Junior linebacker Royce Jenkins-Stone's fast, hard-hitting presence in the middle for Cass Tech was a key element in what frequently was a stifling defense. (Allen Trieu/Scout.com)
Pop in any game film from Detroit Cass Tech's memorable 12-1 football season and No. 10 in green will consistently jump off the screen defensively.
The youngster donning that uniform was 6-foot-2, 215-pound junior linebacker Royce Jenkins-Stone. His fast, hard-hitting presence in the middle was a key element in what frequently was a stifling defense.
"Coming into the year I saw him as a talented but raw kid," said Allen Trieu, Scout.com's Midwest regional recruiting manager. "He really put it all together and had an outstanding junior year. He made a ton plays and seemed to really pick it up on the mental side as far as reading plays and being where he was supposed to be.
"He has good speed, a nice frame, and is comfortable dropping into coverage as well as coming forward. Most of all, I think he really likes contact, he's a strong kid, and a sure tackler. I'd like to see him keep filling out a little more. I think you'd like to see him at 225-235 pounds before he gets to college. He can play in the middle or outside. He's versatile enough to do both."
Jenkins-Stone further demonstrated his versatility by complementing his 90 tackles, five sacks, and three interceptions on defense with 10 rushing touchdowns as Cass Tech's short-yardage back on offense. His improved contributions in 2010 were born mostly of his desire to help his team's ascendency, but he also was motivated by a perceived slight prior to the season.
"I didn't get any (scholarship) offers and I was very upset at that," Jenkins-Stone admitted. "I just wanted to show off my skills a little bit more, because I saw what I did last season and it wasn't enough. I just had to do what I do best, and that is play football."
Now the talented youngster is beginning to garner the same kind of recognition that highly rated friends James Ross (Orchard Lake St. Mary's) and Terry Richardson (Cass Tech) have been receiving for months.
"In the state I think Royce is probably one of the top five juniors," Trieu said. "He's right up there. Nationally he's a three-star right now, but when the rankings get expanded, he has a definite shot for four stars. I think he's as talented as many of the linebackers we've already evaluated in the Midwest. James Ross is a little more of a true middle backer. He's stockier, where Royce is a little longer and leaner. I think Royce is a little faster, but James is a little stronger. Their styles complement each other very well. It'd be great for someone to land both because they're both great players, but they would work together well."
At one time the two, along with Richardson, were actively seeking the opportunity to play together in college. While that would still be a welcome scenario, it no longer appears to be a priority. Much more important to each of them is finding the best situation individually. For Jenkins-Stone that means amplifying his recruitment buzz so he can expand his list of options. At the moment he cites Miami, Iowa, and Michigan as the programs courting him heaviest, but he expects others to join the club after he flashes his combination of size and 4.6-second 40-yard dash speed at camps and combines in the coming months.
"Over the next few months I'll just be working out, still trying to get better," he said. "I'm weightlifting, trying to get bigger so I can get ready for the combines and get my weight up a little bit more. I plan on going to a lot of combines. I know (in early January) I'm going to the Under Armour All-American camp (in Orlando, Fla.)"A number of campus visits also will take place in the coming months. To date, the class of 2012 standout has visited only Michigan and Michigan State. Ann Arbor has been the more frequent destination, however, thanks in large part to his childhood affinity for the Maize & Blue.
"A couple of my folks went (to Michigan)," Jenkins-Stone reported. "My cousin goes there right now. I grew up around (former Michigan and current Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker) Larry Foote. He told me all about Michigan and how good it was."
Though he covets an offer from the Wolverines, Jenkins-Stone warns against expecting him to make a quick decision on a scholarship.
"I would wait (to commit)," he said. "I would probably sign with them later on when I get the papers on signing day after my senior year of football. That is my No. 1 school. I just want to see what else is out there before I commit. I don't want them to be out there lingering if I did already commit to them and I'm talking to other schools. I also want to talk to South Carolina, Florida, and Miami. I want to go visit Iowa and I want to talk to Penn State. They've been sending me letters as well."
Despite Michigan's obvious strong standing in his recruitment, the aforementioned decision timetable creates a definite opportunity for other programs to loosen the Wolverines' grip. At least one member of Jenkins-Stone's family would love for a Southeastern Conference school to do just that.
"My dad is an Auburn fan," the Cass Tech star said. "He does not like Michigan. He wants me to go down there and talk to Auburn. My mom wants me to go to Michigan. My dad and my mom are the only people I am going to lean on (for recruiting advice)."
Jenkins-Stone already has begun mulling over the criteria that will weigh into his final choice, but again insists that he will take his time with the process.
"Distance from home will never be a factor," he said. "(Early playing time) might be a factor, but I kind of want to redshirt my first year to get used to the college life. As soon as I get used to it, I'll be straight. We'll also look at all the backgrounds of the schools for me with the (major) that I'm looking at.
"(The decision) will just come in due time."
Sam Webb is managing editor of GoBlueWolverine.com and co-host of the “Michigan Insider” morning show weekdays on Sports Talk 1050 WTKA.