RB Recruiting - Does it really matter?

Submitted by Mr. Rager on May 8th, 2012 at 11:02 AM

As we (potentially) gear towards a Ty Isaac decision - I began to wonder if landing him is as big of a deal as we all make it out to be.

No question his film is unreal - kid gets into an open space and he's gone.  There is also no question that Joliet, IL doesn't provide the stiffest competition, either.  

Anyway, I wanted to bring this topic up because of our history with RB recruiting and how the results have deviated from the expected return.  Let's take a look at the 4+ star RB commits (per Rivals) we have received from 2002-2011:

Darnell Hood (2002), Pierre Rembert (2002), Jerome Jackson (2003), Max Martin (2004), Kevin Grady (5 stars) (2005), Carlos Brown (2006), Brandon Minor (2006), Sam McGuffie (2008), Mike Shaw (2008), Fitzgerald Toussaint (2009), and Justice Hayes (2011).

That is an odd mix of guys that never did anything (e.g., Hood, Rembert), guys who severely disappointed for some reason (Grady, McGuffie), and one guy that became a significant contributor (Fitz).  

You could argue "BUT MIKE HART WAS THERE" and thus there weren't a lot of opportunities for the 4 star guys, but that would just help my point.   You could also argue that at one point Brown and Minor were an effective tandem (they were, especially given our lack of talent at QB), but neither one of them lived up to 4-star billing in my opinion.

So, as the decision date for Isaac nears - please do not have one giant collective freak out if he chooses USC over us.  There are plenty of other examples of recent RBs we missed on, got angry about, and then saw their careers tarnish relatively quickly (think Dee Hart and Dillon Baxter for completely different reasons).  



May 8th, 2012 at 11:09 AM ^

If you're asking, "do star ratings matter for running backs," the answer is "yes"

If you're asking, "is it important to recruit good running backs," the answer is "holy sweet tapdancing jesus, yes"


May 8th, 2012 at 11:16 AM ^

than just about anyone, but I believe the correlations are lower for running backs than most other positions (someone at SB Nation (Bill C. maybe?) did a somewhat-but-not-incredibly scientific look at it).


May 8th, 2012 at 12:51 PM ^

It makes sense.  The highest-rated RB recruits tend to be big guys who physically matured early and were men among boys in high school.  Kevin Grady was a classic example.  In high school, he was a bull who couldn't be brought down.  In college, he didn't have the same physical edge and was a disappointment.


May 8th, 2012 at 1:18 PM ^

That's not why he was a disappointment.  He was a disappointment because he was either sitting behind Mike Hart, fumbling, blowing out his knee or drinking himself into bolivian before getting behind the wheel. 

The year Hart was hurt for a while and Grady stepped in, he actually played pretty well.  Then he blew out his knee and went from a fast 230 pounder to a not-so-fast 230 pounder, and his off the field problems only made it worse. 

But Grady wasn't a bust simply because he showed up to campus and wasn't as good as he was supposed to be. 


May 8th, 2012 at 4:15 PM ^

Grady was a 5-star recruit - supposedly one of the absolute best incoming players in the country.  At no point did he perform at that level.  His freshman season, when he filled in for Hart some of the time, he put up these numbers: 121 carries for 483 yards (4.0 avg.), 5 TDs.  Those aren't terrible numbers, but they're not 5-star numbers.



May 8th, 2012 at 6:12 PM ^

Being a 5-star player doesn not mean you're ready to play as a true frosh, it means you are expected to be great.  Do you know how many 5-star RBs don't run for 500 yards and 5 TDs as a true freshman?  Probably most.  Had he not had the problems with fumbling, injuries and booze, he was on track to be a 5-star type player, but the services don't rate based on those things.

Victor Hale II

May 8th, 2012 at 11:10 AM ^

I'd say ALL recruiting matters, period. But I do get your point about not going insane if we miss out on Ty. Any big time football program shouldn't rely on one single player to make or break it.


May 8th, 2012 at 11:31 AM ^

It seems to me the coaches are pushing for Ty first and foremost but if he chooses otherwise  they will turn up the heat on another high ranking recruit.  I would like to think with the O-line recruiting success that we can land another solid RB.


May 8th, 2012 at 1:19 PM ^

But with that logic, our O-line should have ensured that we could secure an elite QB prospect. One who can use all that time to find WRs with his cannon like arm, and use the extra time to help recruit... oh wait.

We have nothing to worry about: this O-line should ensure that any elite RBs and QBs will give us a good hard look. Sadly, that one extra degree of separation to the WR is currently seeming to be problematic.

Mr. Rager

May 8th, 2012 at 11:27 AM ^

You cannot be serious, can you?

Minor is severely hampered by playing on bad teams / being injured, but those are still factors into his overall success.  Toussaint just gave us the best season a RB has put together for the M&B since Mike Hart.  If you disagree, please feel free to share your opinion as to why I am wrong.  


May 8th, 2012 at 12:14 PM ^

Did you read what I just wrote?  I said I can understand that you are working more from stats than what I call intangibles.  In my opinion, I'd say Minor was just as important (if not more) due to his presence on the team as well has his Minor Rage ability.  He was a vocal leader of a team that desperately needed just that.  That is as important as 1000 yards, if you ask me.  Also, the fact that Minor was picked up in the NFL is a testiment to his contributions at Michigan.


May 8th, 2012 at 12:29 PM ^

Because Minor was a backup and hampered by injuries, he didn't get a ton of carries.  The total number of carries he got was the equivalent of some premier running back's single season.  If he did the following all in one year, we would perhaps be talking about one of the best single seasons in Michigan history:

331 carries, 1658 yards (5.0 yards per carry), and 20 touchdowns.

If you say he didn't live up to 4-star billing, then I would like to know what you expect of 3-stars...because those are certainly better numbers (whether for a season or career) than I expect from an average 3-star running back.


May 8th, 2012 at 12:59 PM ^

Well, that's one way of looking at it.  The other way is to note that Minor played four seasons and never rushed for more than 533 yards in a season. 

The "if he did the following in one year" hypothetical is pointless; he didn't.   A back who actually rushes for that many yards in a season has to be very durable, and Minor was not.  Durability is one of the factors for evaluating tailbacks, and in that measure he was lacking.



May 8th, 2012 at 1:12 PM ^

Nowhere in any explanation of ratings have I seen anything regarding "durability."  The fact that he was injury-prone says nothing about his talent, which is what the stars are meant to reflect. 

Was he a 4-star talent?  Yes. 

Was he 4-star durable? Trick question - it's irrelevant.

Hardware Sushi

May 8th, 2012 at 2:16 PM ^

I think the Area for Improvement in that player's case would be Preparation or Ability to Read Defenses. Does casing the joint parallel watching film? Using the cigarette case to block the security camera's view parallels a good cutback lane?

Knocking over a 7-11 is only a weakness if they get caught. If anything, I think that shows initiative haha.


May 8th, 2012 at 1:21 PM ^

Because if you're not on the field you're a 0* prospect. What the star rating is supposed to be is their value as a prospect.  If it was just their talent, nothing like skill level, or mentality (how many times have we heard "he plays tough, with attitude, etc), or yes, health would matter. How is a college ranking different than a pro draft ranking?  The Lions drafted a receiver who talent wise would have been a 1st round pick...if he was healthy.  Last year they drafted a D-lineman who talent-wise would have gone higher...but attitude-wise, didn't.  If it was all just talent then you'd have Olympians as your 5* recruits.  Whether a guy shows that he can stay healthy or not with his style of play is very relevant.


May 8th, 2012 at 2:46 PM ^

Not once have I heard an evaluator ding a recruit in the rankings because of his health.  And it's also not reflected in the definitions for each of the ranking categories.

I'm not saying it's irrelevant to being successful.  I'm saying it's irrelevant to the rankings.  There are several guys who missed a lot of time and are still highly ranked (Altee Tenpenny, Antwuan Davis, Reginald Carter).  Hell, Brandon Minor tore his ACL but was still the #1 fullback (to Rivals) and a 4-star recruit.


May 8th, 2012 at 4:31 PM ^

Being injury-prone can't possibly be irrelevant in football.  It's a huge deal, especially at a position like tailback where you have to be able to withstand a lot of punishment.  Minor couldn't.  He'd tantalize us with a nice game or two in September, and then the never-ending cycle of injuries would start.  He'd recover in time to have a good game against Purdue (he always seemed to save his best for them) and then get hurt again and miss all or most of the OSU game.   

I'm not saying being injury-prone was his fault.  It's probably not something you can work on.  But it's a weakness, just like being too small, too slow, etc, is.  Minor's bones and ligaments didn't hold up as well as other backs'.  That was a problem.  We could never count on him being able to last the season.   

Bottom line: the guy rushed for 238, 385, 533 and 502 yards in his four seasons.  I would expect more from a four-star player. 



May 8th, 2012 at 4:33 PM ^

#SMH.  You're not getting it.  I'm not saying it's irrelevant to football.  I'm saying it's irrelevant to the ratings.  Nowhere in the definition of 5-stars, 4-stars, 3-stars, etc. does it say anything about durability.  The definition is above.  It talks about impacting a team.  Was Minor an All-American candidate?  No, although if he put up those numbers over one season, he might have been in the running.  Was he a high major prospect?  Yes.  Did he make a significant impact on his team?  Yes.  Was he an NFL prospect?  Yes; although he wasn't drafted, he has bounced around the league as a practice squad player.  So he met 3/4 of the criteria for a 4-star player, and the only one he didn't meet (being All-America caliber) is impossible to expect of all 300-ish 4-stars.


May 8th, 2012 at 4:44 PM ^

Again you keep pushing the "if he put up those numbers in one season" argument.  This is a guy who couldn't last a full season of college football, so what is the point of making that argument?

We're going to have to agree to disagree here.  I know you have a soft spot in your heart for the guy.  Hey, I liked him too, but it was frustrating that we couldn't count on him being in the lineup more than a couple games in a row.  When we recruit a four-star back, I hope to see him eventually be a workhorse.  Minor's injury-prone body only allowed him to a part-time option.



May 8th, 2012 at 4:49 PM ^

You keep making the point that he was injury-prone, which is literally IRRELEVANT to the discussion.  And I'm using "literally" in the literal sense.  Injury-proneness has nothing to do with the discussion.  He played football and met the criteria set forth by the recruiting sites (or Rivals' definition, anyway), so even though his injuries knock him down a peg or two in your mind, your mind doesn't matter here.

The definition disagrees with you.  That's all that really needs to be said.


May 8th, 2012 at 4:45 PM ^

Let me phrase this a couple more ways just because I want to:

#1: This is not about what *you* or *I* think what a 4-star player should look like or do.  This is about the definition of 4-star recruits, which is provided by the recruiting sites themselves.  If he fits their definition (and he does), then he lived up to his billing as a 4-star recruit.  Just because you or I think a 4-star running back should rush for 1,000 yards or average 6.0 yards a carry doesn't mean that he failed to live up to that status.

#2: If we're talking about Rivals, there are usually 30-ish 5-stars.  Then there are about 300-ish 4-stars.  So if you say that Minor didn't live up to his 4-star status, then you're also saying he wasn't one of the best 330-340 players in the country in his class.  About 250 players get drafted each year.  So another way to phrase it might be "If the NFL went 9 or 10 rounds, would Minor have been drafted?"  I think he probably would have.  Obviously, that's pure conjecture, but it's another way to look at it.


May 8th, 2012 at 11:25 AM ^

Agree completely with this.  Minor has arguably proven more than Fitz has to this point, and I like Fitz.  Not sure it was Brandon's fault that guys like Shaw, Brown, and Grady were still getting starts and ample touches when all Minor did was gain yards and score TDs. Had he remained in a Carr or Hoke/Borges offense, he would have (IMO) been up there with the rest of the great backs in Michigan history. 

Of course injuries played some roll, but even when completely healthy he wasn't always given the "feature back" role - a decision that was highly questionable to a few of us at the time. 


May 8th, 2012 at 1:03 PM ^

Minor may have been underused, but how could he have possibly proven more than Toussaint?  Toussaint has rushed for 1,000 yards in a season.  Minor never came close.  In fact, Toussaint rushed for more yards last year than Minor did in his last two seasons combined - and Fitz was not the starter all season long, either.  Mike Shaw and Vincent Smith took away some of his carries early on.


May 8th, 2012 at 1:12 PM ^

IMO he had a larger body of work which you could reference.  More games against good teams where he showed he was a great back.  The problem was he would get a bunch of touches one game, and shine, and then not have the opportunity (b/c of injury or poor player utilization by coaches) for a month afterward.  Yes, Fitz has Minor blown away in terms of single season statistics, but that is to a large extent a credit to Hoke and Borges for identifying their best option at RB and sticking with it.  Had Minor had that support from RR, I don't think there is any doubt he would have a 1,000 yard season to show for it.  All of that said, I fully expect that Fitz will surpass Minor in my meaningless personal rankings of Michigan halfbacks this season. 


May 8th, 2012 at 5:37 PM ^

Was it his fault he got 2 carries for 35 yards in that Wisconsin game you're talking about? And no, he wasn't hurt - the TD came in the 4th quarter.  McGuffie was rushing for a paltry 2.4 ypc and even Grady got more touches....this is the epitome of one of RR's mistakes in personnel usage. 


S. Threet 9 89 9.9 58 0
 S. McGuffie 15 36 2.4 10 1
 B. Minor 2 35 17.5 34 1
 K. Grady 5 17 3.4 5 0
 C. Brown 1 0 0.0 0 0
 M. Odoms 1 0 0.0 0 0 0 

Not including cupcakes, Minor had 100 yard games v. PSU, Iowa, and ND on his resume.  Fitz has 100 yard games v. Nebraska and Ohio State.  Had Minor been given the carries he should have, I think we'd probably be talking a few more amazing games against good opponents. 


May 8th, 2012 at 5:57 PM ^

But now you're arguing something else entirely.  I'm not saying that he lacked ability, or that RR used him properly.  I just disagree with the assertion that he "proved" himself more than Toussaint did.  He spent too much time on the bench (whether from injuries or coach's decision) for that to be true.  Again, Toussaint gained more yards last year than Minor did in his final two seasons combined.  Minor gave us flashes here and there; Toussaint gave us pretty consistent production.




May 8th, 2012 at 6:24 PM ^

I mentioned previously that Minor has had more 100 yard games against top tier opponents which, to me (no problem if you disagree with this, it's subjective obviously) means he's more proven. But since you brought up the Wisconsin game, it made my ADHD self move away from our original discussion because that boxscore illustrates how good Brandon Minor could have been given the opportunity.  Pretty frustrating to think of that, nobody was hurt by the regime change as much as that young man. 

It's a very reasonable thing to say Fitz has had a better season than Minor ever did, I just wish we could have seen how great he could have been. 


May 8th, 2012 at 11:17 AM ^

Here's the definition of a 4-star.  Minor definitely fit the billing as a 4-star prospect.  While he wasn't an All-American, he was a starter at a high major school, made an impact at Michigan, and has bounced around practice squads in the NFL.

6.0-5.8 All-American Candidate; high-major prospect; considered one of the nation's top 300 prospects; deemed to have pro potential and ability to make an impact on college team


May 8th, 2012 at 12:27 PM ^

Minor was a very good back who, when (reasonably) healthy, lived up to his ranking. He was just injury-prone -- something you couldn't really predict when he was 18. Just bad luck there. Had he stayed healthy, he would have been gangbusters.


May 8th, 2012 at 12:37 PM ^

Obviously you can never predict who's going to be injury-prone and who's just had a bit of bad luck, BUT I will remind everyone that Minor tore his ACL in high school.  So injuries weren't anything new to him when he got to college...


May 8th, 2012 at 11:14 AM ^

If we only got one productive guy out of eleven 4-star or better recruits, then I would say that yes, it matters... the more RBs we recruit, the better the chances of scoring that apparently elusive productive guy.  Just following your logic.

But I agree that Isaac to USC, while extremely disapointing, will not be some kind of death blow to Michigan recruiting.


May 8th, 2012 at 11:12 AM ^

It matters, and it matters a lot.  A lot of guys didnt pan out and won't pan out, which is why we have to keep recruiting a lot of backs so we find the ones that do.


May 8th, 2012 at 11:13 AM ^

so I'd tend to think that yes, it does really matter.

In any case, we already know that lots of highly-touted recruits don't succeed at the collegiate level. But they tend to succeed in higher proportions than their less highly-touted counterparts.


May 8th, 2012 at 11:14 AM ^

I reserve the right to freak out if I so choose, it's a free country. 

But seriously, Isaac or no Isaac, Smith has verbal'd so I don't think he is as big a priority as a WR or DT at this point. I'd love him to go blue as I think a player of his ability and size could rack up big numbers in our offense.