After a long, strange recruitment, FL RB Demetrius Hart is (finally) committed to become a Michigan Wolverine.
|4*, #9 RB||4*, 5.9, #1 All-Purpose RB||4*, 80, #9 RB|
Hart is in the running for this year's "Marvin Robinson/Ricardo Miller Memorial Underrated Award," as the prospect that Michigan fans get really excited about early in the process, only to become disappointed when the recruiting services don't agree. He's still a four-star prospect, most likely, but that's a far cry from the National Top 10, where it seemed like Hart would end up.
On the Orlando Sentinel's Central Florida Top 100, he's fluctuated from anywhere between #2 and #14, and is currently #4. The big board provides the following brief comment:
Has all the moves and the grades
Both positives, in this guy's humble e-pininon. There's a little more detail on the Sentinel's profile page for Hart:
Hart is a playmaker in every sense of the word and will likely set the school's record for all-time leading rusher this season [ed: He did, along with records in single season touchdowns and career touchdowns]. Hart is a running back/receiver/return-specialist for the Panthers.
Some of Hart's disappointing rating can be attributed to his size, which doesn't translate to the running back position at the college level:
Despite his size Hart has owned central Florida the last two years.
That, of course, didn't stop him from getting offers to play either RB or slot from a number of top programs (about which more later). In an interview with ThaRinger.com, Hart broke down his game a little bit:
“Basically, a lot of schools when they recruit me, they recruit me for kick returner, punt returner, things like that but I also play running back. I’m more of an outside runner but I can run up the middle. I can do it all. I’ll put my head down and run through some people, so I can do a little bit of both.”
“I think my strengths are I can see the whole field. I can read a defense real well, watch a lot of film and I have speed so I can get around the outside or I can get through holes. I know how to be patient and wait on things like for blocks to happen and stuff like that. I think one of my weaknesses are just trying to get those extra few yards and taking that contact. I know as a running back you shouldn’t do that too many times, just try to preserve yourself and also just depending on my O-line to be there. I’m pretty good with reading the blocks so sometimes I kind of get ahead of them. Sometimes I see what they don’t see and I try to make a play on it, so that’s what I’m going to try and work on this spring.”
ThaRinger also gives its opinion on Hart:
He’s a smooth athlete with good speed and acceleration and he changes direction as good as anybody. He is also much more physical than his size would indicate. He definitely doesn’t shy away from contact. But perhaps his best attribute is his vision and he admits that when asked what his strengths are and what he would like to work on to continue his development.
He's versatile, excelling from the tailback position, as a receiver out of the backfield, and in the return game.
His coach provides a short-but-sweet comment on Hart:
"Dee is a student, and he's a tremendous competitor. There's a whole lot to like about him."
Scout.com talent evaluator Bill Greene echoes the coach's sentiments:
"Hart's physical ability, speed and quickness, are easily identified, but after watching him for two days there is much more to this impressive athlete," said Scout.com recruiting analyst Bill Greene. "His leadership ability, infectious attitude, and desire to win far outshine his impressive physical gifts. Demetrius Hart is a winner, on and off the field. He will be an outstanding addition to whichever college he chooses."
That drive for success has shown itself in the weight room, where he's packed on weight to become more of an every-down back:
Hart has been working hard this off-season. He has added 18 pounds since this time last year.
“My playing weight last year was 170 pounds. I have actually gotten faster. My quickness is the same. It’s just God given.”
Tying it all together: Shifty running back prospect with great hips who could also project to slot receiver or cornerback. Very good (but not great) speed, good balance, and improving ability to pound the ball inside.
Think of any football power, and there's a damn good chance they offered Hart. That includes the last two national champions, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Clemson, Georgia... the list goes on. His impressive offer list says what should be obvious by now: this kid is a Big Deal.
As his recruitment wound down, he had several "final" lists of schools. Alabama, Auburn, and Florida started the party, with Florida replaced by Michigan shortly thereafter. Auburn dropped off the list, but resurfaced about a month ago.
Hart has been a highly productive player in each of his seasons at Dr. Phillips High School. As a sophomore, he ran 111 times for 758 yards (6.83 ypc) and 16 touchdowns. He also played in the return game and was a cornerback on defense.
Hart is the all-time leader at Dr. Phillips in just about every rushing and scoring category. His junior stats include a game that he missed completely, and one for which he was injured and missed the fourth quarter.
Somehow I didn't managed to find exact junior year stats, but he gained about 2,000 yards rushing, receiving, and returning, and scored 20 total touchdowns. Five of those touchdowns came in the return game, and at least three came receiving. Hart split carries with 2010 Colorado State signee Marvin Ford. He was named 1st-Team All-Central Florida and 2nd-Team All-State.
Hart has been even more productive this season(!), with 813 all-purpose yards on 89 touches (9.13 yard per touch) through just four games. Much, much more detail on his season in next week's Friday Night Lights post.
FAKE 40 TIME
Rivals credits Hart with a 4.43 40-yard dash time, and Scout says 4.50, both of which are fast but plausible (and therefore no fun). ESPN is even less bullish, pegging him in the 4.65 range.
Hart is known as a speedster, but not a blazer, so all these times range from realistic to pessimistic. I have no choice but to dole out just a single FAKE.
Here's his junior year:
There's also video available from the Nike Gridiron Kings 7-on-7.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Hart plans to enroll early, which gives him a better opportunity to contribute on the field early in his career. However, in his freshman year, Michigan will still have a bunch of running backs on the roster in senior Michael Shaw, redshirt junior Mike Cox, junior Vincent Smith, and sophomore Stephen Hopkins. That means carries will be limited, but Hart might be able to find the field in other ways.
With his receiving and returning abilities, there's a darn good chance that he'll be a starter or major contributor on special teams, and he could see some time in the slot. Couple that with a handful of carries in Michigan's stacked backfield, and it's not hard to see Hart get some good PT as a true freshman. However, with Michigan's depth at all of those positions, it's not necessary for Hart to play much as a freshman, unless the coaches want him to get his feet wet for the future. He could redshirt that season, then have a chance to play extensively the next year.
Hart's talent may be too much to keep off the field. He will probably get shuffled in during his true freshman year, become a big part of the rotation as a sophomore, and then have the opportunity to star as a junior and senior. As with Steve Slaton before him, Hart could become a Heisman contender before leaving Rich Rodriguez's program.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
The depth shown above is an indication that Michigan doesn't have a huge need for running backs in the class of 2011. If the coaches find another running back that they really like, they might take one (maybe Thomas Rawls?), but with 11 commits already in a class that should only go to about 22, the spots will likely be used elsewhere.
Hart's Dr. Phillips High School has put out plenty of talent in the past few years (Kenny Shaw of Florida State and a trio of Colorado State signees in the class of 2010, a trio of D-1 players in the previous class), and that trend looks to continue into the future.
Hart's commitment may not have an effect on Alabama commit S Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix, the #1 defensive back prospect in the cass of 2011, but the Wolverines are looking at several other teammates, including WR Chris Gallon and S Roderick Ryles. Michigan is also looking at 2012 QB Nick Patti, whose father is influential in the Dr. Phillips community. Hart's commitment could solidify the Dr. Phillips pipeline that Ricardo Miller helped start (prior to his move to Ann Arbor).