The Wolverine

August 2021

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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62 THE WOLVERINE AUGUST 2021   COMMITMENT PROFILE A cycle after landing its crown jewel in elite running back re- cruit Donovan Edwards, the Wol- verines were looking for a comple- mentary option in a down year at the position. New Michigan running backs coach Mike Hart is known as an ex- cellent talent evaluator and identified Columbia (S.C.) Hammond three- star ball carrier CJ Stokes. While not a highly touted recruit, Stokes was a top-of-the-board option for the U-M assistant. H a r t p re s s e d f o r t h e 5 - 1 0 , 188-pounder on his mid-June offi- cial visit and was able to earn his commitment before the end of the weekend. "He's a local kid, but he had this inkling that he wanted to go away," Hammond offensive coordinator Eric Wilson said. "Ever since I've been around him, that's the feeling I've gotten from him. I think he's a kid that put a ton of stock in education. Vanderbilt was one of his top schools before Michigan came in. "Hammond is the top school in the area in terms of SAT scores. CJ is a 3.6 GPA kid. He's a very good stu- dent. Michigan's reputation is being one of the top public schools in the country and is on par with the Dukes of the world in terms of education. That made a huge impact. "I also think he was looking for a more pro-style offense with a coach that had been in the NFL and groomed runners. We're a one-back team. I know Michigan runs a lot of that. He's a guy that likes to get physical and chippy. That traditional black-and-blue mentality that Michi- gan has as its reputation appealed to him." Stokes, who is listed by as the No. 9 prospect in South Caro- lina and the nation's No. 50 running back, committed to Michigan over offers from Duke, Louisville, Min- nesota, Missouri, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest, West Virginia and others. He rushed for 1,300 yards and 18 touchdowns as a sophomore, but no junior stats were made available. However, Wilson said Stokes has taken the next step in his game and is one of the more undervalued run- ning backs nationally. "His biggest strengths are being very well-rounded and how fast he accelerates," the coach explained. "He's got really good hands, so he's a threat out of the backfield. He has good lateral movement and not just vertical movement, and he hits the hole really fast. "That's the biggest difference watching him last year and this spring. He's decisive and not making too many cuts ahead of time. He's getting downhill. With the accelera- tion, the way he hits the hole and his hands, he's an all-around back with a lot of speed. He also has a lot of abil- ity to bring punishment." Wilson added that while Stokes is still a bit of a raw prospect, he is quickly coming along and working hard to improve a couple of key parts of his game. "Being decisive and not making too many cuts before you hit the hole," Wilson explained. "Just hit the hole and get vertical. A guy that is as good of an athlete as he is can some- times out-athlete people. "That's the biggest improvement we saw this spring. Just getting downhill and not making a guy miss when you don't have to. Yeah, you're an athlete but knowing what you're reading on every play. Don't just run to daylight. You have to learn every- thing from a scheme perspective." Stokes is the first running back commit in Michigan's 2022 recruit- ing class. The Wolverines are explor- ing potentially adding a second back before the end of the cycle. — EJ Holland Wolverines Secure Pledge From Undervalued Running Back CJ Stokes Stokes,'s No. 9 player in South Carolina and No. 50 running back in the coun- try, rushed for 1,300 yards and 18 touchdowns as a sophomore. PHOTO COURTESY RIVALS.COM PLAYER EVALUATION Strengths: CJ Stokes is a stout, compact back that will only continue to add weight to his muscular frame. By his sophomore campaign in college, it wouldn't be surprising to see him playing at around 215 pounds. He runs with plenty of power, but he also has home-run ability. He clocked an electronic 4.4 40-yard dash and breezes past defenders on film. He is also a solid pass catcher out of the backfield and can line up in the slot. Areas Of Improvement: Stokes has speed, but he doesn't have the sudden burst and acceleration that top backs with similar size boast. At times, he can struggle with his vision and misses opportunities for cutback lanes. While he is solid in a lot of areas, he isn't special in any one and lacks the dy- namic ability to be a multi-year starter. He best projects as a rotational back. Michigan Player Comparison: Stokes shares similar qualities with freshman running back Tavierre Dunlap, who was also taken to complement stud recruit Donovan Edwards. Stokes is faster, while Dunlap is bigger, but both are one-cut backs that relied on power while getting past the first level and long speed beyond that. Dunlap also needed to improve his vision and explosiveness coming out of high school. — EJ Holland Columbia (S.C.) Hammond offensive coordinator Eric Wilson on Stokes "He's a guy that likes to get physical and chippy. That tradi- tional black-and-blue mentality that Michigan has as its repu- tation appealed to him."

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