TomVH: 2012 Recruiting: Running Backs

Submitted by TomVH on February 23rd, 2011 at 2:51 PM

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."

Keith MarshallOne 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. 

Greg GarmonTo 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. 



February 23rd, 2011 at 3:24 PM ^

I know, its a great change of pace, huh? Not that there's anything wrong with some of the current players we have already on the team but it would nice if we continue this trend and stay away from the lower rated guys with a majority of MAC offers. I've never heard of that Garmon kid, his highlights tape is pretty sick, though, I'm not really seeing the Reggie Bush comparision but his size and speed combo is intriguing!


February 23rd, 2011 at 6:13 PM ^

oh yea because Dee Hart, Kris Frost, Avery Walls, Wayne Lyons, Anthony Zettel, Blake Countess, Justice Hayes are all lower rated guys with a majority of MAC offers.... most of these guys would be here right now if RR was still here. So lets cut the bullshit about the lower rated 'sleepers' with MAC offers and notice that RR was set to pull in some major recruits


February 23rd, 2011 at 7:31 PM ^

you felt like this was a direct attack on RR.

However. It's true he went after a lot of players who were labeled sleepers who had offer sheets filled with the likes of BE and MAC teams. I'm not saying he only went after these lower rated players, but he went after quite of few of them. He definitely went after some bigger names as well, but they were not the majority.

Hoke is going after all big names. If you don't like the fact he's thinking big and going after highly rated guys, maybe you need to look for a different team to root for. 




February 23rd, 2011 at 7:29 PM ^

I think he meant as a guy who can be a home run threat both from the backfield and lining up as a wide receiver. I like Garmon a lot, however, having just watched Roberts and read what people have had to say about him, I think he would be an excellent fit here both as a talent and as a person. Keith Marshall would obviously be great since he is seen as the best RB and seems to be a good kid, but with all his offers, I see him as a stretch. We'll see. Like most of the players we've offered at each position. I'd be happy with anyone at the position, though I do have my favorites.

True Blue Grit

February 23rd, 2011 at 3:14 PM ^

Since Mike Hart left, we have missed having a dominant, 1000 yard RB.  Michigan MUST find better talent at this position.  I like the two guys we signed this year, but I don't have as much confidence in the RB's on the roster now.  Outside of maybe Hopkins, no one really has stepped up to show they can be a factor game in and game out.  Hopefully, Michigan can bag a couple of the guys Tom detailed above.  I really like Marshall.  At least he hasn't commited to some other school yet.  And you can't coach speed - which he has a ton of.  The kid from Norman, Roberts sounds like a Michigan kind of back too.


February 23rd, 2011 at 4:05 PM ^

He hasn't.  Hopkins as the front-runner for the starting job is wishful thinking by people who yearn for the days of yore.

I'm not saying Hopkins sucks, but for a kid who gained 37 yards last year - and very few of them on impressive runs - it amazes me how many people are on the Hopkins bandwagon.  There are two or three guys better than Hopkins on the roster.


February 23rd, 2011 at 5:32 PM ^

Yeah 9 yards a carry against terrible teams. You ripped on Vincent Smith before last year too because most of his yards came against Baby Seal U. Cox is never going to see the field if he can't learn the playbook and continues to go the wrong direction on play fakes and blocking plays. The dude is lost when he's on the field.


February 23rd, 2011 at 5:44 PM ^

Nine yards a carry against terrible teams, huh?  Maybe.  And yet in his three games against terrible teams, he's averaged 15.5 yards a carry, 7.5 yards a carry, and 9.3 yards a carry.  Even if those defenses are only two-thirds as effective as a Big Ten defense, that's still 6 yards a pop.  Even if those defenses are only one-half as effective as a Big Ten defense, that's still . . . just as good or better than Michigan's starter last year.


February 23rd, 2011 at 7:41 PM ^

If he was going for 9.3 ypc in practice against Michigan's terrible defense he'd be starting. If he was averaging 6 he'd probably be in the rotation. It's like you think the coaches don't know Cox had some nice runs against the 183rd and 239th best teams in the country*.

*not counting DII, DIII, JUCO and NAIA programs.


February 23rd, 2011 at 11:11 PM ^

If he rushes for 20 a carry against that competition his performances in practice should still be given more weight. With Michigan's O line half of mgoblog could get 4 per against EMU and Delaware State. Those teams aren't compelling measuring sticks.

I am generally skeptical of "gamers", but to the extent they exist, I believe they present themselves in pressure situations not glorified scrimmages. I never played football, but I was second string playing a sport in college and the coaches wouldn't take notice when our unit soundly beat its overmatched opponents, but I can tell you they definitely noticed in practice when we challenged and took down the first teamers. And we knew it. Every time we beat the first stringers the coach would look terribly upset (he remained quite confident his original selection was optimal).  So my athletic life became a pursuit in sustaining my coach's misery to the point where he could no longer excluding me. That is Cox's task. He has opportunities, if not every day, at least every week in practice to impress the coaches. The coaches obviously don't put much stock in games against baby seals so practices are the pressure situations for him.


February 23rd, 2011 at 11:27 PM ^

Well, I guess I'm a different animal.  If I see a kid getting big yardage just about every time he gets the ball - no matter who it's against - he's going to get more reps.

Remember that autistic kid several years ago who got in his only varsity game ever and hit like 6 three-pointers?  I think that was toward the end of the season.  But if that happened in the first few games, I'm definitely putting him in there again soon.  I don't care if he's autistic.  I don't care if he looked bad in practice.  The kid hit 6 three-pointers (or however many it was) in a game situation.  Maybe it never happens again and maybe he sucks and goes 0-for-whatever until you yank him for good.  But if my 300-pound defensive tackle or my team manager or my backup left guard picks up 9 yards and then 9 yards and then 9 yards and then 9 yards...well...he's not a DT or a manager or a guard anymore.  The dude's a running back.

I'm not sure that I believe in gamers, either.  I mean, you have to think that the more talented kids are going to be the best guys at the end of the day.  But Kurt Warner didn't become Kurt Warner just by having good practices.  He got a chance to get on the field, showed his stuff, and then became a potential HOF quarterback.  I know that's a different situation because Trent Green got hurt, Warner was his backup, Warner was playing against good and bad competition, etc.  But when the games started, Dick Vermeil had no clue that Warner was going to be a superstar.  Warner showed it on Sundays, so he got more chances.

(Keep in mind that I'm not saying Cox is a potential Hall of Famer like Kurt Warner.  I'm just making an analogy.)


February 23rd, 2011 at 5:06 PM ^

...that Michael Cox's YPC has been against weaker competition, but I still am anxious to see what he can do in Borges' offense.  IIRC, the knock on him was that he did not get the offense.  It would not surprise me one bit if he is #1 on the depth chart come September 3rd, as I could definitely see him flourishing from the I formation. 


February 23rd, 2011 at 5:19 PM ^

Are HS RBs taught to carry the ball in their outside hand anymore?  A lot of players (Rawls and Roberts specifically, but there are others) are carrying the ball in the same hand exclusively, and it bugs the crap out of me.  One of the announcers, I believe in the bowl game, referred to Denard as a right-handed ball carrier and I remember thinking, "What the hell?"  I can recall times that Denard put the ball on the ground because of this, and some analysts have said that was part of Adrian Peterson's fumbling problems in the NFL.  Do HS coaches care about that stuff anymore, or do they just let the RBs who are dominant carry the ball however they want?  Thanks.


February 23rd, 2011 at 5:37 PM ^

Well, a couple things...

a) As coaches we do harp on it.  However, it's tough in high school to work on stuff like that.  It's a very instinctual thing to decide which hand to carry the ball in.  You can work on it over and over in practice, but when the Friday night lights are on, instincts kick in.

b) I'm not sure what announcer you're talking about, but Denard carries the ball way too often in his LEFT hand.  It's always befuddled me because he's a right-handed thrower, and usually players carry the ball too much in their dominant hand.  But I think if you look back at all of his fumbles, you'll probably find that most of them came when he was carrying the ball in his left hand, including the one down in the red zone against Ohio State or Wisconsin (I can't remember which).


February 23rd, 2011 at 6:44 PM ^

No Greg Mattison is a defensive coordinator and Fred Jackson is a running backs coach so yes, they are coaches. To me, if you were a coach then you would be one of RB's, Secondary, DL, D Coord, O Coord, WR's, QB's, OL, and any other position. Varsity assistant isn't any of those, when I think VA I think coaches bitch. But whatever makes you feel better about yourself.


February 23rd, 2011 at 10:14 PM ^

So you think that because I said I'm a "varsity assistant" that means I don't coach a position?  I'm sorry I didn't give my full job description.  Most people would understand what a varsity assistant coach is.  I don't think you lack intelligence, but I'm not sure why you're being ignorant about this in particular.

Frankly, I don't care what you say.  If you don't like what I have to say, you're not going to like what I have to say.  It doesn't matter if I coach Pee Wee or if I'm an 8th grade coach or if I'm a varsity offensive coordinator.  But don't pretend that you have any clue what I do on a daily basis.

For all I know, you're Urban Meyer.  So I'm not going to pretend that you're completely ignorant about the sport of football.  You might be a complete genius.  But I'd appreciate it if you didn't make completely random and uninformed assumptions about me, either.


February 23rd, 2011 at 11:05 PM ^

But you directly told me on your blog you were a varsity assistant, so I got my random uninformed assumptions about you from you! If thats not what you are I wouldn't know because again, it came from your mouth. So, I would appreciate it if you didn't make uninformed assumptions about me making uninformed assumptions about you, then were all good.


February 23rd, 2011 at 11:12 PM ^

Is there some other kind of "varsity assistant" that I don't know about?  You asked what kind of coach I am, and I said "varsity assistant."

That's pretty straight forward.  I mean, I suppose I could have said "I'm a high school varsity American football assistant coach."  That seems repetitively redundant, though.

Frank Drebin

February 24th, 2011 at 11:20 AM ^

Are you really trying to talk shit to a guy whose blog you read? If you don't like what he says on here, you really shouldn't be going to his blog. Sounds like you have a little Magnus envy. And who cares what he coaches. There are people on here who know more about football than many high school coaches know because they either played at one time, or just because they are intelligent. All you are doing is bashing someone who has a strong opinion, yet you aren't providing any significant insight into Michigan football yourself.


February 23rd, 2011 at 6:07 PM ^

...insight into the matter please feel free to provide input.  This was something I have taken notice of since I watch a lot of recruit highlight tapes , and as I stated earlier, it bugs me to see it happen.  I wondered just how much emphasis is placed on the small fundamental at the HS level.

Blue in Seattle

February 24th, 2011 at 3:51 PM ^

And his left arm was the inside arm to the field and he didn't bring both arms over the ball on first contact.

While I am a fan of the Rodriguez offensive scheme, I thought that Denard being the only star running back was taking too big a risk, both in the short term and the long term for Denard.

My wild guess is that Denard's right shoulder was sore for the last half of the season and he probably felt he had a better grip in his left hand.

An interesting parallel, when Steve Smith was the QB for Bo he tried to switch down to QB shoulder pads, instead of the Tail Back pads that Bo forced his QB's to wear.  Not sure if any of these blogsters remember those days of Bo running the QB Option, but his QB's used to do quite a bit of running, and when Rich Rodriguez brought that back I was excited for the return of the running QB.  If you have a copy of "If These Walls Could Talk" check out page 83.  Steve Smith got Jon Falk to give him the lighter shoulder pads to help improve his throwing, but it only took Bo 5 minutes to detect the change and put his QB back in the heavier pads for better protection.

I think that most of the people that want to see Denard run just don't realize how hard it is to throw the ball after your shoulders have been pounded on from being tackled multiple times.

The fact that Michigan hasn't had a dominant running back besides Denard really limited what could have been last year.

I think everyone realized it, and I certainly don't know what could have been different.  But Denard ran the ball too much, and it hurt his ability to throw and hang onto the ball.  Those turnovers after compiling a lot of yardage statistics didn't hurt the Offensive FEI, but they sure did hurt the score.



February 24th, 2011 at 4:18 PM ^

I agree with most of what you said.

However, carrying the ball in the left hand was a problem for Denard since he got to Michigan.  You don't have to look any further than his first play against WMU as a freshman in 2009.  He fumbles the snap, picks it up, runs right and tucks the ball in his left arm all the way to the endzone.  He also had a fumble against Iowa (IIRC) in 2009 when he carried the ball in his left hand.

I don't think it had anything to do with his bum shoulder.  That's just what he does.  Go to 1:45 of his high school highlight film - running to the right, he has the ball in his left hand.