As Brady Hoke and Co. look to reverse the offensive transition that took place under Rich Rodriguez, running back will be a main piece to getting Michigan where they want to be offensively. With six returning backs and two additions to the 2011 class, Hoke has depth to work with, but would like to add an elite runner of his choosing with the upcoming recruiting cycle.
There are six names that have surfaced so far with Michigan extending offers. Matt Jones (6'2", 200 lbs) from Seffner, Florida who recently commited to the Gators, current Ohio State commit Bri'onte Dunn (6'2", 215 lbs) from Canton, Ohio also received a Michigan offer. Ronald Darby (5'11", 172 lbs) out of Oxon Hill, Maryland is on this list, although he's probably being recruited as a defensive back. Darby has had the most contact with Michigan defensive backs coach Curt Mallory, and says he's definitely interested in Michigan. "They have a strong traditional program. The coaches seem cool, and the education is real strong," said Darby. "I want to commit late in the summer or in the beginning of the season, so I'm going to be looking for the school that fits me best; a place that feels like home."
One of the most sought after running backs in the country, Keith Marshall (5'11", 190 lbs) in North Carolina not only has an offer from the Wolverines, but has mutual interest as well. "Coach Montgomery offered me sometime last week; I'm definitely interested. They were one of the teams I liked growing up, and then I started liking Georgia and USC," said Marshall. With around twenty two offers in hand, Marshall will be able to choose from any program he sees fits best. "I plan on narrowing down my list this summer; I don't really have a top group yet," Marshall said. "I'm going to be looking at the overall direction of the football program, as well as the academics." Keith says his biggest strengths are his speed, acceleration, and vision, while he still has a few things to work on. "I'd prefer to play in a pro style offense, so I'm working on getting bigger and stronger so I can run between tackles at the next level," he said.
Marshall's speed has definitely caught the eye of college programs, he reports his fastest time is a 4.25 forty time, and maybe even more impressive he reports a similar GPA around 4.1 overall. Marshall ran for 1600 yards and 18 TD's this past season.
To stick with the theme of both size and speed, Greg Garmon (6'1", 190 lbs) out of Erie, Pennsylvania was the most recent recipient of a Wolverine offer. Garmon says his game is similar to that of Reggie Bush with the combination of his size, speed, and playmaking abilities. Those are some big shoes to compare yourself to, but Garmon is confident in what he can do on the field. "I would like to run in a pro style offense, because I'm more of a down hill runner, but yeah I would compare myself somewhat to a Reggie Bush," Garmon said.
Specifically with Michigan, Greg is from the midwest and has familiarity with the Wolverines program. "I'm very interested in Michigan. I hope I can visit there soon, I heard great things about it from a friend of mine that goes there," he said. When a prospect says they are very interested in a school this early on it can often be relative, but that doesn't seem to be the case with Garmon. "After everything is done [Michigan] will be one of the top schools I pick from," said Garmon.
The final running back boasting a Michigan offer (thus far) is Norman, Oklahoma back Donovan Roberts (6'0", 195 lbs). Roberts highlight film is the epitome of a physical back. He breaks tackle after tackle, and doesn't seem to shy away from contact. "Every time I get the ball, a lot of backs will try to just get out of bounds if they're by the sideline, but I'm more of a physical back. I'm going to do everything I can to get that extra couple yards," said Roberts.
Donovan has been in communication with the new coaching staff, but is still building the relationship to get more comfortable. "I want to learn a little more about the coaches, because I know they're new. I've always loved the way that Michigan plays," he said. "The coaches told me how they're going to be switching up the offense to more of a pro style, which is good. They told me how they want to fix Michigan, and what they're doing with the program." Talking to him you would think that he grew up in the state of Michigan, with how he speaks of the Wolverines. "Michigan has always been a high caliber team. I've always watched them and they've always been a top team. We're definitely going to work out something to see if I can come down there in the spring or the summer. I just have to figure it out with my parents," said Roberts.
Although he's from Oklahoma, and Norman at that, Roberts says the hometown Sooners aren't a big draw for him. "I have interest in Oklahoma State, but not as much with Oklahoma. A lot of people think I would because of where I'm from. I'm just trying to look around, and see everyone that's interested," Roberts said. As far as a timetable or timeline for his decision, Donovan is just letting everything fall into place. "Some people try to wait it out, but I'm just going to go with the flow. If an opportunity comes by and I want to commit early, then I will. I'm probably just going to see how everything flows and take it from there," he said.
While he's had no in person contact with the Michigan coaches yet, Donovan feels 100% comfortable and confident that these will be the coaches to turn the Michigan program around. "I've really enjoyed the fact that they've shown interest in me. Those coaches are there for a reason and they're trying to get the program better, I think they're going to do it," said Roberts.
This list will definitely grow as Michigan continues to find new running back prospects that fit with what they're looking for. They have targeted some of the top backs in the country and judging by the early feelings from some of these prospects, the Michigan staff has put themselves in a position to contend for their services.