Pro Athletes and Their Spawn: 2012 Edition

Tag: Zach Banner

8Feb 2012
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Pro Athletes and Their Spawn: 2012 Edition

Perhaps the greatest running back of all time,
Barry Sanders’ son follows in his dad’s footsteps

One of the things I always find fascinating is the offspring of former pro athletes.  Growing up as the son of an NFL or NBA player must be a completely different lifestyle than I was accustomed to as a kid.  And there must be a ton of pressure on these kids, too, to follow in their footsteps or be a laughingstock.  I mean, there are certainly kids out there whose fathers were great football players but the kids can barely sniff the field.  I can only imagine what parents and players say to or about those kids.

But for lots of kids, the genes they’re blessed with and the things they learn from their dads add up to some pretty good talent, too.  Here’s an incomplete list of the 2012 recruits whose fathers made it big.  Feel free to add the names of any others, because I certainly don’t know of them all.

Torey Agee (son of Tommie Agee)
Torey is a 6’3″, 246 lb. defensive end who is headed to Vanderbilt.  He had 32 tackles and 4 sacks for Opelika (AL) Opelika as a senior.  Tommie – the football player, not the baseball player – was a fullback for the Seahawks, Chiefs, and most notably the Dallas Cowboys during their dynasty in the early 1990s.  Agee only had 675 total yards and 2 touchdowns in his seven-year NFL career, but when you lead block for Emmitt Smith, lots of people see your name.

Zach Banner (son of Lincoln Kennedy)
Lakewood (WA) Lakes offensive tackle Zach Banner is a 6’9″, 310 lb. kid who spurned virtually every school in the country to attend USC.  His father, Lincoln Kennedy, was the Atlanta Falcons’ first round draft pick out of Washington in the 1993 NFL Draft.  He spent eleven seasons in the NFL with the Falcons and Raiders and was named to the Pro Bowl three times.

Ray Buchanan, Jr. (son of Ray Buchanan)
Hailing from Suwanee (GA) Peachtree Ridge, the younger Buchanan is a 5’11”, 178 lb. cornerback with 4.47 speed.  He grabbed offers from Cincinnati, Illinois, Mississippi, Mississippi State, and Purdue, but ultimately chose the Arkansas Razorbacks.  Ray Sr. played for the Colts, Falcons, and Raiders, amassing 871 tackles and 47 career interceptions.  He retired after the 2004 season having one Pro Bowl under his belt.

Keith Byars II (son of Keith Byars)
Boca Raton (FL) Boca Raton’s younger Keith Byars is a 5’10”, 195 lb. running back who fielded offers from the likes of Illinois, Iowa, and Rutgers, but has yet to choose a school.  His father was a running back for Ohio State and remains #2 on their career touchdown list with 50.  After college he was the #10 pick overall by the Philadelphia Eagles, which launched a career spent mostly as a fullback/H-back for the Eagles, Dolphins, Patriots, and Jets.  He finished his career with one Pro Bowl selection for his 3,109 yards rushing, 5,661 yards receiving, and 54 total career touchdowns.

Alex Carter (son of Tom Carter)
Ashburn (VA) Briar Woods safety Alex Carter is the son of Tom Carter, who was a 1st rounder out of Notre Dame chosen by the Redskins in 1993.  Tom played for the Redskins, Bears, and Bengals before retiring with 27 career interceptions.  The 6’0″, 193 lb. Alex had an offer from his dad’s alma mater but chose Stanford instead.

Nick Davidson (son of Jeff Davidson)
Eden Prairie (MN) Eden Prairie offensive tackle Nick Davidson is a 6’6″, 275 lb. offensive tackle who committed to Stanford over offers from Clemson, Michigan, Ohio State, Oregon, South Carolina, and others.  His dad Jeff was an Ohio State offensive tackle and was a 5th round draft pick in 1990.  He played four seasons with the Broncos before retiring, and is now the offensive line coach for the Minnesota Vikings.

Mario Edwards (son of Mario Edwards)
Denton (TX) Ryan defensive end Mario Edwards is following in his father’s footsteps by choosing Florida State, but the 6’4″, 275 lb. (or bigger) defensive end/tackle is significantly bigger than his dad, who was an NFL cornerback.  The elder Edwards played for Florida State and the Cowboys, Buccaneers, and Dolphins before retiring with 180 tackles and 4 interceptions.

Hardy Nickerson, Jr. (son of Hardy Nickerson)
The younger Nickerson, from Oakland (CA) Bishop O’Dowd, is an inside linebacker just like his father.  He stands 6’0″, 218 lbs., has a 3.7 GPA, and claims a 1560 on his SAT.  He committed to Cal last summer, but he also was offered by Colorado and Nebraska, among others.  The elder Nickerson was a 5-time Pro Bowler with 1,586 career tackles for the Steelers, Buccaneers, Jaguars, and Packers, but he really made his name as the MIKE linebacker for the Buccaneers during their defensive heyday in the 1990s.  He is now the head football coach at Bishop O’Dowd.

Trey Griffey (son of Ken Griffey, Jr.)
Griffey is a 6’2″, 190 lb. wide receiver who committed to Arizona.  He also held offers from Michigan State, Washington State, and a bunch of smaller programs.  At last check he had 61 receptions for 839 yards and 11 touchdowns as a senior, and he earned praise during the Under Armour All-American Game and practices for his route running and hands.  Griffey attend Orland (FL) Dr. Phillips, the former home of Michigan tight end Ricardo Miller and former Michigan commit Demetrius Hart, now at Alabama.  It seems unlikely that Griffey will be a college football star, but he could be a very steady possession receiver for the Wildcats.  It’s strange to think of him as a collegiate athlete, because I remember seeing his father holding him when Trey was just a toddler.  I feel old.  Ken Griffey, Jr. has loads of accolades as a professional baseball player, including 13 all-star selections, 10 Gold Gloves, 630 home runs, and an American League MVP Award, most of which came with the Seattle Mariners (although he later played for the Reds and the White Sox).  Of course, Grandpa Griffey (Ken Sr.) also played in the Major Leagues, whacking 152 homers and appearing in three all-star games.

Barry Sanders, Jr. (son of Barry Sanders)
Sanders, Jr., who had 1,343 yards and 24 touchdowns as a senior, is the son of the greatest running back of all time.  He committed to Stanford during the Army All-American Bowl last month, but he had an offer from virtually every noteworthy school in the country (although Michigan was conspicuously absent from the reported list).  Barry Sr. is arguably the greatest running back of all time.  In a professional career spent entirely with the Detroit Lions, he rushed for 15,269 yards and 109 touchdowns while annually gaining 1,000 yards and getting nominated for the Pro Bowl.  He is now in the NFL Hall of Fame.

Deion Sanders, Jr. (son of Deion Sanders)
The younger Deion Sanders holds an offer from Houston, although he has yet to commit to a school.  He’s a 5’7″, 170 lb. athlete, and that size might be a concern for a lot of schools.  “Neon Deion” played in the NFL for the Falcons, 49ers, Cowboys, Redskins, and Ravens and excelled as a cover man and returner.  He picked off 53 passes and had 22 total touchdowns on interceptions and special teams returns.  Sanders, Sr. also played for the Yankees, Braves, Reds, and San Francisco Giants of Major League Baseball, where he was a light-hitting but speedy outfielder.  He finished his professional baseball career with 39 homeruns, a .263 batting average, and 186 stolen bases.

Alston Smith (son of Bruce Smith)
Alston is a 6’3″, 272 lb. defensive tackle headed to his father’s alma mater, Virginia Tech.  Hailing from Virginia Beach (VA) Cox, he garnered limited FBS offers, but the only one that mattered was from the Hokies.  Bruce, of course, is the Hall of Fame defensive end who was the #1 overall pick by the Buffalo Bills in 1985.  He played for the Bills and Redskins, racking up 200 quarterback sacks and 11 Pro Bowls in 19 seasons.

Kodi Whitfield (son of Bob Whitfield)
Kodi, from Los Angeles (CA) Loyola, is a 6’2″, 197 lb. wide receiver who is headed to Stanford.  His dad Bob Whitfield was a 6’5″, 318 lb. offensive tackle who was picked #8 overall by the Atlanta Falcons in 1992, also out of Stanford.  Bob played for the Falcons, Jaguars, and Giants before retiring after the 2006 season.  He made one Pro Bowl with the Falcons during his career.

Other children of notable athletes:
Michigan offensive lineman signee Kyle Kalis (son of Todd Kalis)
Stanford offensive tackle signee Andrus Peat (son of Todd Peat)
Auburn quarterback signee Zeke Pike (son of Mark Pike)

7Dec 2011
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Mailbag: How do you want the class to finish?

Stefon Diggs is the top overall player left on Michigan’s radar

I am an avid reader of your blog and also enjoy most of your comments on MGoBlog. I was hoping you could comment on your site about how you would like to see the recruiting class finish up. It is commonly believed that there are four spots left, and here’s what I’m wondering: 

RB – Being held for Dunn, unlikely to take another RB otherwise. Do you think there’s another candidate? 

OL – There are several OL still high on Michigan (Banner, Diamond, Garnett, etc.) Could you provide your rankings of those players, which you’d want to see in a M uniform the most, and any thoughts about which makes a better fit based on the rest of the roster? 

WR – Now that we have one already in the fold, of the remaining options left who would you most want to see sign with M and why? 

Other – This had hoped to be Yuri Wright, but that hasn’t developed much. Who else would you consider here? A TE? Thanks for your insight! 


Thanks for the e-mail, AC.

Regarding running backs, I don’t think there are any other candidates right now.  Drake Johnson is a bit of an insurance policy in case Canton (OH) Glenoak’s Bri’onte Dunn doesn’t come over to the good side, but I don’t know that there’s a pressing need to find an elite running back in this class.  There’s an outside shot that Greg Garmon could come to Michigan, but I don’t foresee that coming to fruition.  Michigan has Fitzgerald Toussaint for another couple years and the coaches seem to like Thomas Rawls, who’s the heir apparent to Toussaint.  I don’t think it would kill Michigan to lose out on Dunn, but they must  get an elite running back in 2013 if that happens.

As for the offensive linemen, here are some thoughts about the linemen still high on Michigan:

  1. Puyallup (WA) Puyallup OG Joshua Garnett is the most athletic and most versatile lineman on the board.  His technique isn’t quite as solid as that of Michigan commit Kyle Kalis, but Garnett is the better athlete. Garnett could play tackle as well, but putting Kalis at strongside guard and having Garnett as the pulling guard could be a seriously powerful combination.  Aside from Stefon Diggs, Garnett is probably the best player left on Michigan’s board.
  2. Lakewood (WA) Lakes OT Zach Banner is a potentially dynamic offensive tackle.  He’s not the best prospect, but a 6’9″ guy with his athleticism is extremely intriguing.  His bloodlines are a positive, too (his father is former NFL offensive tackle Lincoln Kennedy).  With those long arms, Banner could be an ideal blind-side protector.  I think 2012 commit Blake Bars is a future offensive guard, so Michigan could use another tackle in this class.
  3. Chicago (IL) Simeon OT Jordan Diamond is a notch down from the other two prospects, in my opinion.  He has decent size, decent athleticism, and decent technique, but he doesn’t have the All-American potential of the above two players.
  4. Lakeland (FL) Lakeland OT Evan Goodman has popped up on Michigan’s radar recently.  It’s unclear whether the Wolverines have offered Goodman, although he has plenty of other good offers.  He’s currently committed to Arizona State, but the coaching uncertainty has caused him to reconsider.  I’m not a huge fan of Goodman.  He’s certainly athletic – probably the second-most athletic kid in this grouping – but he lacks a punch and is a real project.  His technique will have to be overhauled completely before he can play at the next level, and even then, I’m not sure he has the requisite aggression to be successful.
Olney (MD) Good Counsel wide receiver Stefon Diggs is the best player left on Michigan’s board, slightly ahead of the aforementioned Garnett.  Michigan could use a big-play wide receiver and Diggs has the potential to be a game-breaker.  Diggs has the potential to develop into a first round draft pick if he can keep his head on straight.  He’s Mario Manningham or better.  Unfortunately, Diggs is unlikely to come to Michigan.
I would really like to see Michigan pursue a quarterback with one of these scholarships.  It doesn’t seem like the coaches will do so, but Michigan is quite thin at the position.  When 2013 commit Shane Morris arrives on campus, he will be behind a senior/redshirt junior Devin Gardner and a redshirt sophomore Russell Bellomy.  That’s it.  I think a school should always have at least four scholarship quarterbacks, and unless the coaches get someone in 2012 or an additional QB in 2013, Michigan will have only three scholarship quarterbacks for each season under Hoke.  Outside of a quarterback, I would like to see Michigan grab San Diego (CA) Westview tight end Taylor McNamara.  He reminds me of former Notre Dame tight end (and current Minnesota Viking) Kyle Rudolph.
19Oct 2011
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Recruiting Update: October 19, 2011

California WR Jordan Payton


This guy was already off the board, but Fairless Hills (PA) Pennsbury OT J.J. Denman flipped his commitment from Penn State to Wisconsin.  The 6’6″, 305 lb. lineman would appear to fit in well at Wisconsin.  Frankly, I can’t think of a single reason for an offensive lineman not to choose to attend Wisconsin right now.  The Badgers have churned out solid offensive linemen over the last several years, including first round picks Joe Thomas (Cleveland Browns) and Gabe Carimi (Chicago Bears); they win all the time and put up all kinds of points; and they get to eat whatever they want.  What’s not to like?


Westlake Village (CA) Oaks Christian WR Jordan Payton has set his announcement date for next Tuesday, October 25th.  Payton was formerly committed to USC, and has since been rumored to be a Cal or Michigan lean.  Most recent reports have him leaning toward Michigan.  The 6’2″, 199 lb. wideout will be visiting Notre Dame this coming weekend, but the fact that he set his announcement date for immediately following his visit to South Bend suggests that he has already made his decision.  Payton has decent speed, but perhaps more importantly, he knows how to catch the ball and get upfield.  He understands body positioning and body lean and will get every inch that’s available to him.  He probably won’t be a superstar at the next level, but he could be a very good #2 receiver.


Since the first waves of offers from the new coaching staff were sent out earlier this year, I noticed that Coach Hoke and Co. seemed to be offering elite players in higher quantities.  That observation has been borne out in numerous ways so far, including the Rivals 250, the Scout 300, the 24/7 Top 247, etc.  To add to the mounting list of evidence, I submit more data for the argument that Michigan is targeting higher quality players than they were under Rich Rodriguez:

Last year 25 of the Army All-American Bowl players sported Michigan offers.  While the 2012 game’s rosters have yet to be completed, 50 of the planned participants have offers to play football in Ann Arbor.  Only five of those 50 have committed to Michigan at this point (OG Kyle Kalis, OT Erik Magnuson, LB Royce Jenkins-Stone, LB James Ross, and DT Ondre Pipkins), but if AAB rosters are any indication of elite talent, then Michigan’s going after it in spades.

Aside from the four aforementioned players, Michigan still has a good shot at landing the following participants:

  • OT Zach Banner
  • WR Jordan Payton
  • CB Yuri Wright
. . . and an outside shot at grabbing these players:
  • ATH Stefon Diggs
  • S Elijah Shumate (check out his highlights below)
This is not necessarily meant to be an indictment of Rich Rodriguez, whose recruits are in the midst of having a pretty good season at Michigan right now.  But there are some gaping holes, particularly on the offensive and defensive lines, where the Wolverines are lacking both numbers and talent.  If the Wolverines snatch an additional two of those players listed above, that will make for an incredibly talented first recruiting class for Brady Hoke.

7Apr 2011
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Tom Lemming Top 100 Released

Washington offensive tackle Zach Banner (#73 above)
is the nation’s #12 recruit.

Recruiting guru Tom Lemming released his top 100 players for the Class of 2012.  Michigan has offered 51 of them.

The highest rated recruit from the state of Michigan is Terry Richardson, a cornerback from Detroit Cass Tech, at #33 overall.

1. Dorial Green-Beckham – WR – Missouri
2. Gunner Kiel – QB – Indiana
4. Noah Spence – TE – Pennsylvania
5. Mario Edwards – DE – Texas (Florida State)
6. John Theus – OT – Florida
7. Ellis McCarthy – DT – California
12. Zach Banner – OT – Washington
13. Jarron Jones – DT – New York
14. Stefon Diggs – ATH – Maryland
15. D.J. Humphries – OT – North Carolina
17. Andrus Peat – OT – Arizona
18. Eddie Goldman – DT – Washington, DC
23. Matt Jones – RB – Florida (Florida)
24. Keith Marshall – RB – North Carolina
26. Ron Darby – ATH – Maryland
27. Jordan Simmons – OG – California
28. Connor Brewer – QB – Arizona (Texas)
30. Zeke Pike – QB – Kentucky
31. Kwon Alexander – LB – Alabama
32. Arik Armstead – DT – California (USC)
33. Terry Richardson – CB – Michigan
35. Tee Shepard – CB – California (Notre Dame)
36. J.J. Denman – OT – Pennsylvania
37. Derek David – LB – Texas
41. Jordan Diamond – OT – Illinois
43. Josh Garnett – OT – Washington
46. Tommy Schutt – DT – Illinois
49. Ifeadi Odenigbo – DE – Ohio
50. Michael Moore – OG – Maryland
57. Chris Wormley – DE – Ohio
58. Avery Johnson – WR – Florida (LSU)
60. Darius Hamilton – DE – New Jersey
61. Kyle Kalis – OT – Ohio (Ohio State)
63. Se’von Pittman – DE – Ohio
64. Jonathan Taylor – DT – Georgia
65. Deon Bush – CB – Florida
67. Dan Voltz – OT – Illinois (Wisconsin)
71. Leonte Carroo – WR – New Jersey
72. Bennie Coney – QB – Florida
74. James Ross – LB – Michigan
75. Ty Darlington – C – Florida
76. Troy Hinds – DE – Utah
78. Brock Stadnik – OT – North Carolina
80. Devin Fuller – QB – New Jersey
81. Jordan Payton – WR – California (USC)
82. Greg Garmon – RB – Pennsylvania
88. Cyrus Jones – CB – Maryland
90. Yuri Wright – CB – New Jersey
95. Vince Biegel – LB – Wisconsin
96. Deaysean Rippy – LB – Pennsylvania
97. Jordan Jenkins – DE – Georgia
98. Sheldon Day – DT – Indiana