Just a few minutes ago, VA RB Derrick Green announced his decision to attend Michigan next year. The five-star back chose the Maize and Blue over Tennessee and Auburn, as well as an array of national offers. According to Rivals, he is Michigan's highest rated commitment (signee, hopefully) since Ryan Mallett in 2007, and 3rd highest since the beginning of their network (#2 being Prescott Burgess in 2003).
To further delve into some relatively meaningless yet exciting data, let's take a closer look at the history of Rivals' top ranked running backs from the past.
2012- Johnathan Gray, Texas
2011- Malcolm Brown, Texas
2010- Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina
2009- Bryce Brown, Tennessee
2008- Darrell Scott, Colorado
2007- Joe McKnight, USC
2006- Beanie Wells, OSU
2005- Jonathan Stewart, Oregon
2004- Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma
2003- Reggie Bush, USC
2002- Ciatrick Fason, Florida
I'll throw out some quick stats from that group; 4 of the 8 that have left college were drafted in the 1st round, and 2 others were drafted in the 4th round. Both Scott and Brown went undrafted after bouncing around from school to school, but Brown is now a prominent player in the Eagles' backfield. The group has 2 Heisman trophy finalists in it, and 1 winner (Bush), although that's probably a bit of a let-down considering their hype. The group also has 4 All-American claims to their name.
There are a couple of reasons that this commitment is huge for the Maize and Blue, the most important being the current RB depth. Currently on the roster, Michigan has an injured tailback who may or may not be ready to go for Spring Ball, a big-back who's shown nothing outside of the Spring Game, a local speedster who chose Michigan over...EMU, a scat-back who's similarly done nothing and may move to slot receiver, and a scat-back return-man who may or may not be a CB.
Taking Green out of the equation, there was really only one RB in the 2013 class that looked to ameliorate that problem, Deveon Smith. While Smith has some power in his game, his explosion and speed is nothing compared to Green. The other, Wyatt Shallman, no longer looks like he'll be playing tailback exclusively ($).
What the coaches have told him about when/where he'll be playing: Running back, U-back position where I can play tight end, fullback, running back. They want me to come in and play as much as I can.
Green should have the opportunity to come in and play immediately, especially if Toussaint can't put together a productive spring. Even if Toussaint does lock down the starting spot, I would expect the coaches to integrate Green as a change-of-pace back in the way they tried to with Rawls this year. Here's to hoping Green can be a little more dominant against CBs in the open field than Rawls *shakes fist at Bradley Roby* *but mainly Rawls because I mean come on you have 30 pounds on the dude and he just cuts you down in the open field what's up bud*.
There is, of course, always the possibility that Green doesn't live up to his billing. Let's take a look at the last few Scout 5*s who haven't panned out exactly as we hoped:
2009- Will Campbell. By his own admission, wasn't working hard enough first few years on campus.
2009- JT Turner. Transferred after showing up to 2010 fall camp out of shape. Talent there, work ethic seemingly lacking.
2008- Boubacar Cissoko. Kicked off the team after missing classes, workouts, study tables. Later ran into some...legal issues.
2007- Ryan Mallett. Transferred because he didn't fit into RR's system, or because he wanted to go to Arkansas all along, and the departure of Mitch Mustain to USC opened up that possibility. Probably a combination of the 2. Rumors that he wasn't fitting in well at Michigan.
2006- Justin Boren. True freshman starter, wanted to go to OSU. Numerous rumored character questions.
2005- Marques "F*** Lion" Slocum. Grades forced him out, among other things.
Kids are kids, and are infinitely hard to predict, but how does Green match up with these issues?
As for a social life, don't expect to see Green at a night club. Aside from the occasional school-sponsored dance, it's all faith, family and football. Going out and partying doesn't fit the plan.
"He doesn't have an interest in those types of things," Fran Green said. "With the football team, he's making sure they stay out of trouble. He's a positive leader and motivator in that way."
Transfer risk? Based on the time and effort he put into the recruiting process, I'd guess not. Also, there's this.
His mother, Fran Knight, said that wherever her son chooses to attend college, she will move with him. Green was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., but moved to Richmond as a small child.
Work Ethic? Anyone who's read about Green knows that's a non-issue [emphasis mine].
"At the end of my freshman season, I spoke with my coach and told him next year I'll be your starting running back," Green said. "The only words he said was let's see it."
"Every year kids say stuff like that to me," Hermitage head coach Patrick Kane said. "I say show me, don't tell me."
The first thing Green did was signup with a personal trainer.
"My first day of training, I told my trainer I was 268," Green reminisced with a laugh. "He said I don't see you as a running back. I said I see you as a defensive tackle. That drove me so much. I was working so hard. That drove me and pushed me."
Through the winter and into the spring, Green gradually started shedding pounds. He never missed a workout and stuck to a strict diet.
"I ate a lot of salad," Green stated. "I stopped drinking soda and juice. No more fried food. I stayed away from bread and drank a lot of water. I was going to school and people would say Derrick, you look small. That made me start working harder and harder."
Kane couldn't help but notice the shrinking Green living in his weight room at the school, and that drive and determination has him excited about his blue-chip back more than anything.
"He is the most dedicated to working out whether it be lifting and running that I've ever seen," Kane said. He's been coaching high school football for 25 years including the last 11 at Hermitage. "He really gets after it and it's important to him and it's made him the player he is."
How does he stay in that shape? Check out his daily routine below..
Again, predicting a kid's future off the field is often a crap-shoot, but this kid looks as mentally prepared for college ball as he is physically.
So up to this point, we've covered just about everything but his physical attributes. What about Green makes him such a special player? Well, a lot of it can be traced back to his strong work ethic. There are plenty of big backs out there. The thing that separates Green from them on tape is his speed and explosiveness in addition to his physicality. I really like his vision and the quick cuts he uses to dodge defenders when running through the line. He keeps his legs churning through leg tackles, which often means 3-4 extra yards purely from effort. For example, watch Michigan commit Jourdan Lewis try to tackle Green in the Army Game. /Puts on Fred Jackson hyperbole hat
HE'S FITZ TOUSSAINT MIXED WITH BRANDON JACOBS' POWER
HE'S LIKE A JACKHAMMER WITH THE LEGS OF USAIN BOLT
HE'S LIKE A FINELY TUNED EUROPEAN DRIVING MACHINE WITH THE BRAINS OF SWEDISH BUSINESS MAGNATE AND BILLIONAIRE STEFAN PERSSON.
I've always imagined Fred Jackson is well versed in Swedish culture.
If there was one part of Green's game I noticed needing a lot of work during the Army Game, it's his pass protection ability. It's a shame that Vincent Smith won't be around to teach him everything he learned. That's assuming Smith still remembers it all after the Clowney hit. Anywho, just like Fitz Toussaint, I think he'll take a little while to pick that up, limiting his utility as a third down back in the short term. There's still hope for you, Justice Hayes.
So there you have it, folks. Green has the talent, the work ethic, and the focus to be a special player in college. Additionally, he'll be running behind a pretty damn good line in a couple of years. As long as he keeps up what he's doing now, Green could become the most productive Michigan runner since...Mike Hart? What do you all think?
In any case, it can't be overstated how great of a job the staff did to bring in a 5* RB from Virginia, nonetheless from a school that has never sent a player to Michigan. Green's recruiting timeline involves a lot of offers, visits, and interest, so I'll only touch on the more relevant points.
In February of 2011, Green's teammate LB Curtis Grant (the #2 overall player in the country, according to Rivals) signed with Ohio State. In June of the same year, Green blew up one of the Buckeyes' junior camps and came away with an offer. For a long period thereafter, he was considered a heavy OSU lean. In July of 2012, Meyer and staff (who had renewed his offer after taking over, and were heavily pursuing the tailback) decided to stop recruiting Green. Most people think this was to save space that needed to be spent on linebackers and wide receivers in their 2013 class. Their only RB commit in the class, Ezekiel Elliot, committed in April, so this holds. Until now, that is, as they pursue Oregon RB commit Dontre Wilson, who is currently on an official visit.
Regardless of the reason, one of Green's heavy favorites was then out of the picture. For a while thereafter, schools like Michigan, Auburn, Ole Miss, Clemson, Va Tech, Oregon, and Tennessee vied for Green's affections. Although they had all been recruiting him throughout the process, the parting with OSU provided an opportunity. At various points throughout, Green seemed like a Clemson lean, an Auburn lean, and a total enigma (I was also told a few times throughout the process that Green was a silent commit to Michigan).
The thing that has ultimately helped land Green for Michigan, though, has been their stability. Through the year and a half that the coaching staff has pursued him, coaching staffs at Ole Miss, Oregon, Auburn, Tennessee, and OSU have changed, schools have come in and out of the picture, rumors have flown in every direction. Through all of that, the staff continued a consistent and methodical recruitment of Green.
"Derrick's relationship with coaching staff and his relationship with some of the other incoming recruits, in particular David Dawson as the two became very close," Rivals.com Mid-Atlantic recruiting analyst Adam Friedman said today. "It's a small circle for him, his mother and his stepdad. I've had multiple conversations with Derrick and his family members and what I've gathered is they obviously want something that's going to be stable. Out of the three schools, U-M has shown be the most stable."
Derrick will also point to his relationship with RB Coach Fred Jackson as a major factor
"(Jackson) has been real big," Green said. "He's been recruiting me for so long, we have a father-son relationship. He's a great guy, and even more, a great coach. I just see him definitely teaching me a lot and being able to get me to the next level."
Pat yourselves on the back, coaching staff. You dun good.
In conclusion: we'll never ever see Vincent Smith run from the I-Formation again (unless he's picked up by, like, the Browns). Instead, that same play might be run by a 220 pound 'freight train' (his nickname), behind an actual O-Line. Sometimes, life is beautiful.