Hello: DeVeon Smith Comment Count

Ace March 18th, 2012 at 1:02 PM

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.


Scout Rivals ESPN 24/7 Sports
4*, #7 RB,
#58 Ovr
Watch List
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.

Smith was in part sold on Michigan's post-Denard transition to more of a power running game based out of the I-form ($), and Scout's Allen Trieu believes he's fit to thrive in that offense:

"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.


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.


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.


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.”

Nor Smith:

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.



March 18th, 2012 at 1:19 PM ^

The vast majority of runs from scrimmage are for less than 20 yds, and this kid is built for grinding out punishing, physical drives. He's got enough speed to be very damaging, especially if guys like Drake Johnson or Dennis Norfleet were available as change-of-pace backs.


March 18th, 2012 at 1:19 PM ^

in the second video was against warren harding this past year...there was an hour+ delay for lightning, and when they resumed howland had the ball down a couple with 3 minutes left. everyone left in the stadium knew what was going to happen: 7 straight carries for 60 yards and the go-ahead score.

deveon just doesn't go down, and is looking to hit someone. i told a buddy at that game that he reminded me of maurice clarrett in high school only maybe a little slower. he's always getting those extra 3 yards and makes cuts that high school running backs don't normally make.



March 18th, 2012 at 1:19 PM ^

he probably won't get a 4th star from Rivals any time soon.  Helmholdt recently said he needs to see more speed from Smith first.  I'd expect the rankings disparity to persist at least until Smith gets on the field again or starts hitting up camps.  

Buzz Your Girlfriend

March 18th, 2012 at 1:48 PM ^

I find that Helmholdt is very stubborn in his rankings early rankings. IMO, Speed is the #1 overrated thing coming out of HS for a RB. I'd much, much rather have a back that is CONSISTENT. Consistently holding onto the ball, consistently keeping their legs driving, consistently falling forward, and consistently getting past the line of scrimmage. As mentioned earlier, we need an every down back and this kid is it, especially with Norfleet and D. Johnson needing some open space, one cut, and gone.

Buzz Your Girlfriend

March 18th, 2012 at 1:55 PM ^

It is extremely obvious to me (and the other three sites) that McCray is not a top 50 player. I'm not saying he is wrong, because who knows? But Helmholdt was in a meeting and he vouched for McCray because he is the midwest guy, he wouldn't want to back down from that now because he jumped the gun. He's not wrong on any prospect he ranks, but he is stubborn on moving them.


March 18th, 2012 at 2:10 PM ^

Rivals hasn't even updated their rankings yet.  It's probably pretty absurd that any of these sites even HAVE rankings yet.  Helmholdt didn't say "Smith won't get a 4th star."  He said "I need to see more of a burst from Smith before he gets a 4th star."  I think it's a bit silly to say that's "being stubborn" 11 months before signing day.  


March 19th, 2012 at 9:57 AM ^

Maybe it's "extremely obvious" to Helmholdt that DeVeon Smith isn't that great of a running back.  You can't criticize a guy for ranking a guy you like too low, and then turn around and criticize him for ranking a guy you dislike too high.  You have different opinions on these guys than Helmholdt, obviously.  And that's allowed.  But to say he's "too stubborn" and then say it's "extremely obvious" that he's wrong is just a wee bit hypocritical.

Stick to your guns.  But don't criticize other people when they do the same.


March 19th, 2012 at 10:20 AM ^

I'm sure you will be grilled by some because you rated DeVeon Smith 63 on your scale over at TTB. I will always be a Michigan homer, but that doesn't mean that I don't want to hear the opinions of others more knowledgable than me.

One question:  in some of the coverage on the NFL Draft prospects of Molk, the comment has been made that he would be great for "the right system." The implication is that he isn't a perfect prototypical center, but he could do very well in the right offensive scheme. I'm wondering how much this translates to how Hoke, Mattison & Borges are recruiting. Specifically, how often is it the case that a lower rated player is better for what we need than the 5 star rated guy who doesn't fit.

I can't help but think of "Moneyball." They built a team with the right guys for their system, and did very well. If Michigan is able to assess well what their needs are, I wonder if they are getting commitments for the right guys for Michigan, and choosing to pass over guys that are rated more highly on the recruiting sites.


March 19th, 2012 at 3:11 PM ^

I think that's always the case.  Ratings don't mean a lot to me.  For one thing, sometimes they vary wildly.  Additionally, they don't take into account the system that's being put in place.  A 5-star pocket quarterback going into a zone read option offense is probably going to have a hard time.  A 5'8" slot guy going into a pro-style offense with two wideouts is probably going to struggle.

I do think there is some element of recruiting for "Michigan's system" going on.  I don't know that Michigan has really developed a system yet, though, since Denard Robinson doesn't really represent what they want to do on offense in the long run.

I look at Wisconsin and see how well they've done with "middling" running back talent, and that is a possibility down the road.  The only thing is, how well have those guys done at the next level?  They get these big guys (Ron Dayne, John Clay, Montee Ball, etc.) who are very limited in what they can do at the next level.  Obviously, the jury's still out on Ball, who's returning to Wisconsin.  They have done a good job of producing at the college level, but generally they haven't been highly sought after NFL prospects.

True Blue Grit

March 18th, 2012 at 4:46 PM ^

It isn't critical for a RB to have great speed.   Look at Mike Hart, among many other examples. What IS very important are running instincts, vision of the field, balance, ability to shake-off tackles, an explosive first step or two off the snap, and ability to hold onto the ball.  If Smith can do most or all of these things well, I'll take him in a second.  


March 18th, 2012 at 10:01 PM ^

Top-end speed is nice, but it plays a major factor in only a small percentage of runs unless a team runs an Oregon-type open field system. Michael Bennett was (literally) a track star in Wisconsin's RB-friendly system but against top opponents like Michigan his speed never came into play.

Other successful RBs with surprisingly unimpressive top-end speed: Emmitt Smith, Terrell Davis... and Barry Sanders. Barry probably lost 10-20 career TDs getting caught from behind, and he's a first ballot HOF.


March 18th, 2012 at 1:25 PM ^

I suspect we will see a lot more photos like the first one in this post... with a dude wearing scarlet and grey on the ground in his wake. Go Blue!


March 18th, 2012 at 1:39 PM ^

you dont have to have break away speed. just get the tough yards and 1st downs. make the d respect the run. the homerun threats are needed for the spread.


March 18th, 2012 at 1:55 PM ^

Actually his 89 on 247 is the highest possible 3* as 90 is a 4*, so he is not a "middling three star".

Another  quote that is a bit misleading:  "Michigan has a pair of four star backs in this class".  While Shallman is a 4* - and will be an asset - no one rates him as a 4 * running back: Athlete on Rivals, FB/DE on both Scout and 247.  

turd ferguson

March 18th, 2012 at 5:04 PM ^

I was going to make the same point about Smith not being a "middling three star" on 247.  If by "middling" Ace means that three stars puts him in the center of the one-to-five star continuum, then "middling three star" is redundant.  If he means that Smith is in the middle of the three stars, then that's inaccurate.

I'm not crazy about the star system, but it's not for the reason that most people dislike it (that the services are wrong sometimes).  I just think there's an enormous talent gap between high three stars and low three stars, so these crude star ratings often don't provide enough information.


March 18th, 2012 at 1:48 PM ^

One of the 247 scouts said yesterday that Smith is likely to move into 4-star territory with the next update (he's already at 89, the highest 3-star score). Rivals will probably start him out at 3 stars when they get around to ranking him though.


March 18th, 2012 at 2:01 PM ^

The whole speed issue seems minor.  As long as you have the speed to hit a hole before the defense can react, that's enough speed.  I'd take Mike Hart any day of the week.  

If you want your RB to regularly get 40 yard gains, you teach him to catch and run routes.  

Charlie Chunk

March 18th, 2012 at 2:02 PM ^

Runs right through guys!  Protects the ball when he's on the run.  He sure knows how to use the "stiff arm." 

"Man ball" type of running back

Welcome aboard DeVeon!


March 18th, 2012 at 2:02 PM ^

Welcome DeVeon. May you have a great career and education experience.

On a side note, I was watching tv earlier and the program mentioned carpal tunnel syndrome. I thought of you, Ace.


March 18th, 2012 at 2:04 PM ^

Helmholdt is very stingy if he is wrong or right....he has seemed to be the only guy who saw absolutely nothing in Wormley. Not saying he is wrong, but when one guy is constantly holding out depsite stats saying other wise...I dunno I still think he tries to hard to not look like a "homer" for the other fan bases.


March 19th, 2012 at 10:02 AM ^

How would he be a homer?  He's been saying this stuff from early on, before Smith committed.  It's not like he just got around to talking about DeVeon Smith between Saturday and now.

Lots of high schoolers put up great stats.  I remember a guy when I was in high school who put up over 2,000 yards rushing his senior year...and he played D-II ball.  Stats don't tell the whole story.

ESPN and Rivals have yet to rank him; 247 Sports has him ranked as a 3-star.  Everyone seems to be latching onto the Scout rating and thinking that's the One Truth, simply because Scout rates him the highest.

People are allowed to disagree.  Time will tell who the best evaluator is.


March 18th, 2012 at 2:06 PM ^

The more I hear and read about this young man, the more that I like.  I think and hope that he and Jaron Stokes can be two bigger recruits whose upside continues to be realized by our coaching and conditioning staff.


March 18th, 2012 at 2:43 PM ^

Looks a lot like UCLA single-season TD record holder Skip Hicks.  If he can catch the ball out of the backfield it looks like he'll be a hell of a player.


March 18th, 2012 at 3:11 PM ^

Let me guess, OSU blogs won't count this as a head to head recruiting win for Hoke, since it's a running back who favors pro-style.  Then when OSU gets another running back with a UM offer, they'll count that as a win, even though we likely told them that we're not taking another running back.



March 18th, 2012 at 4:23 PM ^

I'm very confused about the idea of Toussaint (who has been getting pulled on 3rd downs) and Rawls being called 'every-down backs'.

Even if you assume that all three out of Hopkins, Shallman, and Houma are reduced to short-yardage or blocking roles, you still have Johnson, Hayes, and Norfleet.  Maybe Norfleet is a special-teamer, and Hayes is a 3rd down back...does Johnson just not count because he's so lowely ranked?  That'd be strange given that Rawls came in with a pretty low-profile too.

Personally, I'm not concerned about the position.  These guys all have different skill-sets and the coaches will find a way to have an effective run game with one or more of them, but I don't get the desire to classify everyone into specific categories.  It's getting a little ridiculous - pretty soon we're going to assign each guy to a specific down and distance.  So and so is our 2nd and 7 RB, so and so is our 1st down at the 40 yard-line guy, etc.



March 18th, 2012 at 10:00 PM ^

I would say the poster was trying to say he's not a fan of all the "situational backs."  Vincent smith is a receiving 3rd down back, it seems Shallman is going to be a bruising short yardage type of back, etc.  Within our stable, it seems like we could go further and start having ridiculous situational backs, like a specific 2nd and 7 back.  I'm not a real big fan of situational backs solely because that makes your offense more predictable.


March 18th, 2012 at 10:07 PM ^

In modern football gameplanning there are already specific packages of plays designed for third down. The playbook looks entirely different for both teams, and the coaches have broken down specifically what a team does on that down. The utility of a third-down back is that he does more of the things a RB needs to do on passing third down situations, while still being able to run the "surprise" draw play occasionally.

The alternative is only to bring him in when you want to throw a screen or run him in a route, which would give away the play. So you bring him in every third down that's not 1 yard or less.

I'm not actually a big fan of this idea either, but I do understand the need. Here in Minnesota Adrian Peterson gets pulled on third downs and people are forced to agree with the choice because of how awful he is at things like passblocking.


March 18th, 2012 at 10:18 PM ^

I agree with you, and I understand.  It's just like when you bring out a 5 WR set, you're probably passing the ball.  But I like the idea of a single running back, because it takes away from any potential predictability.

It's just like having Denard as your QB for a 5 wide set.  Takes away from the predictability of the pass, because Denard can break it loose if there's any hesitiation.


March 18th, 2012 at 11:43 PM ^

I wasn't really looking to debate the value of situational subs vs an every-down back. I think it depends on your personnel at the time - not a decision you generally make in advance.  My point was moreso that it is rather silly to assign specific roles like this for individual recruits.

For all these RBs - we don't know.  Johnson could be the 'every-down back' or so could Shallman.  Norfleet could get 20 carries a game too - smaller backs have repeatedly proven to be more resilient and useful than expectated.  There's too much uncertainty in recruiting to try to lock everyone into a very specific situational role.  Too many recruits don't pan out. 

I realize it's the nature of the 'prediction based on flimsy evidence' to some extent, but the notion that there's only 2 guys ahead of Smith seems disingenuous when there's going to be 9 backs spread between 4 classes...at least. Anyone of them could feasible become the lead back - including Houma, whose highlight tape, to my amateur eyes, makes him look just as impressive/tough as Smith (though obviously their offers and profiles don't compare).


March 19th, 2012 at 1:43 AM ^

I understand what you're getting at with the "assign specific roles for recruits" idea. Mike Hart would be a classic example of a guy who was surprisingly suited for the every-down role when a look at his incoming profile would suggest third-down back type.  

I think projections like this are more relevant for fringe recruits, and then only as a useful way of projecting "what this guy will actually do on the team." D Johnson is my key example here, a guy who isn't rated highly but is fast and who Ann Arborites are interested in due to his local roots.  You don't need to ask the "will he play on third down?" question with Ty Isaac, but when you're dreaming of what a quick local kid will do in a few years in college, you try to project optimism by finding a specific role he can fill without being a dominant athlete.

At least, that's my .02