|Ray Vinopal makes a tackle against Illinois
Safety Ray Vinopal, who just finished his freshman season at Michigan, has left the team due to personal reasons. Coach Brady Hoke did not elaborate on the reason for Vinopal’s departure.
When Vinopal was recruited out of Cardinal Mooney (Youngstown, OH) last year, I was not a fan. I pegged him as a probable backup and special teamer, but Vinopal ascended to the starting free safety role halfway through the season. His rapid ascension was at least partially due to the ineffectiveness of early-season starter Cam Gordon; the departures of Vlad Emilien and Justin Turner; and injuries to J.T. Floyd and Troy Woolfolk. My guess is that one of the latter three would have moved ahead of Vinopal at free safety once Gordon proved he wasn’t up to the task. And yet we saw #20, a 2-star recruit, find his way into the starting lineup.
Vinopal exceeded my expectations, but his play was nothing special. He ended the season with 33 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 1 interception, and 3 pass breakups. He made a couple decent plays throughout the season (a pick against Bowling Green, a critical tackle on Mikel Leshoure of Illinois), but he was outmatched by the majority of Michigan’s 2010 opponents – too small, a step too slow, or both.
Regardless of his shortcomings, he may have been the frontrunner for the starting free safety job in 2011. Now Michigan will probably be in the same position it has been for the past few seasons – starting a very inexperienced youngster at the secondary’s most critical position. It was Jordan Kovacs, Mike Williams, and Woolfolk in 2009, Gordon and Vinopal in 2010, and . . . someone else in 2011. Options include sophomores Carvin Johnson, Marvin Robinson, and Cullen Christian; freshman Tamani Carter; or a converted cornerback like Woolfolk or Floyd. The situation is less than ideal.
As for the 2010 recruiting class, this is yet another blow to its quality and numbers. Twenty-seven kids signed National Letters of Intent in February 2010, and only 21 remain. Safety Demar Dorsey (now at Grand Rapids Community College), quarterback Conelius Jones (Marshall), linebacker Antonio Kinard (Miami), linebacker Davion Rogers (Youngstown State), and running back Austin White (Central Michigan) preceded Vinopal in leaving the program.
Vinopal has not announced a destination, although rumors have floated around that he might be headed to play at Pitt. His former position coach at Michigan, Tony Gibson, is now the cornerbacks coach for the Panthers. For those of you who are wondering, Pittsburgh is about one hour and fifteen minutes from Vinopal’s hometown of Youngstown. Ann Arbor is three hours and thirty minutes away.