December 8, 2009

Vinopal quieted critics with state finals' perform

Ray Vinopal is constantly underestimated. At 5-10, 178 pounds and boasting a mere two-star ranking, the Youngstown Cardinal Mooney star has endured plenty of critics who cannot believe he's committed to play at Michigan. But, he made a statement at last week's state championship contest …

Mooney improved to a school-record 15-0 with a 35-7 victory in the Ohio Division 3 state title game Dec. 4, and like he had all season, Vinopal was right in the middle of the Cardinals' win. The recent U-M commitment had seven carries for 70 yards, including a 56-yard first-quarter touchdown that opened the scoring for Mooney. Defensively, he recorded six tackles.

"I thought he played extremely well on both sides of the ball," OhioVarsity.com writer Mike Parris said. "He was the second-best player on the field, behind his teammate, Braylon Heard [a four-star running back committed to West Virginia].

"The thing that really impressed me was after he shook a few tackles on his touchdown run, he got into the open field and just turned on the jets, separating himself from DeSales' defensive backs. I think there were a lot of critics saying he wasn't fast enough to be a Michigan recruit, but he quieted any such talk right there."

A two-year starter for Mooney, Vinopal started 29 games in two seasons, picking up the experience usually reserved for a three- or four-year starter thanks to the Cardinals' extensive runs through the state playoffs.

"The thing about Mooney players is they play a great schedule with top competition and they get so much experience that a kid like Ray Vinopal will not be overwhelmed by his surroundings when he gets to Michigan," Parris said. "And he's been around great players before - [four-stars] Brandon Beachum, Taylor Hill, Dan McCarthy and Mike Zordich - so he knows what it's like to compete against talent every day in practice and then again on game day."

U-M projects Vinopal at safety, and that's a role he could succeed in some day, though it may take a year or two.

"He's one of those guys you will appreciate on a roster because he can contribute in a number of ways," Parris said. "I could see him playing on every special teams' unit early in his career. He's a guy that probably needs to redshirt, though, from a defensive perspective so he can get bigger and stronger, and acclimate to the college level.

"Ray's a kid that when you look at him, he's always going to be underestimated because he's not as athletic as most of the Division I safeties probably are. But Cardinal Mooney guys are pretty darn successful. If you look at a guy like Kyle McCarthy at Notre Dame, he's probably not as big, as fast or as athletic as any other defensive back there [at ND] but he led them in tackles each of the past two seasons.

"Ray Vinopal could be similarly productive, and he has more speed than McCarthy."

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