Kareem Walker, Wolverine

Kareem Walker, Wolverine

December 17, 2015

Wayne (NJ) De Paul Catholic RB Kareem Walker

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)


  1. Comments: 183
    Joined: 9/3/2015
    suduri xusai
    Dec 17, 2015 at 6:03 PM

    88 eh. That’s lower than Derrick Green but let’s hope that he can be a starter in 2016.

    I love that Michigan is really dominating recruiting in NJ. We have one in-state commit but several from Jersey. Now all I want is Rashan Gary for Christmas.

  2. Comments: 134
    Joined: 9/13/2015
    Dec 17, 2015 at 6:43 PM

    TTB –
    Knowing that it is hard to compare high school players with any exact science, I am nonetheless curious how you would compare him to the three highly ranked recruits currently on Michigan’s roster (Smith, Green, Isaac).

    I have heard mixed reviews on his vision to find holes, you pointed out his tendency to plow forward too quickly, and everyone quickly qualifies his status as the #1 RB with statements about how he isn’t Fournette, AP, or Bush as a prospect. Do you see him as having more upside than our current guys or about the same?

    • Comments: 3844
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Dec 17, 2015 at 6:53 PM

      Walker is a more instinctive, natural runner than Green. Walker is better in practically every way.
      Walker is less physical than De’Veon Smith, but he’s better in every other way.
      Walker is tougher than Ty Isaac, but otherwise, I think the “talent level” is similar. I would probably give Walker the edge now that I’ve seen Isaac run in college. But I’ve always been high on Isaac’s abilities. It’s just that his toughness, mental fortitude, and then fumbles got him in the doghouse.

      Walker has more upside than the current players, I think. Green doesn’t appear to be on the rise, Smith is a bruiser and nothing else, and Isaac is buried. I think you could see Isaac emerge somewhere in the right situation and still have a good career (even at Michigan), but Walker has four years to make his mark, while Isaac is running a little short on time/opportunities.

      • Comments: 6285
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Dec 17, 2015 at 9:32 PM

        We’ve obviously learned a lot about Green over the last 3 years but worth keeping in mind that his incoming TTB rank was 95(!) Only Jabril Peppers has gotten a higher mark coming in.

        I’m not convinced that analysis via highlight reel is particularly meaningful. Though I believe Thunder saw Green in person too. Personally I was highly impressed by Sam McGuffie’s highlight reel. So maybe that’s why I have that outlook.

        I would caution everyone to take recruit’s ranking and highlight reels with a big dose of salt. Davis could be better than Walker – he seems more of a fit in the Gearhart/Bunch power back mode for the Harbaugh/Stanford offense. It should tell you something that DeVeon Smith, another power back, won the job under Harbaugh (whereas he did not under Hoke, who preferred Green).

        Walker and Davis could both sit behind Smith and Johnson next year. I know everyone wants to just tuck Walker straight into the starting gig next year and think the running game is going to suddenly produce 5 or 6 ypc but that’s pretty unlikely given the blocking issues.

        Regardless, Walker obviously has talent. He’s another roll of the dice, bullet in the chamber, etc. Great get for Michigan considering all his competition.

  3. Comments: 1356
    Joined: 8/13/2015
    Dec 17, 2015 at 6:57 PM

    I like Walker, but the kid playing fullback is one tough high school football player. He made life a lot easier for Walker than it would have been otherwise.

  4. Comments: 2
    Joined: 12/18/2015
    Dec 17, 2015 at 9:20 PM

    As a Columbus resident, I need your thoughts on two things, Thunder:

    1. How does Walker compare to Mike Weber (I need to know if we won that trade)

    2. What backs in this class do you rank ahead of him? I hear the OSU crowd saying the back they flipped from Wisconsin is better than Walker anyway.

    • Comments: 3844
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Dec 17, 2015 at 9:37 PM

      1. Well, you probably won the Weber-for-Walker trade simply because Ohio State is better than Michigan right now. But I was never in love with Mike Weber. I did rank him lower than Walker (http://touchthebanner.blogspot.com/2014/08/michael-weber-wolverine.html) with an 82 grade. Walker is a shiftier back, whereas Weber is a little more power-oriented.

      2. I haven’t watched all the backs, because I mostly look at guys Michigan is recruiting. I wouldn’t argue with an OSU person who says Antonio Williams is better; he’s more physical than Walker and has some speed. Pretty similar to Ezekiel Elliott. There are other backs I like for varying reasons, partially as complements to Michigan’s slow-ish group of backs. But yeah, I would probably take Williams and Devwah Whaley over Walker. A couple other backs are on par with Walker, like Abdul Adams, though I think he’s more of a spread guy.

  5. Comments: 6285
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Dec 17, 2015 at 9:40 PM

    Curious to know which RB or RBs you think have more talent in this class.

    • Comments: 3844
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Dec 17, 2015 at 9:55 PM

      Devwah Whaley, Antonio Williams, maybe a couple others. I haven’t watched film on every single one. I think Abdul Adams might do great at Oklahoma. Carlin Fils-Aime is a kid I like, too. I haven’t necessarily gone through and ranked them all.

  6. Comments: 142
    Joined: 8/12/2015
    Dec 17, 2015 at 9:50 PM

    I like him but his tape reminds me of Ty Isaac. Will have to see if he is the real deal. Won’t take long to determine that.

    • Comments: 3844
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Dec 17, 2015 at 9:54 PM

      He doesn’t look to me like Ty Isaac at all. Different size, different stride, different running style, etc.

      • Comments: 191
        Joined: 8/13/2015
        Dec 18, 2015 at 12:47 PM

        I see a slightly more powerful Denard Robinson with less speed… and hopefully less fumbling.

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