Sunday, March 18, 2012

DeVeon Smith, Wolverine

Warren (OH) Howland running back DeVeon Smith committed to Michigan on Saturday
Warren (OH) Howland running back DeVeon Smith committed to Michigan on Saturday.  He chose the Wolverines over offers from Indiana, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, and West Virginia, among others.

Smith is a 5'11", 205 lb. power back.  He estimated that he carried the ball 160 times for 2,200 yards as a junior in 2011.  Actual statistics of any kind have eluded me so far.

RATINGS:
ESPN: Unranked RB
Rivals: 3-star RB, #32 RB (updated on 3/19/2012)
Scout: 4-star RB, #7 RB
247 Sports: 3-star RB, 89 grade, #31 RB

Michigan was Smith's favorite team growing up, despite the fact that his older brother, Lance, played running back for Wisconsin and Memphis. His first offer came from the Wolverines back in December, and it seemed in the following weeks that Smith would become a Wolverine sooner or later.  He held off on making a decision until he visited Michigan this weekend, which is a bit surprising because his high school coaches like their kids to wait a couple days after a visit before deciding.

There isn't a ton of film on Smith out there, but there's enough to get a glimpse of what he offers.  He's a powerful back who's built low to the ground.  He either works hard in the weight room or has the genes of a bowling ball, because that's how he runs.  Both his upper and lower body are pretty thick, giving him excellent balance.  He has a good stiff-arm and knows how to get downhill.  His coach mentions in the article linked above that he also rarely fumbles.  One of his best qualities seems to be that he knows what he is - a straight-ahead runner without the speed or elusiveness to be a dancer.

What Smith lacks is speed.  He's not a breakaway type of runner, unless a linebacker or a couple defensive backs have been left behind as roadkill.  He struggles to outrun high schoolers, and Howland doesn't exactly play the powerhouse schools in Ohio.

Some people want to compare Smith to Mike Hart, and I see that a little bit with his ability to bounce off of tackles.  However, Smith doesn't possess the same elusiveness and might even be a tad bit slower.  The guy Smith looks like to me is Leroy Hoard, the former Michigan running back who went on to a career with the Browns, Ravens, Panthers, and Vikings.  Hoard was the same height and approximately 225 lbs., which Smith could easily reach in a couple years.  Hoard was never a superstar, but he was a very solid player who excelled in part because his offensive line (at Michigan) was very good and got him to the second level against physically overmatched players.  Considering the offensive line Michigan is putting together in the 2012 and 2013 classes, Smith might be able to take advantage of that same circumstance.

DeVeon Smith is Michigan's sixteenth commitment in the class of 2012, a class that currently looks to reach nineteen (although further attrition is almost assured).  He's also the second running back, to go along with Novi (MI) Catholic Central's Wyatt Shallman.  There is some question about whether the Wolverines will still pursue Joliet (IL) Catholic's Ty Isaac, who also likes Michigan and visited last weekend.  I think Michigan will continue to pursue Isaac, who possesses the big-play ability that Shallman and Smith lack.

TTB Rating: 63 (rating system)

121 comments:

  1. I can understand the difficulty in gauging how good he really is due to the limited film available, but the film I have seen suggests that his competition is sub-par. It seems like every kid in the secondary that he faced was basically ME in high school: 5'10", 138 lbs.

    Because of this, I wouldn't be surprised if he rated out as a 3* across the board when it is all said and done.

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    1. Agreed. I definitely don't think he's the #7 back in the country, like Scout thinks.

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  2. So it sounds like you think he belongs in the MAC.

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  3. Wow, kind of surprised with the low ranking on Smith. You have him ranked lower than Norfleet, Houma and Drake Johnson despite Smith having the best offer list. I assume that you like Isaac a little better?

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    1. Houma is a fullback, so there's no real comparison. Yes, I do like Isaac a little better, and I think Johnson has a little more potential.

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  4. This might sound like a silly suggestion but what do you think of adding a section about how much you like/dislike the commitment at this point in the recruiting process? I think it would be nice to know if you wanted us to wait for a better talent, or are happy and think we may have picked up a sleeper... etc.

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  5. Looks pretty good at not going down easily which I feel Michigan has lacked since Hart (aside from non-injured Minor).

    As much as I'd like the coaches to get Smith, I wonder where the scholarships are going to come from. Currently at 16, and the coaches clearly want 1 more TE, 1 more CB, at least 1 and maybe 2 LBs, and then probably 2 WRs and 2 DTs. Those numbers alone put the class at 23-24 depending on the LBs. I thought many considered the class would only be about 22, so they'd need to lose a few more players in order to get to the 24-25 they'd need if they were to take a third RB.

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    1. There's always going to be attrition. There might even be some more before the 2012 season begins.

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  6. Wow given the hypes he was getting prior to the commitment, your rating seems a bit low and will suprise a lot of people.

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    1. My rating suggests that he's an average Big Ten starter. If that offends people, I'm not worried.

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  7. Here is some more film: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vd7kCeT60IM if you haven't seen it.

    Definitely not as explosive as Isaac but runs right through tackles. He doesn't outrun defensive players, but on the same token he is almost never tackled on first or second contact. Also looks like he can handle pass blocking well.

    You underrate his stiff arm severely, several times in that film he flattens defenders with it and if he adds strength over the next few years it could turn into a real weapon.

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    1. I don't see how I'm "underrating" his stiff-arm. I said he has a good stiff-arm. Forgive me if I don't use the word "tremendous" at every opportunity, like some in the Michigan blogosphere.

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  8. Are you concerned with the fact that the skill-position recruiting has focused on (relatively) slow players?

    Generally, it seems to me that this staff has focused on skill players with a very specific, but also limited, skill set (e.g. Drake Johnson is fast but in a straight-line way, lacking elusiveness. Dukes is slow but very tall. Hill is a shorter H-back type. Smith is a tough-guy). I don't have any problem with any specific recruit, but I question how many you need that project as straight-ahead pounders or jump-ball leapers. That's good and all, but it's probably more important to find every-down type playmakers.

    I can't decide how I feel about this kind of approach. Wisconsin/Stanford illustrate that you don't need 5-star super-athletic recruits to have a dominant offense. Nor is the book closed on these recruits - for all I know Dukes will be an every-down threat on timing routes and Drake Johnson is another Anthony Thomas type back that produces great results despite a lack of open-field play-making and Michigan still lands Treadwell, Issac, Quick type talents.

    I do like that Michigan seems committed to differentiating itself from the SEC-speed-based strategy. I just don't want to go back to the days of getting dominated by FSU, Tenn, Oregon, or USC - teams whose athleticism/speed easily overcame Michigan's 'execution'-based approach. [Yes, I realize this is all very presumptive and that things are going very well in general. Consider this nitpicking for the sake of discussion.]

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    1. Yes, I am a bit concerned with that approach. Michigan seems to be recruiting fast, athletic guys on defense...and slow, powerful guys on offense. I think you need some of that, but I'm not seeing where the big plays are going to come from. Hopefully the coaches can close out the class with a few playmakers.

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    2. In addition to Johnson who you mentioned I'd like to know how Norfleet, Darbor, and Chessu are exactly "slow". Toss in a decent portion of the hideouts we are still in on (im assuming we get at least one) and we should be okay.

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    3. Norfleet is fast but still fits the my comment about the staff seeking specialized skillsets i.e. what he has doesn't translate to an every-down player. The staff view him as a specialty player who will return kicks and MAYBE play a role as a 3rd down back like Smith...if he can pass block and catch. In contrast to his usual fawning, Fred Jackson was extremely reserved in his comments about Norfleet. [I personally love what Norfleet brings to the table potentially. Kid seems like a winner and I think his speed is going to be extremely valuable to this team down the road. I think the coaches are going to surprise themselves with how much they end up using him.]

      As for Chesson and Darboh, I think they both possessed fairly average to below-average speed for WR. They were recruited for their size as much as anything. For guys that are 6'2, they had pretty middling recruiting rankings and offer sheets. That tells me they're not very fast regardless of what high school coaches and analysts say and what they're reporting as 40 times. That doesn't mean that they're bad players, just that they probably aren't burners.

      I agree that we will be "okay", just as we were "okay" with Marquise Walker and Jason Avant and Junior Hemingway. That's not my point.

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    4. Lank,

      I couldn't disagree more regarding D a r b o h (sorry autocorrect). He had offers from Florida, Notre Dame, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. That isn't bad considering he is coming out of lightly scouted Iowa (hardly a n area crawling with college scouts). He's mostly a relatively high rated (though admittedly not elite rated) recruit. Chesson. Is a better argument but he did receive an offer from offensive powerhouse and national champ contender Oklahoma State which is hardly nothing.

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    5. I stand corrected about his offer list - that is pretty good. I don't buy that Iowa would be overlooked by scouts, but it is possible for a guy with less exposure to get undervalued somewhat. Still, his recruiting profile tended much closer to 'possession-receiver' than 'deep speed threat'.

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  9. For real Magnus? I usually love how you are willing to give your honest opinion about a recruit, because everyone else is quick to think anyone we get will be a star and that is not true. But to give this kid only 63 in your rating system is RIDICULOUS man! I kinda see it hard to believe you can't give this kid at least a 70 making him have the potential to be some where around a Brandon minor who wasn't really all that great. And to think Mike Hart was maybe a little faster??? idk about that mike was definitely pretty slow being able to outrun almost no one besides defensive tackles and ends, but still one of the greatest mich backs ever. I think Smith is about a 72-74 in your rating system, and no where as near as slow as you think or maybe that's because I'm a life long Michigan fan that has been to all his games since his sophomore season.

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    1. Minor was just almost as powerful of a runner (or more so) but significantly faster.

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  10. Regarding Smith specifically -- despite mixed reviews from recruitniks, the fact that he was being pursued by OSU and PSU is very encouraging. A back that can fit in both a Meyer-spread and whatever Michigan is trying to get to offensively is probably a good get.

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  11. Brandon Minor comparison?

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    1. I was talking about his TTB rating if you go check a rating of a 70-79 would compare him to a brandon minor type..which I feel that Smith can live up to and definitely surpass it, and thunder is giving him a 63 which I think is a little low..I mean brandon minor was always injured and never really did anything

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    2. I take the TTB rating as a "potential based on high school ability" rating, not a "how did you ultimately do in college" rating. How Minor did in college should have no bearing on how he might have been rated based on his film as a HS player.

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  12. IIRC a rating of 63 means, ultimately, NFL free agent at best. And yet, you compare Smith favorably to Leroy Hoard. How do you think they differ in terms of pro potential (winding back the clock for Leroy, of course)?

    To Lankownia's comment, I agree that the _*apparent*_ recruiting focus (swinging for the fences with linemen and grabbing role players for skill positions) is interesting.

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    1. The NFL was different back then. It wasn't based so much on speed. The guys in the NFL now can either outrun you OR overpower you and then outrun you (I know there are a couple exceptions - no need to counterpoint). When Hoard was drafted in 1990, the NFL was very much a power, run-oriented place. The game has changed.

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    2. Being that guy: 1990 was the high point of the classic run and shootso it wasn't a pure run league like it had been in the 80s. Was it as pass dependent as it is now? Nope but it had also moved on from 3 yards and..

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    3. Hoard wasn't that good. He got drafted and was given a fair shake but never stood out. This applies to a lot of Michigan backs, especially big ones. Some of it isn't really about their ability but the fact that they were well-coached in a pro-style offense of great reputation (i.e. they were low-risk picks who could catch on quickly). I think you saw a lot of Michigan backs go pro and be disappointing because coaches tended to draft them higher than talent would dictate, because of the low-risk factor. They also looked better at Michigan than they were because of dominating OL talent. Wheatly was the one guy (well, maybe Biakabatuka too) that really seemed to have special talent and physical ability that warranted a high NFL draft position, and even he had a so-so career.

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    4. Not that good? I'd agree that he wasn't a star, and TTB's comment about NFL speed back then seems reasonable, but look at Leroy's career stats:

      http://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/H/HoarLe00.htm

      Again, not a star, but he had a pretty long career. Longer than most UMich backs, for sure.

      As far as offensive line talent is concerned, we may have to give Mike Hart an even higher grade. Aside from Jake Long, he ran behind one of the worst O lines in the modern era, at least as far as NFL talent is concerned.

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    5. @ Anonymous 9:43 a.m.

      There were a few teams who ran the run-n-shoot, but it wasn't a prevalent offense. That's why it was so "unique" at the time. When Hoard was drafted in 1990, the run-n-shoot was run by maybe a couple teams. The Houston Oilers, the Buffalo Bills, maybe the Atlanta Falcons, maybe the Detroit Lions. I can't remember the exact years when each team ran certain offensive systems, but I think 1990 was perhaps before the Lions and Falcons switched to it. So you've got a handful of teams, maybe, that ran the run-n-shoot...while 20+ other teams didn't. It was still a very run-oriented league.

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    6. @ Anonymous 5:51 a.m.

      Michigan had a couple decent offensive linemen. He also had David Baas, Justin Boren, etc. I agree they weren't as great as the '90s, but he had more than Jake Long.

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  13. Just to let you know Ty Isaac doesn't play against good competition either. A bit too critical on the kid. I am happy to have him, and I am trusting that Hoke knows what he's doing.

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    1. I know he doesn't. That's exactly what I said in last week's scouting report on Isaac.

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  14. Let me get this straight. This is the guy you wanted soooooo bad, even more than Isaac and you give him a 63 ???? WTF is up with you anyway. I love your content but I think I am done with TTB when it comes to recruiting.

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  15. Let me get this straight. This is the RB that you wanted sooooooo bad, even more than Isaac and you give him a 63??? WTF is up with you anyway? I enjoy the content and all on TTB, but I think I am dome with this site when it comes to recruiting and recruiting rankings.

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    1. I don't want him more than Isaac.

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    2. I clearly remember you stating Smith was your preference to Isaac. If I go back to previous articles on TTB or postings on MGOBLOG I won't find this to be the case?

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    3. In the past I've stated that I thought of them about equally. I've studied them more recently (I put up a scouting report of Isaac last Thursday), and I prefer Isaac's abilities. My concerns with Isaac are more about his personality than his physical skills.

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    4. Hey Thunder, what are your concerns about Isaacs personality?

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    5. I'd rather not get into specifics. I'm just not 100% sold on his maturity.

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    6. He's a junior in high school.

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  16. I like the Leroy Hoard comparison. Both guys could/can make the first guy miss and then punish the next couple. Defensive backs aren't gonna like this kid.

    If the plan is to win by beating people up, controlling the football and taking your shot when they pack it in the box, this kid is a nice pickup.

    And because I firmly believe that to be the plan, as previously stated I'm missing Denard already.

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  17. Wow, this is a true MGoBlog freakout session in the comments full of people who either know nothing about football, don't read carefully, or both.

    Magnus, I think this makes you legit.

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    1. Dave,
      I've got to disagree with you. About half are in at least some agreement with the rest being mild criticism of the "you make a Letitia Hoard comparison sound bad" level of disagreement. One would have to have increbily thin skin to compare it to the Tillman discussion.

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  18. With offers from Ohio state and Michigan I think he's a little more talented than a 'MAC-level recuit' scout may have him a little bit overrated but he should be a 4* across the board and honestly he's the best rb recuit we've had commit since justice Hayes hopefully he pans out

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  19. I usually post when I have disagreements with your evaluations of players and then tell you why I disagree. Like McCray, we have different view on his run stopping ability.

    I think you're spot on with Smith though. I love the people that post how good the kid is going to be without ever watching his tape, which I'm assuming is a lot of people. I've watched his tape, and I'm not impressed. He runs a few people over, but he is not going to be able to do that in college as frequently as he does in high school, and he will have to get SIGNIFICANTLY faster if he wants to be able to be an above average starter in the Big Ten.

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    1. Anonymous, it seems like you post very regularly to me. You have like 20 comments on this post alone.

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    2. You're rivaling for the number 2 slot, behind anonymous. Why don't you consolidate all of your thoughts into one post? Then, re-read what you have wrote and decide if it's a good idea.

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    3. There are a couple of anons in this thread. Im the guy who posted about playmakers but im not the guy above. So ill use this handle going forward.

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  20. I think Magnus is pulling a Pat Caputto. Starting to be way too negative so that he gets more hits and by the amount of comments here, seems to be working.

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    1. "Starting to be way too negative"? I haven't changed my attitudes at all. You must be new here.

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    2. Yeah, Thunder has always been 'way too negative".

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  21. In a few years, you are going to look really smart or really stupid on this review. No offense, but for the sake of Michigan, I hope it's the latter.

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    1. I hope he turns out to be a good player, too. I just think he's too slow to be a great player.

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  22. Lankownia and Thunder, I think you guys are getting a little too hung-up on Michigan getting perfect skill position players. Every guy is going to have flaws in his game. USC built one of the best passing attacks of the last decade without any burners as wide receivers. I like some speed, too, but I look at Florida and their mishmash of highly-rated fast running backs and feel that I'd rather have a bruiser as a running back than a burner.

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    1. There are some guys out there who are both fast and tough. I'm not saying I want a speedster who goes down on first contact. But between Shallman and Smith, the longest runs we'll probably see out of either is 25-30 yards. Norfleet has big play potential with his speed, but he may not be an every down guy. Johnson has some wheels once he gets going, but he's not particularly elusive.

      All I'm saying with this evaluation is that he's not going to be a superstar. That's it. I'm not saying he can't be an effective college runner. But there's not a great deal of superstar potential in a guy who get chased down consistently by Joe Schmoes.

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    2. Yeah I get what you're saying and I'm glad that you posted your opinion. Just posting my own opinion that I don't feel that his speed is a game-breaker in terms of whether he can be a superstar. :)

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    3. USC recruits 5-star WR almost exclusively. Some aren't 'burners' but most are very very fast. Rojo was just one example. Their recruits are plenty fast. They also recruit a top 5 QB almost every year - that helps too.

      I don't have a problem with any specific recruit, I just think you have to recruit more speed than we have been lately for the skill positions. Not necessarily at RB, but I prefer speed to size at WR for sure. RB too though - small guys step up so consistently, especially at the college level. I'd rather take a Norfleet than a Rawls, in general. I don't get the obsession with size - this isn't basketball. And it's not a system thing - as everyone knows, Morris and Hart have been great in Michigan's systems (both pre and post zone-blocking), and the predominantly pro-style NFL seems to have a new short back emerge nearly every season.

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  23. This is probably my least favorite threat ever on this site. It was Thunder's comparison between Smith and Isaac about a month ago that sold me on Smith over Isaac. People getting too worked up over the fact Smith isn't blazing fast? Hello!!! Remember Mike Shaw, who never really made a contribution? Remember Carlos Brown, who at times was tackled by air? Some say Smith's competition is mediocre. Well, so is Isaac's. Moreover, I've watched two highlight clips of Smith, and I saw that kid sometimes break 4 or 5 tackles on a single run. Maybe he isn't a "pure HR-threat": personally, I don't care. The kid runs like an angry bull.

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  24. So you think this guy -- whom the coaches would take a year before signing day, who could also be the only tailback in this class, who the most recent scout ratings have him as the 58th best player in the country, is a "63". I would hate to see hiw you rank Smith if he walks into the endzone a few times this fall.

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    1. LOL. I don't really care how Scout ranks him. I could counter by saying that Rivals hasn't ranked him at all, and 247 Sports thinks he's the 31st-best running back in the country. None of their ratings matter to me. "He's good because Scout says he's good" is not a convincing argument.

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  25. So you have this guy rated lower than Thomas Rawls & Drake Johnson, PLUS 2 guys who don't even fit the system & will never play in Norfleet & Justice Hayes??? C'MON MAN.....How can someone watch Drake Johnson & DeVeon Smith and think Drake is the better player? HOW??? And how is rated below Wyatt Shallman at RB?

    And Leroy Hoard wasn't a superstar? Hoard averaged 5.4 YPC for his career, had TWO 150+ yard games vs. Ohio State ('88 & '89), and was a NFL draft pick! I think you need to re-evaluate your rating system.

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    1. Norfleet is a different type of player. He has a lot of upside as a returner. Smith is purely a running back - I don't think we'll ever see him returning kicks/punts. The same goes for Shallman - he's a different type of player.

      No, I wouldn't call Leroy Hoard a superstar. It's a subjective term. Your definition may be different than mine, but I would think a "superstar" player would be All-Big Ten or All-American. He was neither.

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    2. Just to point out that Hoard usually shared the RB spot with Tony Boles. Who arguably was a college superstar (he also shared it with Allen Jefferson though its my memory that Jefferson was never a threat to someone eldest playing time) so Hoard was in a bit of a unique situation. And I apologize if im applying way too much in this thread.

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    3. Yes, he did share time with those guys. I don't know that I would call Boles a college superstar, either, but the bottom line is that labeling Leroy Hoard a superstar is a huge stretch. He was a good starter on a good team...and that's about it.

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  26. I'm tired of Thunder. His name should be Drizzle because he always rains on the parade.

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  27. I think your rating of a 63 is way off....a mid 70 would be conservative on the low end.

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  28. I actually like actually like Smith better than Isaac as a prospect. He is a MUCH more powerful runner and he has a much more effective build for the college game. Because he lacks speed and elusiveness, I agree with Magnus's report. Unlike Magnus, though, I think Smith is a better prospect than Isaac. As I've mentioned in earlier threads, I don't think much of Isaac as a prospect.

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  29. While I appreciate your insightful review, I feel a little bit disappointed by your comment on his speed. One can run fast straight but if you have to push off people you are going to be slower. Have we really checked his speed?

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    1. He's slow. I don't know what his 40 time is and I don't care. I haven't yet seen him run fast on the football field.

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    2. I'd LMAO if the teams he's running against all have 4.3 speed corners and safetys...

      Good honest opinion and analysis... stick to your guns man!

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  30. I think you put too much emphasis on speed, IMO there are more important aspects to a RB such as vision, lateral movement, balance and the ability to NOT go down on first contact. Doesn't matter how fast a player is if they do not even attempt to make adjustments, cannot make a cut, and is too weak to stay upright. Is he a better prospect than Isaac? Not in the slightest.

    Honestly, I'm much more concerned about who else they bring in at WR. I've heard Treadwell a lot, Bradshaw too and I'd be pretty happy with both of those guys.

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    1. I agree with you, but Smith doesn't have the best lateral movement either. He's not an elusive back. That said, I still like him. He's just not very fast or elusive...FACT. It seems like most people on here have never broken down film before. Keep up the good work, Magnus. We need sites like yours that give honest realistic evals instead of the nonsense fluff you read on the pay sites.

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  31. Look at the run at the 40 second mark.....you think that is slow?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vd7kCeT60IM

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    1. For a Big Ten running back? Yes. That backside cornerback didn't really have a hard time keeping up with him. The only trouble was bringing him down, which is obviously mentioned as a strength of Smith's. That doesn't change his speed, though.

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    2. To be fair, that backside corner was... pretty fast. Very fast, IMHO.

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  32. Excited to see DeVeon in the fold. Curious though how Baltimore (MD) Gilman DT Henry Poggi visit went. From what I've read he's an absolute stud. I would think that he would benefit greatly from Greg Mattison's coaching to prepare him for the NFL.

    So any news on this front?

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  33. With that kind of running attitude at least I think(hope) Deveon will be great at picking up blitzes.

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  34. Two questions.

    1. What rating would you have given Brionte Dunn last year?

    2. What rating would you give Gerald Holmes (MSU's instate RB commit from Carman Ainsworth) this year.

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    1. I don't rate players who don't commit to Michigan.

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  35. Wow, what a response. I actually agree with your assessment for the most part. Smith looks like a decent starter or a good #2 to me. UM does not have any power backs on the roster, so there can definitely be a role for him. He is an upgrade over Shallman regardless. If Shallman makes trouble for Hoke about recruiting too many RB's, forget him. He will never be a starter at RB and needs to understand that a position switch is likely no matter where he signs. If Isaac decides to go elsewhere and UM cannot sign another stud RB to replace him, I will be disappointed.

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    1. I think U of M does have a couple power backs on the roster, or on the way in - Rawls, Shallman, Hopkins, Houma, and now Smith. I don't really see a shortage of short yardage guys.

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    2. "If Shallman makes trouble for Hoke" ? ! Really? A "kid" is recruited and told what position they want him for. He didn't choose it or negotiate it. "Forget him" ? ! Why don't you find "shallman" and let him know your "keep'n it real perspective" personally. All he did was accept and commit to an offer made by coaches at UofM.

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    3. Good point. There are some other options in Hopkins and Houma. Forget Shallman - his highlights are 6 yard carries. And I was shocked to see how small Rawls looked in the fall - noticeably smaller than Troussaint and not particularly thick. Anyway, I do think Smith will be a more dangerous runner than Hopkins or Houma but we'll see.

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    4. I don't know...Rawls is listed at 5'10", 219 lbs. That's decent sized, and I'm assuming he'll be another 5-10 pounds heavier this year.

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  36. I think that smith has an amazing ability to find his way through traffic and break tackles. He plays with alot of desire and toughness which are traits that the coaches are looking for. I'll agree that he doesn't look like a blazer but he more than excels in the other things that it takes to be a great running back. With him running behind the line we'll have when he's an upperclassman I see potential for all big ten and the nfl draft in his future.

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  37. I'm not going to get into it with you like the rest but I have but one question. What kind of credentials do you have that make me value your opinion over others? I am just wondering about your background in football.

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    1. You can read the bio and contact information at the top of the page. You don't have to value my opinion over others. Hopefully my analysis speaks for itself.

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  38. Flying Death MachineMarch 19, 2012 at 2:51 AM

    Thunder I agree with your overall assessment of Smith. But you had to know there'd be over 70 comments when you typed the digits '6' and '3', didn't you?

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    1. Not really. People generally don't make a lot of comments here because they have to wait for me to approve their comments. This is the highest number of comments ever on this site, I think.

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  39. To those who are complaining about the 63 ranking, I have just one thing to say: David Underwood.

    Anyone remember him? Pretty strong guy, good balance, and the presumed starter for the '04 season.

    There was one huge problem: As far as "quick twitch" ability is concerned, he didn't score very well.

    Power and balance don't mean much if you lack at least a little bit of explosion to _get_ to the hole.

    Jason Whitlock, in one of his few funny moments at the AA News, once described a UMich back as "2 yards and a crowd of defenders" . It was in the mid-'90s and the idea was the same: The guy just didn't have enough explosion to get to a point/position where his power and balance would make a difference.

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  40. If you look at Monte Ball or Ron Dayne, you'll see two record setting backs who were were exceptional at not getting brought down easily, but neither is known for their breakaway speed. Ball doesn't break off 60 yard runs, but he is absolutely leathal when Wisky has a short field to work with. You might be right that Smith is a low 60s player when rated independent of the offense he's playing in, but give the Wisconsin-esque line we've got, I think Smith's got the potential to put up some big numbers, 5, 10, 15, 25 yards at a time. Since I've seen you rate guys higher based on how they fit into Michigan's particular scheme, I'd have to say the 63 should be a 73.

    Also, I have to say that I'm not sure if he's developed a great stiff arm because he's slow, or if he's slow because he'd rather stiff arm a weaker DB than risk getting ankle tackled. There were a few spots in the highlight reel where I thought he could have outrun a guy but he seems to slow up so he can throw the dude to the ground instead.

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    1. Does he slow up to punish them? Or does he slow up because he knows he's going to get caught, so he might as well put himself in position to give them a good shot? I don't know what the answer is, but the latter is a possibility, too.

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    2. I don't think Ball and Dayne were exceptional. Wisconsin has a system in which backs produce. They can be big or small, fast or powerful, or just all-around OK. They've run that system for years and everyone knows what is expected. That can't be replicated overnight.

      Is Michigan trying to become Wisconsin? Maybe, it's not what Borges has done in the past, but obviously he is capable of adapting. Will they have the personnel to do it? Maybe, but conjecture about recruits is of limited usefulness.

      So, just because a guy could fit in Wisconsin's offense (almost anyone could), doesn't make them a good fit for Michigan...at least yet.

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    3. Thunder, you're absolutely right, I just thought it might explain why he looks slower in highlights than his reported 40 time would indicate. Might being the operative word.

      Lankownia, Ball was a finalist for the Heisman, and Dayne won a Heisman. They both have set or tied NCAA records in their roles as backs that won't fall anytime soon. True Wisconsin's system had something to do with that, but it's just wrong to pretend that Justin Fargas could've done what either did if he had just transfered to Wisconsin instead of USC. It's a little like saying that Pat White, D.Rob, or Shaun King were not exceptional, just the product of the Rich Rod spread. Wisconsin's running game can't be centered around guys like Justin Fargas, Dennis Northfleet or Justice Hayes. It needs a guy who's very good at not going down on first contact, and yes, Dayne and Ball are/were both really good at that. Speed is a nice bonus, but getting to the hole with power so you can break past the LB trying to fill the hole and have the durability so that the saftey who's coming down to help develops a flinch reflex before you. With a big OL, heavy use of the TE, big bodied possesion recievers, and big bruising RB/FBs, Michigan does look like we're moving toward the Wisconsin model. MANBALL, Q.E.D. Smith might lack the icing on the cake that is Isaac like speed, but in the system we're building the personel for, he's still cake, IMHO.

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    4. MoJo,

      You must not remember Michael Bennett, Dayne's 5'9 replacement, a small track guy. He rushed for nearly 1,600 yards after Dayne left and looked better in his pro career, making an all-pro game as a rookie. Fargas is a giant in comparison at 6'1 220. Given that Fargas was at least as good of an NFL back as Dayne, I don't see why he couldn't have been just as productive.

      Every Wisconsin back does well. You can't detach their individual production from the context. While this is true for all players, it's ESPECIALLY true when players in a 'system' get replaced so easily (at least from the outside.) The question is - does that ability translate outside of the system? Wisconsin's had a constant stream of backs produced there but none proved exceptional enough to have great NFL success. I realize that's a gross simplification, but there's not much evidence that these backs were exceptional talents. As far as I know, no wisconsin back has had as much success as Bennett - the smallest and fastest of them all.

      I don't think Michigan should fall into the idea that RBs must be big to succeed. For every Bo Jackson there's a Barry Sanders, for every Adrian Peterson a Ray Rice. Durability isn't a function of size, either. It's better to dodge tackles than absorb them.

      I don't know if Norfleet would work in the Wisc system, but I don't see why not. I wouldn't assume he's 'going down on first contact'. Mike Hart didn't.

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    5. Lankownia,

      NFL success is moot when talking about quality of a college player. Scores of great college players don't go on to have good NFL careers. Ron Dayne ran for over 2000 yards as a freshman. Justin Fargas broke his leg running into a Wisconsin DB his freshman year. That they had comparable NFL careers doesn't mean much. No back has come close to Dayne at Wisconsin. If 7000 yards in a college career doesn't make you exceptional, what on earth does?

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    6. Guys that fail in the NFL are often a product of their college coaches or teammates. You're equating production with ability in a team game. NFL success is a good indicator of ability because it means someone was good in multiple settings (assuming the NFL player also played in college).

      I guess you think Andre Ware is a better quarterback than Drew Brees?

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    7. You can be one dimensional in college and still be a good or even great player at the college level. I don't know if Ware was a better college QB than Brees, but I do know that he was a good enough college player to win a Heisman, A Davey O'Brien award, and get voted into the college football hall of fame. Tebow will be the same, and we know how well his NFL career is going as a QB. It's not like Brees wasn't in a pass heavy system, yet he never won a Davey O'Brien award like Tebow or Ware have. If we only recruited NFL prospects at each position, we wouldn't have one Denard Robinson on the team. You can be a superstar in college without having NFL potential.

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    8. I'm differentiating between talent and production. You're conflating production with fame and accolades (derived from team success). They can be great players and not have the same level of success due to the environment - the coaches and players around them. Being 'one-dimensional' is a separate issue.

      Superior talents regularly get out-shined. Ware is not that good of a QB, but had great success in college. Rogers and Brees had successful careers in college, but they played on bad teams that didn't win enough games to garner Heisman attention. Tom Brady was a better QB than Drew Bledsoe (who wasn't bad in the NFL but had many more accolades than Brady.) Joey Harrington and Ryan Leaf looked great in college - but a lot of that was because of their coaches being innovative. By his Senior year, John Navarre looked like a world-class QB, but had NFL talent all around him.

      The examples go on forever. If you want to use college production to decide who is an 'exceptional' player, fine.

      Denard Robinson was a high 4-star recruit and will be drafted in the top 2-4 rounds. Tim Tebow took over as an NFL starter in his 2nd year and won a playoff game.

      Yes, you don't have to be an NFL player to succeed in college, but the skills that make a good college RB generally translate to the NFL. And if you succeed in both college AND the NFL you're probably a better player and talent than someone who succeeds only in college.

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    9. I'm differentiating between college level success and NFL level success. I'm not citing production. I'm citing players with major individual college awards. They don't give Heisman's for team success. They don't give Davey O'Brien or Doak Walker awards for team success. Dayne, Ware, Tebow, Couch, have all been voted as the best player at their positions and as the best individual player in the nation, at any position, by a lot of people who make a career out of college football, not by me.

      You're conflating college potential with NFL potential. For you, if a guy had a great college career, but failed in the NFL, ipso facto, his college success was a product of being surrounded by NFL talent, or had an innovative coach, or a superior scheme, etc. On the other hand, if he had a great NFL career, but an ok college one, he was on a bad team. You look at Ryan Leaf and see an average QB who had an innovative coach. I look at Ryan Leaf and I see a kid with an exceptionally strong arm, who had a coach smart enough to know how to put it to maximum use. I'm betting that Price had a system that he knew was perfect for a kid with a really strong arm, so he went out and recruited Leaf. It would've been great if Leaf had a really great mind to go with his really strong arm, but really all Price needed was a kid with a really strong arm. That is my point. In college, it more than suffices to be really good at just one thing.

      I'd say You suffer from a horrible case of survivorship bias when you assert that the skills that make a good college RB generally translate to the NFL. Ron Dayne, Mike Hart, Kijana Carter, Rashan Salaam, Larry Johnson, all guys who were good to great college back but NFL busts. Hell, Archie Griffin never really made an impact in the NFL, fergodsakes. I guess his two Heisman's were in recognition of team success?

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    10. Lankownia,

      I've beaten the drum on this multiple times on MGoBlog, so forgive me if you've seen this before.

      Just because a running back is short, this alone does not make him comparable to Mike Hart. Hart was slow, in terms of straight-line speed. But he had a very quick first step, outstanding lateral mobility, excellent balance, and far more power than one would expect for his size - almost Maurice Jones-Drew. Dennis Norfleet is a scatback. He will never break tackles like Mike Hart. He'll never knock DLs backward, as Hart did on more than one occasion. Vincent Smith, bless his rabbit-chasing heart, has the desire and the toughness to try to break tackles, but he rarely gains yardage after first contact.

      Mike Hart was a truly great college player. He wasn't good for his size. He was a great back. His only serious drawback was his inability to stay healthy (OK, his speed too - but if Hart had breakaway speed he would have been on a short list for best RBs in college football history.)

      /rant over.

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    11. I think it depends on your definition of "great." I don't think Hart was a great college player, but I reserve the term "great" for very special players who are Heisman winners or Heisman-caliber players. Hart was good but not THAT good. He's in the conversation for one of the best Michigan players/running backs, but on the whole spectrum of college football players...not so much.

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  41. God help him if Smith doesn't sprint into the endzone ever TD this senior year, if he jogs once TTB will downgrade him to a 23.

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    1. Are you against players who hustle?

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    2. I agree with this critique of the TTB rankings and assessments. It's pretty flimsy as character evidence.

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    3. I gotta go with Thunder on this one.

      The character kid is the one sprinting it in, running out the ground balls or getting on the floor after loose balls. Given the choice, talent being equal, that's the kid you want.

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    4. Exactly. Michigan fans turned Novak into a demigod because of his hustle plays, but then when they see a high school kid jogging into the endzone, they ignore it. Did Novak just turn into a hustler when he got to college? I doubt it. It's not the deciding factor of whether a kid is going to be successful or not, but it's a part of the equation.

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    5. It's not a black-and-white issue of you hustle or you don't, it's a matter of degree. This may come as a shock, but Novak doesn't sprint towards the coaching staff during timeouts or dive into his bed at night. There are times when extra effort matters (like running out a ground ball) and times when it doesn't.

      Maybe not running into the end zone is indicative of something more...maybe not. I'd rather a player did it than not, though.

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    6. Mattison has talked multiple times about counting "loafs." This is just my take, but Brandin Hawthorne was benched for poor effort in the MSU game. Toussaint was pulled out of games at times because he doesn't block with 100% effort.

      I know Novak doesn't sprint everywhere, but when he's on the court, he gives maximum effort. You know who doesn't give maximum effort, at least on defense? Tim Hardaway, Jr. And that's the reason he's not a great defender.

      I've never heard a coach tell a kid to jog into the endzone. So yes, jogging into the endzone IS indicative of something more. It could be any number of things (nursing an injury, not being coachable, being out of shape, showing up the other team, etc.), but none of those things is good.*

      *If a guy's nursing a hamstring injury and jogs into the endzone to prevent himself from re-injuring it, then I'd give him a pass. Somehow I doubt that's often the case.

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    7. Equating jogging into the end zone and having a character issue is pretty weak. You need more than one data point to extrapolate. Sometimes the kid just needs a word from a coach and it never happens again.

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    8. I can almost guarantee that every high school junior has been told to sprint across the goal line.

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    9. I'm not arguing that everyone gives equal effort or diminishing hustling at all. It is critical and can be more important than talent or ability. Obviously.

      I'm arguing that that some forms of effort matter and others don't. Tim Hardaway may spend 2 minutes extra every shower making sure he scrubs behind his ears for all I know. Or he may rip off his warm-ups faster than anyone on the team. Who cares?

      You view not sprinting to endzone as indicative of a larger problem and I don't agree. I don't think it's meaningful and I don't see any evidence of this. It's a matter of opinion/conjecture. It's not like you're saying "I noticed that Mike Hart didn't do this and Kevin Grady did."

      To me, it's kind of like criticizing a ball-carrier for getting out of bounds. It COULD be a sign of a lack of something or other, but it's probably irrelevant. The other comparison is baseball related: is it running out a ground ball or how quickly you get around on homeruns? One matters (even if only a little), the other doesn't.

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    10. If you say this is a common dictate from coaches, I'll take your word for it. But coaches say a lot of things, and players frequently don't do exactly what they're told the way that they are told. Ryan Van Bergen probably didn't 'get low' as much as the coaches told him to when he was an underclassmen, but it probably doesn't reflect a character deficiency or disrespect or lack of work-effort.

      I'm not saying you're wrong, just that it seems like pretty flimsy evidence as far as red-flags go.

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  42. Thanks for your analysis. I enjoy reading about our new recruits.

    Your recruiting update indicates that, according to Derrick Green, MIchigan is seeking another running back. How would you compare Derrick Green's potential with Ty Issac's?
    Thanks
    UncleFred

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    1. Green is a little more similar to DeVeon Smith than Ty Isaac. Green supposedly has good speed - presumably better than Smith's - but I don't really see him being explosive on film. Green is kind of a north-south runner who's big and powerful. He's big, strong, and fast, but I don't really know if he has that "it" factor. Isaac is a completely different player - shiftier, less powerful, and probably just as fast on the football field.

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