The University of Michigan football team picked up a commitment today from OLB/DE Ken Wilkins, who hails from Trinity High School in Washington, PA. Wilkins grew up as a fan of Michigan but had never visited until the BBQ at the Big House over Memorial Day weekend. Apparently, Rich Rodriguez does BBQ like Kelly Brook does bikinis, because this is the third recruit who was wooed into the fold by that event (Jordan Paskorz and Christian Pace are the others).
Depending on whom you believe, Wilkins is either 6’3″ and 244 lbs. or 6’4″ and 225 lbs. . . . or some combination of the two. I’m going to pretend that he’s 6’3 1/2″ and 234.5 lbs. just so I can make everyone happy, but I’m 6’3″ and 234, and he doesn’t look as big as me (although I’m sure he’s a much better athlete than me). He’s also listed at a 4.61 forty yard dash, which is a lie if I’ve ever seen one. Pat White ran a 4.55 at the NFL Combine, so you’re telling me a high school junior DE is just .06 seconds slower than White? Not a chance. Anyway, He made all-state as a junior when he racked up 89 tackles, 11 quarterback sacks, and 2 touchdowns on defensive returns, so that’s positive.
According to recruiting services, Wilkins is being recruited as the “quick” OLB/DE hybrid for Greg Robinson’s defense. I would not be surprised if Wilkins grows into a full-time defensive end. Not only does he already have good size, but he lacks the fluidity and change-of-direction skills that I think are necessary for dropping back into coverage.
In watching video of Wilkins, I noticed several things. First of all, he’s not afraid to hit. Once he latches onto a ballcarrier, ballcarrier goes BOOM. He also seems to have good play recognition; he’s not a player who seems to make bad reads but then compensates by overwhelming athleticism.
Unfortunately, I see more negatives than positives in regards to the “quick” hybrid. As I said above, Wilkins lacks agility in open space. I think Big Ten running backs and tight ends could have a field day if he’s expected to cover them in pass routes. His three-point stance begins with his butt too low, meaning his first movement is straight up instead of bursting forward; he can beat offensive linemen and tight ends with pure strength, but that won’t be the case at the next level. If he expects to be a good pass rusher, he’ll need to play lower and work on disengaging from blockers. He does not use his hands well to fend off linemen. He has good straight-line speed for a defensive end, but not so much for a linebacker. He also does more hopping than shuffling and occasionally tries to leap over blockers and tackle ballcarriers after leaving his feet. Many of these issues are technical and can be corrected, but he has a lot of them.
Overall, I think Wilkins can be a productive player at the next level, but it won’t be for a few years. His potential is evidenced by offers from WVU, Illinois, NC State, Wisconsin, Pitt, and North Carolina, all good-but-not-great programs. But I wouldn’t expect him to emerge until he’s at least a junior. If he hits any kind of growth spurt, I think we’ll see him playing inside as a defensive end with his hand down.
(Image via Scout.com)
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