Wayne (NJ) De Paul Catholic running back Kareem Walker committed to Michigan on Thursday. The Under Armour All-American and former Ohio State commit chose the Wolverines over offers from Alabama, Arizona State, Auburn, Clemson, Florida State, and USC, among others.
Walker is 6’1″, 210 lbs. As a senior in 2015, he ran 215 times for 1,517 yards and 13 touchdowns. During his 2014 junior year, he had 199 carries for 1,607 yards and 26 scores.
ESPN: 4-star, 87 grade, #1 RB, #31 overall
Rivals: 4-star, #1 RB, #41 overall
Scout: 5-star, #2 RB, #27 overall
247 Sports: 4-star, 94 grade, #2 RB, #116 overall
Hit the jump for the rest of the commitment post.
Walker developed a strong relationship with Michigan early in the process. I had a feeling that the Wolverines would stay in it with him, and it was a surprise when he committed to Ohio State during the national championship game last year. He started to rethink his decision during this past season, and he scheduled an official visit to Michigan. After decommitting from the Buckeyes, the main teams pursuing him were Alabama, Arizona State, Florida State, and Michigan, but the last two standing were the Seminoles and Wolverines. At his school on Thursday afternoon, he announced that he chose Michigan in a decision that seemed to be pretty close to 50/50. It helps that several fellow New Jersey players are already committed to the Wolverines, and a player he looks up to is Michigan redshirt freshman safety Jabrill Peppers.
Walker is pretty good at everything. It’s hard to find weaknesses in his game. He has good size for a runner, which should allow him to take a bit of a pounding but run through some tackles. I like the way he runs through contact and finishes plays. He has good long speed, so he can put pressure on a defense to take proper angles. More importantly, he has good feet in the hole, can make some people miss in small spaces, and can avoid taking big hits. He also has the ability to make jump cuts and lateral movements to get to the outside and find creases in the defense. His vision helps him identify cutback lanes at the second and third level. He also possesses good hands and should be effective out of the backfield and in the screen game.
On the negative side, Walker sometimes hurries through the hole and could afford to be a little more patient, although that’s an easier correction to make than if the opposite were true. Young backs also often struggle in pass protection, and since his highlights don’t show any pass pro, I am going to assume that’s an area he needs to work on, too.
Like Derrick Green in the 2013 class, I do not believe Walker is the best back in the country. There are guys who are bigger and faster and stronger. Whether they develop or not is a question, but there are more talented backs. However, as I mentioned above, the thing to like most about Walker is that he’s well rounded. He can run through you, around you, or past you. He can be a three-down back (presumably once he works on his pass protection). He can run inside or outside. I likened him earlier to Ricky Powers, or perhaps Chris Perry for a slightly more modern reference. Regardless, he is a good fit for Michigan’s staff and is used to a pro-style offense like he will find at Michigan.
Walker could very well find himself in the mix to start next year. I’m not the only one who remains unimpressed by starter De’Veon Smith, and the guys behind Smith are…well…guys who can’t beat out De’Veon Smith. Drake Johnson could unseat Smith if he’s 100% healthy, but Johnson was a step slower this season than he was last year, likely because of a second torn ACL. In short, the running back situation is very much in question.
Michigan now has 23 commits in the 2016 class. Walker is the first bona fide running back; Kingston Davis wants to play tailback but might outgrow the position and turn into a fullback, while Kiante Enis (RB/WR/LB/S) and Chris Evans (RB/WR/CB) could find themselves contributing elsewhere. The Wolverines are probably done recruiting the running back position unless something unexpected happens before National Signing Day. The class is expected to hit 27 by the time National Signing Day rolls around, so there are approximately four more spots up for grabs. It will be interesting to see how the running back situation plays out with both Davis and Walker graduating early and enrolling at Michigan in January.
Walker would be the first Wayne (NJ) De Paul product to play for Michigan. However, the Wolverines have pursued others from his school, including 2015 safety Kiy Hester (Rutgers) and 2016 defensive end Quayshon Alexander (Nebraska); additionally, former Traverse City (MI) West offensive tackle Thiyo Lukusa (Michigan State) transferred to De Paul this past season. As far as New Jersey products go, Walker joins wide receiver Brad Hawkins, Jr., defensive end Ron Johnson, Jr., and wide receiver Ahmir Mitchell in Michigan’s 2016 class. Several more Garden State products could be following their path in the 2016, 2017, and 2018 classes.
TTB Rating: 88 (ratings explanation)
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