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elite skill position recruits and dead memes
Rejoice, Michigan fans. Richmond (VA) Hermitage running back Derrick Green—the nation's top-ranked RB on Scout and Rivals—announced his commitment to Michigan this afternoon, choosing the Wolverines over Auburn and Tennessee. Green is Michigan's 27th commit of the 2013 class, joining DeVeon Smith and Wyatt Shallman among running backs.
With Green's commitment, feel free to dance on the grave of the "Brady Hoke can't close on elite skill position prospects" meme. It will not be missed.
5*, #1 RB,
5*, #1 RB,
4*, 87, #5 RB,
4*, 95, #8 RB,
According to The Mathlete's composite rankings, Green is the highest-ranked running back to commit to Michigan since 2002—narrowly edging out Kevin Grady—and sixth overall (the top five: Prescott Burgess, Ryan Mallett, LaMarr Woodley, Brandon Graham, Chad Henne). He's the first truly elite running back recruit Michigan has landed since Grady; going by Rivals, the top-ranked Wolverine RB commit since 2005 is Carlos Brown (#35 overall), then there's a significant drop to Justice Hayes (#85).
Both Rivals and Scout consider Green the top running back prospect in the country and a top-eight recruit overall, while ESPN and 247 are less bullish but still have him as one of the better backs in the country. He's listed between 5'11" and 6'0" tall and around 220 pounds, figures that should be accurate considering his multiple combine appearances.
If you're looking for a prospect in the mold of a classic Michigan tailback, Derrick Green is it. Scout lists his strengths as Power, Size, and Tackle-Breaking Ability, with Breakaway Speed, Elusiveness, and Hands as areas for improvement, and offers this scouting report [emphasis mine]:
A powerful running back who can blow through arm tackles and typically takes more than one defender to bring him down, Green has surprisingly quick feet for his size. He can clear traffic between the tackles, not getting tripped up because of his good balance. Not a conventional breakaway threat because of raw speed, but gets his share of long runs after breaking tackles at the line of scrimmage. Needs to catch more consistently - Scott Kennedy
Can you envision the MANBALL yet? Here's ESPN's evaluation:
Green is quick to get downhill and attack the hole and he gains momentum fast. He follows blocks well and cuts tightly off through the hole, but is not a real patient runner and can struggle to get thin through smaller seams. He lacks fluidity through the hips as a lateral runner but shows sharp, subtle cutbacks and deceptive pick-and-slide ability at times. While he can sidestep and avoid tacklers, he is at his best when squared up and given a heavy dose of Iso and Power plays. Even on outside tosses or stretch plays, he is quick to plant and get north finding the vertical crease. Not a lot of wasted cuts with this guy. He flashes the burst to get through tight in-line seams and into the second level quickly. Displays very good power to break tackles. He is an aggressive runner who drags tacklers and finishes runs falling forward.
Defenders are not going to tackle him high when he breaks free into open field, but he does have a tendency to get chopped down low and lose balance. We would like to see him run more behind his pads with better lean and knee pump.
ESPN's Dave Hooker profiled Green last May, discussing his transformation from a 268-pound offensive lineman into a 220-pound battering ram and his prowess in the weight room:
Green's dedication to diet and training hasn't just moved the scale. It has moved massive amounts of weight. Green bench presses 330 pounds, squats 600 pounds and dead-lifts 615.
"Everybody says that's not legit, but we have a legit trainer that came from UVa," he said. "He makes sure you get low [on squats] and all that."
Nope, no concerns there.
Mike Farrell handed out awards after this summer's Rivals/VTO Virginia camp, and you'll never guess who won "Physical Specimen" ($):
Derrick Green from Richmond (Va.) Hermitage looks like a man-child. If you put him in a Wisconsin uniform and helmet, you'd think he was a college senior coming off a 2,000-yard season. His legs are beyond strong and thick and he looks like a human bowling ball, ready to knock down pin after pin heading to the end zone.
Farrell also raved about Green's frame when Rivals bumped him up to five stars, also noting that he's a more well-rounded back than previously thought:
"Green looks physically like a college junior," Farrell said. "If you put him in any college uniform right now and told someone who had never seen him that he was a 1,500-yard rusher, they wouldn't blink an eye. Plus he's shown the ability to block and catch passes now, so he's gone from a two-down back to an every-down guy. He's the most physically impressive running back we've seen in awhile."
Green went to the Army All-American Game looking to prove he was the nation's best back. In the eyes of Rivals and Scout, he did just that, earning the East's #1 performer of the week honors from the former ($)...
Coming to San Antonio with a target on his back didn't seem to bother Green. The running backs on the East and West team tried to dethrone the nation's No. 1 back but were unsuccessful. In practices and in the game, Green ran with toughness and speed, cut very well and showed he has the vision to make an early impact at the next level. His signature moment was a 23-yard run in the game during which he broke at least two tackles.
...and top ten East in-game performer status from the latter:
Green finished the game with 49 yards on eight carries. A bowling ball style back with low center of gravity, he showed his burst and explosiveness at times today. He's not just a power guy. We didn't see the receiving skills he showed during the week in the game, but we know he can do it and that combination of skills has him as the nation's second ranked running back.
You get the gist: Derrick Green is a tank/bowling ball/Mack truck/beast/freight train/specimen/man-child who will run POWER, take it north-south, and attempt to imprint the nearest defender's ribs with the wings on his helmet. He's also got a little wiggle for a guy his size, decent speed, and the ability to catch passes out of the backfield, but first and foremost this is a guy you hand the ball off to out of the I-form until the defense cries uncle.
Green chose Michigan over offers from Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Clemson, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Miami (YTM), Ole Miss, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Penn State, Pitt, South Carolina, Tennessee, USC, Virginia Tech, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and several others.
Per his 247 profile, Green rushed for 1,285 yards and 20 touchdowns on 185 carries in his senior season. He tallied 1,493 yards and 20 TDs as a junior and 800 yards and ten TDs in his sophomore year.
FAKE 40 TIME
There was a rumored 4.31 40 time floating around at some point, which gets ALL OF THE FAKES. 247 lists a far more reasonable 4.58, which is the number I'd put the most stock in, while Rivals goes with a 4.4. Green shows off good but not elite speed on film, and a 4.58 electronic time would fall in that range.
Clips from the Army All-American Bowl:
Scouts aren't kidding when they say Green runs north-south; he's heading upfield as soon as he gets a crease. He displays solid quickness and subtle-but-effective cuts, though there aren't as many long runs or brutal truckings of tiny high school safeties as one might hope.
While Green shows great burst through the line and decisiveness in his cuts, there's a clear need for improvement when he breaks into the open field. As ESPN noted in his scouting report, Green gets chopped down at the legs too easily, a product of running too upright and not getting his knees high when running through contact. If Green can improve in that area, he goes from a power back that consistently picks up chunks of yardage to more of a home-run threat. Overall, however, he's still quite impressive on film.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
If Green lives up to the reports of solid pass-catching and blocking, he's the type of back that eliminates any need for a rotation; just trot him out there and hand him the rock 20-25 times a game. After Fitz Toussaint, who will be a senior when Green is a freshman—assuming he's recovered from a brutal leg injury—it's uncertain if there's another back on the roster you could say that about.
After an ugly 2012 for Michigan backs, Green should compete right away for a starting job, and he could be the odds-on favorite if Toussaint can't find his 2011 form (a difficult task given his injury). Al Borges has a stated preference for using a feature back over a committee approach, and Green could be that guy. Even if he doesn't land the starting job, it's hard to see him not being part of a rotation, and a redshirt seems out of the question.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Now that Green's recruitment is over, Michigan awaits the decision of TX TE Durham Smythe (currently planning to make his choice on signing day), and otherwise it appears they've wrapped up the 2013 class barring any late offers.
The real upshot, of course, is that Michigan now has the #1 running back recruit in the class, which is cause for celebratory dancing: