Vic Enwere had 2,317 rushing yards and 34 touchdowns as a senior for Sugar Land (Texas) Stephen F. Austin. (Photo courtesy of Scout.com)
Michigan will begin hosting its biggest football recruiting weekend of the season Friday evening, and the presence of five-star commitment Jabrill Peppers will be but one of the compelling storylines. An interesting subplot will be the visit by California Berkley commit Vic Enwere. The Sugar Land (Texas) Stephen F. Austin tailback opted for the Bears last June over offers from Michigan State, Missouri, Kansas State, Virginia, Colorado and SMU. He appeared totally content with that decision until a stellar senior campaign opened up a number of new doors.
The difference between Enwere’s 2012 and 2013 performances could almost be described as a Tale of Two Cities. He went from a respectable for 1,331 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns as a junior, to 2,317 rushing yards and 34 touchdowns as a senior. The 6-1, 210-pounder attributes the tangible increase in his productivity to the improvement in his health from one year to the next.
“I want to say maybe the first game of the season I was healthy, and then part of the second game,” Enwere said, reflecting upon his junior campaign. “I had a hamstring and then I hurt my AC joint in my left shoulder. So all year I didn't really have much of a power running game because the longer I played the more painful it was. I played almost the whole season with it wrapped. It made a lot of things difficult (like) lifting my arm. I also had a lot of ankle sprains and whatnot. In the off season I worked to keep everything healthy, solid, and ready to go.
“I see improvement throughout (my game) this year. My stamina has improved greatly. My agility, lateral quickness has improved. Ball skills, power running, hitting it downhill -- my shoulder pad level is a lot lower. I’m quicker in and out of the hole, quicker in and out of the cuts. (I have) the ability to make guys miss, really be a threat in the pass game, and also in the kick return game. (Being healthier) has also helped me on defense. A lot of aspects of my game have changed. Just everything looks a lot smoother and just more agile than it did the previous year. You click on the tape and you can just see that it is almost two different guys. It truly is a lot different."
Michigan was definitely among the schools that took notice of that transformation. The Wolverines made their strong interest clear last month by extending a scholarship offer. That proved to be the impetus for this weekend’s trip to Ann Arbor. To set the stage for what Brady Hoke and Co. hope will be a tide-turning experience, Michigan running backs coach Fred Jackson made his way to the Lone star State Wednesday for a little one-on-one time with his would-be protégé.
“It was a great visit,” said Enwere. “He told me a lot about Ann Arbor and Michigan. He is a really good coach and he understands what it takes to be a good player and to get to where you want to be. He's a good guy that emphasizes education as much as the accolades on the field. It was a really good visit. I had a good time.”
That connection, while impactful, is only one of the ingredients Enwere is looking for in his assessment of fit.
“Do they have the facilities or the opportunities that I see at Cal?” he said, explaining his criteria. “As far as academics, that did play a big part in (the commitment to Cal). I think one of the biggest factors will be education. How do I fit into that program? The climate and things like that do not have too much to play.”
Another factor that may play into his thought process is the running back depth chart, but that doesn’t mean he fears competition.
“(Analyzing depth) is something you always have to do,” stated Enwere. “The majority of times (coaches) are honest with me and let me know where they need me to fit in because they may have a lot of backs on the roster. But a lot of those guys are special teams guys and they’re lacking a running back like myself -- a big running back, a downhill back that can also make people miss and hit the home runs. No matter the number of running backs they have, they’re missing that category and they know I can be that guy, an every-down back guy. So (The number of backs) doesn’t necessarily matter.”
Even if he likes what he sees in Ann Arbor, the three-star runner insists he will follow through with his plan to take his only other scheduled official visit to Cal on Jan. 24. He may be exploring other options, but he insists that an allegiance to the Bears is still present.
“I’m still committed to Cal,” he said. “They are not doing as well as they want to be doing, but I understand that it is a unique situation. At our school we (had a new coach) when I came here as a freshman. So (Cal struggling under a first-year coach) is understandable. Of course you want to see them win, but the one thing about football is, as a player there is something you can do to help that team win. So it’s not necessary for me to go to a winning program. There are going to be struggles along the way to get where you want to go. It is very understandable. That's part of the game and I'm sure they will come back next year and be solid. The guys are gaining experience.
“You’ve got to understand that with football there’s always going to be a winner and a loser,” he explained further. “You have good seasons (and) you have bad seasons, good games (and) bad games. You can’t necessarily look at (losses) in particular. If you can be a piece to help get those wins, then why not? Sometimes you have to build your legacy yourself.”
Michigan’s mission this weekend is to convince him he can accomplish that goal in Ann Arbor.
Sam Webb is managing editor of GoBlueWolverine.com and co-host of the "Michigan Insider" morning show weekdays on Sports Talk 1050 WTKA. His Michigan recruiting column appears every week at detroitnews.com. For more on U-M recruiting, visit michigan.scout.com.