Photo via cu.tribtoday.com
As reported last night by Sam Webb, Warren (OH) Howland RB DeVeon Smith pledged to become the 16th member of Michigan's class of 2013. Smith is the second running back in the class, joining Detroit Catholic Central's Wyatt Shallman, and he's the 14th recruit among the Wolverine commits to garner a four-star rating from at least one recruiting service.
Smith has multiple Big Ten ties, as both his older brothers (Lance at Wisconsin, Maurice at Michigan State) played for schools in the conference before later transferring. Despite growing up deep in Buckeye country and having brothers play for two conference foes, DeVeon grew up a Michigan fan.
4*, #7 RB,
|3*, 89, #31 RB|
Early on in the process, there's quite a disparity in the rankings on Smith. Scout—the most recent service to update their rankings—is by far the most bullish, putting Smith up at #58 overall and the seventh running back in the class. ESPN has him on their top 150 watch list, but on the other end of the scale, 247Sports has him as a middling three-star and Rivals has yet to rank him. Expect this to change in the future; Smith has earned rave reviews from Midwest scouts covering Ohio.
All four sites list Smith at 5'11", and only Rivals (195) doesn't list him at 210 pounds. As a high school junior, he already has the size to see the field at the collegiate level.
"He's a powerful kid with a low center of gravity and he runs hard and with attitude. He can run between the tackles and he doesn't waste a lot of time getting north and south. He's a guy that you can feed the ball to throughout a game. His balance and ability to break arm tackles really stands out. He's not a burner, but I think his speed is better than advertised. He's a classic I-formation, pro-style tailback."
As you'll see on his film, Smith may not have track-star speed, but he has little issue tearing through tackles at the high school level. While that speed comes into question, Dave Berk says he's a home run threat in the writeup for Scout's top 50 players in Ohio, where Smith ranks #3 ($):
Two-way player who projects as one of the top running backs in the Midwest. Has good size at 5-foot-11, 210-pounds showing speed, power and balance. Capable of taking each carry to the house for a score or making the big defensive stop.
Size, balance, and power appear to be the main strengths in Smith's game, and he has enough speed to be dangerous when he breaks into the open field. This sentiment is echoed by Mark Porter as Bucknuts ranked Smith as the #5 2013 prospect in Ohio ($):
“He is a well built back. He can run well between the tackles. He can take a lot of punishment. He would be your traditional Big Ten back who can play in bad weather and grind out yardage. He would be a good fit in Ohio State’s new offense. As a junior, he was much quicker than he showed the year before. He has some spring to his step. He is very powerful and thickly built.”
Before Smith's junior season, Duane Long had some concerns about Smith's size and speed, but loved his natural ability as a runner ($):
I would argue Smith is the most naturally instinctive runner in the class. Very quick feet. Good balance and runs with good power. I think Smith stands a good chance of moving up this list because my reservations are about his body and speed. He is a very muscular kid at a very young age. I am concerned he will be a ‘tweener. The older he gets without growing into a ‘tweener the better his chances of moving up. His speed is a question. I think speed is the most overrated thing with backs but they have to be fast enough. We will see if Smith is.
Long had Smith listed at 6'0", 210, so I think he was worried Smith would grow into linebacker range. That didn't happen, so the only concern moving forwards is top-end speed. Given the rest of the package that Smith provides, plus the growing evidence that sprinter's speed isn't necessary to excel at running back—see: Mike Hart, among others—he still has the skill-set to be an excellent Big Ten back.
Smith's offer sheet wasn't especially long, but he has one that should stand out: Ohio State. Along with the Buckeyes and Wolverines, Smith had offers from Bowling Green, Indiana, Purdue, and West Virginia.
As a junior, Smith was second-team All-Ohio in Division II after amassing 2,150 yards and 25 TDs on 189 carries. That followed up an 1,800-yard sophomore season and a freshman year spent racking up just under 1,000 all-purpose yards at the varsity level.
FAKE 40 TIME
Bucknuts lists a 4.5-second 40 time for Smith, which I'll give three FAKEs out of five considering the concerns about his speed.
Short junior highlight reel:
And film from a pair of Warren Howland games last season:
Smith certainly passes the eyeball test when it comes to a running back; his build and strength for a junior is impressive.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Smith is going to walk on campus in 2013 and have a chance to play. If his Scout ranking is ultimately the one that holds up, he'll be the highest-rated back on the roster barring a later commitment by Ty Isaac, and only Fitzgerald Toussaint (a senior in '13) and Thomas Rawls (a three-star in '11) really project as every-down backs in the classes in front of him. It wouldn't surprise to see Smith earn the backup role as a freshman before taking over full-time for Toussaint in 2014. With the Wolverines not picking up a true star at running back in the last couple classes, Smith will get every opportunity to earn time and excel in Michigan's evolving offense.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Ah, I was kinda dreading this section. First of all, Michigan now has 16 commits in a class that should get to 23 or 24. With the remaining spots, the Wolverines need two more receivers, a nose tackle, a strongside DE, and a linebacker (probably Ben Gedeon). That takes Michigan to 21, and a potential third tight end would move that number to 22. This leaves one or two spots for the best players available. LB E.J. Levenberry has a spot waiting for him. S Su'a Cravens likely would as well.
The big question, however, is what this means for Ty Isaac. I've been told Michigan will take just two tailbacks in the class—Wyatt Shallman very much included—but we'll see if that changes for a five-star like Isaac. Despite the rumors, it wouldn't appear that a crowded backfield would be an issue for Isaac:
“Competition makes you better. If you don’t have someone behind you pushing you to be better, you might get sloppy. If I’m the only back in the class, yeah that’s cool with me… but if I’m not, it’s not a turnoff and I’m not scared of it. I would expect people to be disappointed in me if I was talking like that. As a coach if I heard somebody say that, I’d understand. But at the same time, to me that sounds like you’re scared of competition.”
Deveon Smith on #Michigan possibly recruiting another RB after his commit: "They didn't talk about that at all.It doesn't even matter."
— Sam Webb (@SamWebb77) March 18, 2012
We'll have to see how it plays out. Regardless, Michigan has a pair of four-star backs in the class who bring the MAN in MANBALL.