Wednesday, November 4, 2009

the recruit: Khalek Shepherd

Was going to profile Kevin Sumlin as a coaching candidate this week, but Sumlin is a guy who might come to UVA, and as of yesterday, Khalek Shepherd is a guy who will. So, priorities.

Name: Khalek Shepherd
Position: RB
Hometown: Brandywine, MD
School: Gwynn Park
Height: 5'8"
Weight: 170

ESPN: 76, #95 RB
Rivals: three stars, 5.5
Scout: three stars, #99 RB

Oops. You might recall, a few updates ago, I dropped Shepherd from the recruiting board. Smart move, obviously. In my defense, Shepherd's has been a weird recruitment, in that hardly any of it happened publicly and his so-called stock has been on a decidedly downward trend all year. He was an original member of the Rivals 250 and had four stars and all that, and shortly thereafter got passed up, dropped out, lost his fourth star, and settled in the middle ranges not only on Rivals but everywhere else. While all this was going on, nothing was being heard. No interviews, no "hey how's the recruiting going" stories on any of the websites.

This, I attribute to his father, a former NFLer himself. A guy who's had to deal with all this stuff might not want his son getting hounded by recruitnik types, and even now with the commitment, not a word has been heard out of Khalek's own mouth. His dad is doing all the talking.

The disconcerting thing is not his drop down the rankings. The services have all settled on a pretty much consistent rating for him. About as consistent as you'll ever see. It's not a great one, but no big deal. There's surely a penalty involved there for being 5'8", for one, which means strictly talent-wise he might be more of a, say, 78 on ESPN's scale. But Shepherd is said to have two other offers, Maryland and Boston College, which are fine schools to beat out for a recruit but those offers came ages ago. Where were all the other offers? It's weird. Again, though, this might have something to do with Dad (and coach - same guy) holding info about Shepherd under lock and key.

Not that it matters. What matters is what happens once Shepherd steps on a football field. We're clearly in need of some running back depth, though between he, Perry Jones, and K.P. Parks, we might find ourselves in need of running back height, too. Depth is exactly what Shepherd should provide. He's not going to be the type to carry 25 times a game, but he does shape up to be the kind of back that makes one excellent half of an effective tandem. If he turns out to be a decent pass-catcher then he could also move around between the backfield and the slot, depending on just how much spread offense is in our future. For a ceiling, think Mikell Simpson, only hopefully a bit harder to bring down.

I had thought we were done picking up running backs, but next year we lose both Simpson and Rashawn Jackson, so it makes sense to add another one here. Torrey Mack ought to be in line to inherit the job, but the reason he hasn't seen the field as much as we thought he might is that his pass-blocking is atrocious. That's not a Groh idiosyncrasy. Most coaches won't play a back if his pass-blocking isn't up to snuff, because that gets quarterbacks killed and it also means his presence in the backfield is a tell for a running play. Mack has got to improve that part of his game. I don't really see Max Milien as a starter type; Raynard Horne has probably demonstrated his ceiling; Dominique Wallace will be coming off of an injury; the sum and gist of it all is that both Shepherd and K.P. Parks should be expected to get a shot to jump right into the mix and redshirt only if they fall behind rather than as the default option.

Side note: lol at scout-speak at ESPN. One of the lines in the scouting report on Shepherd says: "He may lack great size on paper." But, uh, once you see him, he's actually pretty huge? Lacking great size on paper = lacking great size in real life, obviously, and especially since official listings are frequently padded just a smidge.

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