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Posted on Sun, Jan 31, 2010 : 11:11 a.m.

Michigan safety recruit Ray Vinopal 'will earn everybody's respect'

By Dave Birkett


Michigan football recruit Ray Vinopal scores in a state semifinal football game in November while playing for Cardinal Mooney High School in Youngstown, Ohio. (Photo courtesy of Robert K. Yosay | The Vindicator)

Ray Vinopal grew up an Ohio State fan.

He had Buckeye hats and hoodies and a sweet Nike pullover that said "Ohio State Footbal." A few weeks ago - sometime after he committed to the Michigan football team - he sold it all, his whole OSU wardrobe, to a friend and former teammate at Youngstown (Ohio) Cardinal Mooney.

“I made some money,” Vinopal said. “I had some good stuff, so he took it off my hands.”

His closet now re-stocked with Michigan gear, Vinopal is ready to begin the next phase of his football career decked out in new favorite colors.

The 5-foot-11, 175-pound safety plans to sign with Michigan on Wednesday, the first day recruits can ink binding letters of intent, regardless of what late prospects the Wolverines add.

Michigan has three safeties already committed for its 2010 class in Vinopal, Marvin Robinson and Carvin Johnson, and the Wolverines are still recruiting three others - Sean Parker, Rashad Knight and Demar Dorsey.

Vinopal is the biggest sleeper of that group and the lowest-ranked member of Michigan’s 26-person class according to

He committed to the Wolverines in early December after leading Cardinal Mooney to a state championship. At the time, Vinopal’s only other scholarship offers were from Air Force, Bowling Green and Kent State, though Wisconsin and Vanderbilt pursued him more recently.

Cardinal Mooney coach P.J. Fecko cautioned not to read too much into Vinopal’s mediocre recruiting ranking.

“He’s somebody that will earn everybody’s respect up in Ann Arbor on the football field and off the football field,” Fecko said. “If they aren’t believers right now, I guarantee you they will be very, very shortly.”

Vinopal said he doesn’t put much stock in Internet evaluations of his play, either.

“I use it as motivation,” he said. “I know what I can do, the coaches obviously know what I can do, that’s why they offered me. I mean, it’s Michigan and the Big Ten, they’re not throwing out offers because they want to be nice. There’s a reason behind it.”

A two-way starter at running back and safety, Vinopal scored 10 touchdowns on offense as Nebraska commitment Braylon Heard’s sidekick, and intercepted four passes on defense. He’ll play the deep or strong safety position at Michigan.

“He is extremely physical, extremely explosive,” Fecko said. “He did some things where there were some balls, fades thrown up along the sideline, and it looked like they were going to be a completion and he was coming across just smacking people, dislodging footballs. A great run-stopper that was a sure tackler, and when he had his chance to lay a lick on you he definitely did.”

Vinopal said Michigan ramped up its pursuit of him midway through last season after seeing his highlight tape. When coaches called to gauge his interest, he promised to get them another tape of the second half of the year that was just as good.

“I got it to them and they said it reaffirmed what they saw in the first (tape) and just hit the trigger” on an offer, Vinopal said.

Almost as quickly, Vinopal pulled he trigger on a commitment.

Now, he’s working on his flipping his friend who bought all that Ohio State gear, Tom Hubert, into a Michigan fan.

“He’s die-hard O-State,” Vinopal said. “He said he’ll root for me to do good, but no can do on the win. He goes, but I’ll root for you to do good and if you hook me up with free gear I’ll wear it.”

Dave Birkett covers University of Michigan football for He can be reached by phone at 734-623-2552 or by e-mail at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.


Blue Marker

Mon, Feb 1, 2010 : 12:01 p.m.

All the fans bickering aside I like the fire in this kids belly. I like a kid with a chip on his shoulder, something to prove. Football is played between the ears first and I think this young man will do fine. Good luck to you Ray and Go Blue!


Mon, Feb 1, 2010 : 4:22 a.m.

OSUbeBetter...interesting you keep knocking the class Michigan has because by your standards (the teams you listed as credible teams to be competing with to recruit said player)... Michigan has 10 players that were recruited by those schools. Ohio State has 4. Do some research next time.


Mon, Feb 1, 2010 : 1:50 a.m.

Ok then take the Questioner out of the Question. What is it about an entire recruiting class, Save four who have no looks from schools such as Florida, LSU, Texas, Penn, Ohio, UCS, CAL, or Oregon that makes you so giddy? I mean Pat White was only a 3 star, But he was heavily recruited by LSU. Doesnt recruitment by top notch schools mean more than some star system? I think it does.

The Grinch

Sun, Jan 31, 2010 : 9:31 p.m.

Just because he's an OSU fan doesn't mean he's wrong. It's a valid question.


Sun, Jan 31, 2010 : 7:22 p.m.

yeah i agree why dont u get a life and blog on ur team's articles. U jus mad that ur team couldnt land hicks, joyner, and many other top-prospects. Atleast UM and RR are getting solid players who are in areas of need and play alot better than wat they r rated. Hopefully we could land knight, parker, dorsey, or even Jones at LB. ID be happy if we land one of emil still be happy. Future looks bright for Blue Nation. GO BLUE!!!!!


Sun, Jan 31, 2010 : 7:06 p.m.

Buckeye fan is scared.. otherwise there would be no need to comment. worry about your own recruits which are just SO much better right? lol. Michigan fans are happy with the way our class is going- keep hatin', can't bring us down.


Sun, Jan 31, 2010 : 5 p.m.

Wow, The Third best kid on his HS football team. Rodriguez seems to be bucking the trend of every winning coach in the D1A nation. he gives offers to kids that no other coach will. he's either a genius or he's going to spend the rest of his career lurking at the bottom of the big ten. Rodriguez is stealing all the mediocre recruits away from Tulane, Wake, Duke, Illinois, BG, Toledo, and the like. I mean honestly there are about four solid recruits coming into this years class. Every other kid is a steal away from a D1AA or ans east coast "Basketball" School.

Macabre Sunset

Sun, Jan 31, 2010 : 3:19 p.m.

An aside: anyone at a2com working on the strong rumors that Pitt had meetings with its athletes this week explaining that on Thursday, they will announce a move to the Big Ten?


Sun, Jan 31, 2010 : 12:14 p.m.

someone that can play both sides of the ball. Godd pick GO BLUE!!!!!!