal, with none of them being the game changer Evans appears to be. Not a bad spot for your #4.

    • Painter Smurf
      Comments: 205
      Joined: 8/12/2015
      Painter Smurf
      Jul 17, 2017 at 11:32 PM

      Higdon is significantly better than Isaac. If he stays healthy, he will be a key cog in the offense. The problem with Isaac is that he cannot make something from nothing like the top two backs. Not sure on Walker yet. He seems to run hard, but does not look particularly dynamic. Anyway, I really like Evans and Higdon as a duo.

      • Comments: 2231
        Joined: 7/13/2015
        Jul 18, 2017 at 1:11 PM

        The numbers for Higdon vs. Isaac don’t bear that out. I have yet to see Higdon make something out of nothing.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 3600
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Jul 18, 2017 at 2:55 PM

        Higdon has beaten out Isaac 2 seasons in a row and is 2 years younger. I don’t think Higdon is an impact runner or anything, and “significantly better” is subject to interpretation.

        I do think it’s fair to say that Higdon is “clearly better”. In the eyes of the coaches if nothing else. Even if their stats from last year are indistinguishable in aggregate.

  3. Lanknows
    Comments: 3600
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Jul 17, 2017 at 1:09 PM

    Regardless of if Walker is the #3, 4, or 5 back on the team, it doesn’t really matter for 2017 because all those guys are going to do essentially the same job and anyone of them can get hurt without it having any effect on the seasons outcome. RB is too deep for anybody except the standouts to ever be missed. Drake Johnson goes down – shrug. Derrick Green transfers – whatever. These are the 3rd and 4th string RBs in years past.

    Deep backup running backs play some downs to save some burden on the starters. But their statistical production does not equate to making an impact anymore than how well the 3rd string QB does in garbage time. The position is too deep, there are too many options for replacements.

    There should not be 4 RBs in the top 50, IMO. Walker’s value hinges on him being better than Isaac and Higdon. One seems plausible, both highly doubtful.

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 3600
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Jul 17, 2017 at 5:16 PM

      My read on the RB depth chart:

      #1 Evans – a burgeoning star. The only question if he can handle 15-20 carries a game. My guess is yes.

      #2 Higdon – I actually think it’s more likely he leapfrogs Evans than drops to 3rd. He’s a Harbaugh-back through-and-through. Tough and reliable. Seems like the most natural complement to Evans as a between-the-tackles runner.

      #3 Issac – If Evans/Higdon are a Thunder/Lightning combo, Isaac is a nice 3rd banana. He’s not a pure inside guy, despite being large, he’s looked better at runs outside the tackle box. I know I’m in the minority but I just don’t see much upside. He’s a solid player who offers depth, with the downside of fumbling and uninspired blocking. More likely to move down than up.

      # 4 Walker – Maybe some of the excuses for last year are legit, but I’m skeptical. Running backs generally are who they are and red-shirting them doesn’t do the team much good. (Great for the player though.) Walker will get a chance to pass Isaac. The battle may come down to who earns the coaches trust and embraces blocking more than ‘playmaking’.

      Wildcards: Honestly wouldn’t be surprised if either Taylor or Samuels leapfrogged up to #3. As I said above, RBs are who they are. We’ll know by midseason if either kid could be special or is, like most RB recruits, just another guy.

      • Comments: 676
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        WindyCityBlue
        Jul 17, 2017 at 6:26 PM

        Well, I might agree about Walker if his redshirt had not been primarily due to non-football factors. Normally if a RB is going to be any good at all, he shows something as a true freshman (though Higdon may turn out to be an exception to that), but the reasons Walker didn’t don’t have me thinking he will necessarily be limited this year. I would be surprised if he weren’t ahead of Isaac from very early on, if not from Day 1.

        • Lanknows
          Comments: 3600
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Jul 17, 2017 at 6:45 PM

          I think if he was a great player the non-football factors would have been dealt with. He’s already played in 2 spring games so not a total unknown. Taylor or Samuels might not be any better but they’ve never been on campus so we don’t know.

          There are exceptions to every rule and no player should be dismissed entirely, but in the realm of making guesses based on liklihood we have decent info on Walker. Neither Walker nor Higdon look likely to be a star or coveted NFL pick. That doesn’t mean they can’t be very productive college players with hard work and in the right setting.

          With Evans around and more talent (always) on the way, it’ll be an uphill battle for Walker. Already.

          • Comments: 676
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            WindyCityBlue
            Jul 18, 2017 at 6:34 AM

            Well, I’m so so sure about that…this isn’t the SEC, after all. And he wouldn’t necessarily had to have been “great” already last year to have a future as a #1 back.

            And I disagree that we have really good information on Walker yet. We have some practice buzz, for what that’s worth and couple of spring games with him getting a few carries behind a split Oline, running against a split defense consisting of his friends and teammates. We haven’t seen a single carry in a real game, let alone in prime time. On the other hand, we have a whole season of Higdon getting a decent number of carries against real competition.

            • Lanknows
              Comments: 3600
              Joined: 8/11/2015
              Lanknows
              Jul 18, 2017 at 10:41 AM

              I’m not sure how to square this logic with some of your other opinions (on for example, O’Korn sitting behind Speight). I guess when you buy-in so hard on recruiting rankings, there’s a lot of goodwill and optimism to hand out to former 5-stars.

              Anyway, my read on the practice buzz is different. My impression has been that it’s “this guy was off the track and now getting back on”, not “this guy is on the verge of passing people”. If he was as talented as his hype suggested we should have seen some of it in the spring games or heard more buzz. Anyway his late in cycle fade in the rankings also gave some indicators. There’s more similarities to Derrick Green here than I would like to see.

              • Comments: 676
                Joined: 8/11/2015
                WindyCityBlue
                Jul 18, 2017 at 11:25 AM

                Well, O’Korn was actually in the mix to play last year, if he had been good enough, while Walker wasn’t. Even if Walker were very promising, I don’t think Harbaugh would have hesitated to hold him out for the reasons he did. As I said, I don’t take practice buzz too seriously, and I think Walker could end up almost anywhere on the depth chart, but until we see how he fares when actual play starts, I’m giving him the possibility of a higher ceiling than Higdon or Isaac.

              • Lanknows
                Comments: 3600
                Joined: 8/11/2015
                Lanknows
                Jul 18, 2017 at 3:12 PM

                O’Korn started a game for Michigan last year. He was more than “in the mix” he was the top backup at the most important position.

                Walker is clearly behind at least 3 guys, based on the season, based on spring performances, based on buzz, based on everything. Pretend for a minute he’s a 2-star recruit and not a 5-star recruit and your opinion might be different.

                Yes, the “higher ceiling” is possible for anyone. Morris possibly had a higher ceiling than Speight. Ty Isaac possibly had a higher ceiling than Deveon Smith. but it’s not just 5-star recruits that’s true for. Kurt Taylor could have a higher ceiling than Jaime Morris.

  4. Comments: 731
    Joined: 1/19/2016
    je93
    Jul 17, 2017 at 6:54 PM

    “There should not be 4 RBs in the top 50, IMO”

    Maybe this is why?

    “Evans – The only question if he can handle 15-20 carries a game?

    • Comments: 2231
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Jul 17, 2017 at 7:20 PM

      Right. Durability has been an issue for both Evans and Higdon. If we had a workhorse back like De’Veon Smith still on the roster, I probably would have bumped the fourth guy down. I don’t think Evans is that type of guy.

      • Comments: 676
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        WindyCityBlue
        Jul 17, 2017 at 9:01 PM

        Except that Smith really wasn’t a “workhorse back”. He only averaged about 15 carries a game his last two years, when he was on the top of the depth chart, and he only had four games in his whole career with more than 20 carries. Last year, he had fewer than a third of the carries for the whole team. Compare that to Mike Hart, who averaged about 25 carries a game his last two years, and had about half the team’s carries.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 3600
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Jul 18, 2017 at 1:15 AM

        I didn’t mean durability, I meant versatility. Evans didn’t miss a game last year and had more carries than Smith did in his freshman year. I think the bigger concern is his ability to effectively run between the tackles, handle short-yardage, block, etc. If he can’t do that, Higdon and Isaac will poach some of his carries.

        Smith had 180 carries each of the last 2 years. I see no reason to think Evans can’t get into that realm, even if he can’t do all the stuff an every-down back can do yet.

  5. Comments: 953
    Joined: 8/13/2015
    Roanman
    Jul 17, 2017 at 8:29 PM

    I think this thing is going to go, “Running back by committee”.

    I don’t believe for a second that Evans is getting 15 to 20 touches per game, let alone carries. He may very well get 15 to 20 touches in some games if he gets hot, but I wouldn’t give him the football 20 times a game with the herd of nice backs we have collected. Why beat him up?

    I think by the time this is over, the touches will get spread around much like they were last year. I think who ever leads in total touches will not have as many as Smith got last year and I can see 5 guys getting their shot this year, rather than last year’s 4.

    If Isaac pass blocks, he’s going to get far more snaps than anybody is anticipating. Big if, maybe.

    I think this also true of Walker who is a nice combination of speed and explosive power. Maybe not breathtaking at either, but a pretty nice combination, nonetheless.

    • Comments: 953
      Joined: 8/13/2015
      Roanman
      Jul 17, 2017 at 8:41 PM

      On that blocking thing, I do have some concerns about our running backs coach, and just exactly how qualified is he really to be coaching the position. There is a hopeful buzz, based on mostly nothing about Frey improving our tight end blocking, which was not stellar last year. I’m prepared to think ok, Frey might be special. But I’d probably be a little more comfortable if we had some former running back coaching here who happened to have a track record of not fumbling and for hitting blitzing linebackers in the mouth.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 3600
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Jul 18, 2017 at 1:23 AM

        Finally I agree with Roanman.

        Hire Fred Jackson!

        • Comments: 953
          Joined: 8/13/2015
          Roanman
          Jul 18, 2017 at 7:18 AM

          Nah not our boy Fred, I was thinking more in terms of someone a lot like like Fred ….. only younger.

          Someone exactly like Deland McCullough or even former Harbaugh nemesis, Mike Hart would suit me just fine.

          Maybe young Harbaugh is the guy at running backs. I know I’m pulling for him, but I’d rather have a full time guy scheming special teams.

          • Comments: 140
            Joined: 9/15/2015
            ragingbull
            Jul 18, 2017 at 2:02 PM

            mccullough is an interesting name to mention. dont know much about him other than he seemed to do a nice job with indianas backs and usc obviously liked what they saw in him.

            i actually like jay harbaugh and think hes a solid coach. hes still young and im sure realizes he has plenty to learn but id continue to roll the dice on him. if forced to single out someone on the staff or on O in particular id question drevno and his chops before harbaugh jr. but thats a totally different issue (and longer argument)

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 3600
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Jul 18, 2017 at 1:19 AM

      The ‘herd’ is mediocre at best. If Evans doesn’t separate himself from it, it’ll be a disappointment. Especially considering he passed them as a true freshman.

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 3600
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Jul 18, 2017 at 1:21 AM

      Smith had twice as many carries or catches as the next guy. We had a primary back. It was a backup by committee until Evans emerged, but Smith wasn’t seriously challenged ever.

    • Comments: 140
      Joined: 9/15/2015
      ragingbull
      Jul 18, 2017 at 1:54 PM

      absolutely not breathtaking at either.

      im sure he can help the team (if hes turned it around and bought all in) but hes not likely to scare any Ds. i still wonder what some scouts saw to consider walker not just a top 10 back but top 2-3 in his class

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