A Different Breed Of Back
Friday, February 27, 2009 at 06:30AM
C.W. O'Brien

The level of talent for the Class of 2010 in the Kansas/KC Metro area is incredibly high by normal standards. That is especially evident at the running back position. There are four to five backs that have a legitimate chance to sign with BCS teams in the spring. That hasn’t happened in well over a decade.

The most exciting thing is that most of these prospects aren’t what I would consider “iffy” prospects. All of them are extremely talented and four of the five are getting looked at by schools on the national level. That is great for Kansas high school football, even though the level of competition to sign these recruits will be steep for KU.

Despite currently living in central Iowa, I have had a chance to see every one of the running backs play in the last two years. I’ve watched film on all of them as well. I have also talked to a few coaches around the state to get their opinions on these prospects.

The feedback has been pretty good, and at times, brutally honest. Regardless, it helps build a more complete picture of the talent and potential of these kids. Below is a quick overview of the Kansas running back crop for the Class of 2010:

Derek Campbell—Manhattan High School (Manhattan) 6’0”, 185 lbs

Currently Interested In: Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Alabama, Oregon, and Miami (Fla.)

Breakdown: Campbell is what I like to call a pure running back. He runs, and runs, and runs. He can catch, but doesn’t do it often. His numbers don’t look quite as good as some of the other noteworthy backs in the state, but Campbell is still a very good prospect. His recruitment is pretty much wide open and he claims that distance won’t be a big factor.

Campbell is a fundamentally sound, patient runner. He is the kind of back that will follow his blockers before waiting to make a move instead of the kind of back that makes a move and then hopes his blockers follow him. He can run inside or outside. He has great speed on the edge and in the second level. He isn’t a power runner per se, but he can run with a lot of power when he has to.

Campbell already has good size and speed. He is has fairly broad shoulders and with the right conditioning program, he should be able to grow into his frame quickly. He accelerates off of cuts very quickly.

Maturity was the first word out of three different coach’s mouths when they talked about Campbell. He is a good student, a good athlete, and stays out of trouble. One talked about him as a “foundation back” as in a college could put him into their system and he could be a good foundation for the team. The only negative thing that any of the coaches talked about was his pad height and running lean: he tends to run straight up. They said that led to Campbell being tackled in open space a lot.

Deveon Dinwiddie—Hutchinson High School (Hutchinson) 5’9” 180 lbs.

Currently Interested In: Kansas, Kansas State, Illinois, Miami (Fla.), UCLA

Breakdown: Dinwiddie is a product of the powerhouse that Randy Dreiling has built in Hutchinson. That alone speaks volumes about this recruit. For those that are unfamiliar with Hutch, the Salthawks have won 5 straight state championships in dominating fashion. Hutchinson has a conditioning program that is better than most colleges. Dinwiddie will be able to step onto a campus and adjust to the conditioning program with no problem.

Dinwiddie is probably the most complete back of the bunch, although he isn’t the most talented of the group. He is a slasher-back and is a terror around the edges. He has fluid hips and very good balance. He doesn’t dance like most high school backs, but he is great at changing direction and making quick cuts. He has the ability to go up the middle and break into the secondary, but he doesn’t have the strength to consistently power through defenders.

Dinwiddie is by far the best pass catcher of the bunch. He can catch screens, hot routes, or line up in the slot position. He isn’t afraid to catch passes in traffic. If he is able to catch a pass in stride, he is a hard person to catch.

Physically, Dinwiddie is still a work in progress. He is a bit wiry right now. He doesn’t have broad shoulders, but he has enough room to get into the mid-190’s without losing any speed. His height will probably scare a lot of teams off. As far as speed goes, he is fast. I mean really fast. He ran a 4.42 forty as a junior, but on the field he plays a lot faster than that. He accelerates quickly and has a second gear once he is in open space.

Talking with a few coaches, they feel that Dinwiddie has the best upside of any back in the state of Kansas. They say that he has great instincts and is a pretty competitive person on the field. They are unsure of how he will fair in college. Most seem to feel that his success or failure will depend a lot on the type of system that he gets into. If he gets into a system that allows him to take advantage of his skill set, he will flourish. If he ends up in a system that uses a lot of power run, he will likely not perform as well.

For what it is worth, my father has been sold on Dinwiddie since he was a sophomore. My dad is a former football coach and has seen the prospect play 10-15 times over the last two years. I trust his judgment.

Joseph Randle—Southeast High School (Wichita) 6’0”, 180 lbs.

Currently Interested In: Kansas, K-State Nebraska, Stanford, Duke, Clemson, LSU, Notre Dame, Miami, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Arizona, Louisville, Texas A&M

Breakdown: If not for a guy from across town by the name of Bryce Brown, people would have been hearing a lot more about this kid sooner. He has been an All City League selection since he was a freshman. Randle is the brother of former Jayhawk John Randle. He is about as skilled now as John was as a sophomore at KU. For those that remember John Randle, that is speaking volumes. The younger Randle is very personable, dedicated, and hardworking.

Randle is almost the mold of what college coaches look for in a back. He has the speed and elusiveness to make defenders miss. His acceleration to top speed is incredibly quick as well. His top end speed isn’t as fast as some of the other backs in the state, but he gets to his top speed very quickly.

Randle is an extremely versatile player. He can play defense, return kicks or punts, play in the slot, catch passes out of the backfield. Rumor has it he can throw the ball pretty well too. He will be a great asset to any team in college. He will have the ability to see the field incredibly early and have a big impact.

Randle has a great frame, and he is going to be able to put weight on quickly. He is a little lanky right now, but he has good definition. He can easily get to 200 pounds before he ever steps onto a college campus. He should have no problem carrying 205-2010 pounds in college. Randle probably runs a forty in the mid-4.4 range, although I haven’t seen a concrete listing.

Every coach I talk to has nothing but good things to say about Randle, both as a football player and a prospect. Physically he is ready to be on campus and mentally he is prepared for college and the entire recruitment process. KU is expected to offer him at Junior Days. I sincerely hope that he harbors no ill-will towards Mark Mangino or the University of Kansas for what happened to his brother because Randle has the potential to be a game-changer.

DeMarcus Robinson—Northwest High School (Wichita) 5’9”, 192 lbs.

Currently Interested In: Kansas, Kansas State, Louisville

Breakdown: No one knew who Robinson was before his sophomore year. Then he rushed for over 1,200 yards as a sophomore. He almost ran for 2000 yards as a junior. People know about him now.

Robinson is one of the fastest high school athletes in the state of Kansas…not just one of the fastest football players. As a sophomore he placed third at the state track meet with a time of 10.91. He also posted two of the three fastest times in Class 6A last spring (10.81, 10.88).

As a football player, Robinson takes full advantage of his speed. He currently has a listed forty time of 4.4, although I have been told that he hasn’t run a timed forty since last summer. He accelerates so quickly that he is often in the second level before people realize that he has the ball. If he is able to get outside, there aren’t too many people that are going to be able to catch him. He has perfected the speed cut and makes opponents look foolish.

Robinson has pretty decent hands, although there is definitely room for improvement. He is a gifted punt returner as well.

While his height will scare some teams off, he is a very strong, thick kid. He still has a little room to grow, but he will probably never get above 200-205 pounds. He shouldn’t need to though.

Speed. Speed. Speed. That is all the coaches wanted to talk about. He just outruns everyone and he pumps his legs continuously…which makes him hard to drag down when people do catch him. They all felt that even on the collegiate level, Robinson is going to be faster than just about every other player on the field. In a sport where speed kills, Robinson should have no trouble finding a home.

Joshua Smith—Hutchinson High School (Hutchinson) 5’10” 205 lbs.

Currently Interested In: Kansas, Kansas State

Breakdown: Another one of Randy Dreiling’s kids. Smith is the workhorse of the Hutchinson offense. He can take a beating and continues to keep getting up for more.

Smith actually plays fullback, but should have no problem transitioning to tailback at the next level. He is a power runner in the truest sense of the term. As a runner, he has a low center of gravity, good body tilt, and can disappear in a pile and come out the other side. His legs just keep churning. He is incredibly hard to bring down, and there are few people at the high school level that can consistently bring him down alone. Arm tackles don’t work on Smith. He runs right through them…and may actually take the arm with him. He is an absolute beast. On the field it looks like he lives for the contact, the hitting. He doesn’t just take hits, he delivers them.

Smith is a very gifted blocker. He blocks selflessly and is more than willing to sacrifice his body to make a block. He packs a punch and people know when they have been blocked by him. He doesn’t miss blocks often.

Smith is already a very strong, thick football player. His legs are like small tree trunks. His torso isn’t as thick as his lower body, but he has a good frame. He is far from chiseled, but he has quite a bit of mass on his body. He should have no problem getting up to the 230-235 pound range in college. He may also be a touch shorter than his listed height, but not by much. His biggest drawback is his speed. He is probably in the mid-4.6 range. He is far from slow, but he doesn’t have the second gear when he gets into space. He has good acceleration, but his strength is by far his power.

The coaches that I have talked to like Smith, but are unsure of whether or not he will be able to contribute on the collegiate level before he is a junior/senior. The one thing that every one of them said was that he runs hard. One coach said that his team actually packed the box with eight and nine guys to force Hutch to beat them to the outside…and Smith still ran for 200 yards. The coach told me that his team just couldn’t drag Smith down. Most coaches commented on Smith’s ability to disappear behind taller blockers and then reappear in a seam. In the end, most of the coaches I talked to said that Smith is almost too short to play fullback and just a touch too slow to play tailback in college.

Smith is a very durable back (I have seen him get 30+ touches multiple times), and he can run for 200 yards against about anyone in the state. As a matter of fact, he ran for 257 yards and three scores in the Kansas 5A state championship game. Smith nearly topped 2000 yards for the season. He isn’t flashy, but he works hard.


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