2011 Countdown: #29 Stephen Hopkins

2011 Countdown: #29 Stephen Hopkins

August 2, 2011
Stephen Hopkins

Name: Stephen Hopkins
Height: 6’0″
Weight: 227 lbs.
High school: Marcus High School in Flower Mound, TX
Position: Running back
Class: Sophomore
Jersey number: #33
Last year: I ranked Hopkins #50 and said he would be a short yardage back.  He carried the ball 37 times for 151 yards and 4 touchdowns.

Hopkins outstripped my predictions a little bit, although probably not significantly enough to warrant a much higher ranking than #50.  He was one of the primary backups to starters Vincent Smith and Michael Shaw.  His two best games came against Illinois (45 yards, 1 touchdown) and Iowa (38 yards, 1 touchdown) and showed the ability to break some tackles.  Overall, it was a solid debut season for the freshman from Texas.

Expectations have been raised, though.  Some spring practice observers suggest that Hopkins is the front-runner for the starting job, but I still have questions about whether he has the speed to be a featured running back.  There’s no question that he has a place on the team, perhaps even as the starting fullback on a team that lacks one.  Al Borges has been known to use split backs in a West Coast Offense manner, handing off to him up the gut or tossing the ball to him on swing passes.  In an effort to get the best athletes on the field, I think it would behoove the Wolverines to use Hopkins as a fullback and only a part-time tailback.  I look for big plays out of a tailback, and Hopkins isn’t the type of runner who can break off a 70-yarder at any given time.  He has lost nine pounds since last season (when he was 236), and there have been hints that the coaches want him in the 220-225 lb. range.  If that potential weight loss leads to a little extra pep in his step, that would be a good thing for his prospects as a runner.

Prediction: Starting fullback, part-time tailback; 50 carries, 200 yards, 5 touchdowns


  1. Comments: 21381
    Aug 02, 2011 at 12:04 PM

    You often speak of "quick twitch" ability on this site. That's maybe the most important think I do *not* see with Hopkins.

  2. Comments: 21381
    Aug 02, 2011 at 12:09 PM

    @ Anonymous 8:04 a.m.

    I agree. That's what I mean when I say I don't think he's really capable of breaking off big plays. It scares me that he *might* be in the running for the starting running back position, because that means we need to depend on Denard Robinson's arm (since he's not going to run as much) for big plays. Shaw and Cox both have the ability to be big-play guys.

  3. Comments: 21381
    Aug 02, 2011 at 1:55 PM

    Some coaches are more concerned with consistency and reliability than big play ability. I don't know what the answer is, but I think you can have a debate about it being more helpful to have a guy who can consistently get you an extra yard (or half-yard as it may be) on 1st and 2nd down or a guy who can occasionally break a big play. e.g., Smith vs. Sanders or M.Turner vs. R.Bush. That's to say nothing of blocking or pass-catching, i.e., the duties of the RB on the majority of plays in an offense with a weapon like Denard at QB.

    I don't know who Hoke and Borges will choose but they seem to want one guy for primary duty. And from the way they talk, I think they're the conservative types that prefer the consistency, especially beside Denard's big-play ability. I suspect they'd rather turn several 2nd and 9s into 2nd and 6s and would sacrifice a 40 yard run to make it happen.

    Also, they seem to be putting a premium on physicality (looking at recruiting of the FB and the big '13 RB they want.) To me that says that if no one stands out from the pack in the next few weeks, they'll go with Hopkins. I know Cox can be a physical back as well but he remains dogged by rumors that the mental aspect of the position troubles him. Smith exhibits more toughness than anyone IMO, but his size precludes him from dishing out any punishment.

    I think they want the LBs and Safeties on their heals from absorbing a power back, to set up Denard for big plays. Maybe it's silly to believe all the tough talk coming from Hoke, since he openly admits to letting Borges run the O, but I think theres some truth there.

  4. Comments: 21381
    Aug 02, 2011 at 2:26 PM

    Loving the Countdown. Looking forward to seeing it every day, and even moreso as we get into the lower #s.

    I guess I'm going to have to print a roster and put the already posted players' Countdown #s on it since I don't see Magnus doing this for me … C'mon, help a brother out. I will try to put something together and put it in the Comments section.

    Have we seen Vincent Smith or Toussaint yet on the Countdown? Who's left at RB? only Cox?

    No surprise that we have not seen Cox yet. Will Magnus put him at #1? Stay tuned.

    So, with Shaw @ #30 and Hopkins @ #29, I guess Mangus thinks these guys are basically a tie, and will not be the featured back. Or, even one of the first 6 or so players off the bench (since we only play 22 players, plus K and P). Very interesting.


  5. Comments: 21381
    Aug 02, 2011 at 3:36 PM

    @ TriFloyd 10:26 a.m.

    If you click on the "2011 Season Countdown" tag, you can see the list in its entirety.

    Off the top of my head, I believe Smith was around #43 and Toussaint was around #56. I'm kind of in a hurry and don't have time to pull up the list.

    Cox surely won't be #1…he'll be #15. Duh.

    Keep in mind that these are listed in order of "most important" to the team. It's not that Shaw/Hopkins won't get significant playing time; it's just that the depth at the position means losing one or the other wouldn't be a hugely significant blow.

    I'm glad you're enjoying the countdown.

  6. Comments: 21381
    Aug 02, 2011 at 3:59 PM

    I think that's the most meaningful approach for a countdown. Unfortunately it proved prophetic last year when Woolfolk went down without a viable backup. In comparison, most other starters have backups who can do a decent job. Those that don't become more important.

    I'm already looking forward to Cox being #3 on '12 countdown based on how awesome he looks in 4th quarter action against EMU's backups this September. #3 only behind Magnus' favorites James Ross and Antonio Poole. Kidding of course, #1 will be our new WR Denard Robinson.

  7. Comments: 21381
    Aug 02, 2011 at 4:18 PM

    I think people are overly obsessing on the big back theory. The starting RB for SDSU wasn't a big back and gained over 1200 yards. If Shaw can stay healthy I think he can be the guy.


  8. Comments: 21381
    Painter Smurf
    Aug 03, 2011 at 12:51 AM

    Hoke had some interesting comments regarding the RB situation at the B10 media day. He singled out Hopkins as a versatile kid "who can play fullback" or something like that. I think he is much more likely to wind up the starting FB than TB.

    In discussing the RB competition, Hoke jumped almost immediately to the incoming freshmen. This could be a motivational ploy, but I am beginning to believe the whispers that this staff does not like any of the current RB's. I think Rawls is as likely to win the job as anyone else. The coaches are counting on Rawls and Hayes to be in the mix based on Hoke's comments.

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