Michigan Football: Coach’s Corner — Two Mules For Brother Hoke, Brother Borges, and Brother Jackson — With a Great Assist by Coach Montgomery
“What a horse!” is an expression heard often on the football field when seeing a stud athlete. Such players are often fast and far ahead of the competition. A mule may not be as fast or as flashy as a horse, but a mule is strong, emphasize the word strong, works overtime, and can be a pain for the opposition.
The Michigan coaching staff received great news on Saturday with the commitment of running back Derrick Green of Richmond, Virginia. Somewhat forgotten in the giddiness is the previous commitment of another strong mule, DeVeon Smith. That makes it two mules for the Michigan running stable.
Before progressing, GBMWolverine offers a shout out to the solid and persistent recruiting effort of the coaching members mentioned in the title. To what extent each coach had an effect on Green’s final decision may be irrelevant. Collectively, the staff showed Green that Michigan is a first-rate destination. Coaches Hoke and Jackson were mentioned by name, and the in home by coaches Montgomery and Jackson must have verified to young Mr. Green that he would be working with solid professionals.
Clearly, both Green and Smith saw opportunity and a great place to spend four years of college life.
So, what are some comparison points for the two mules that plan on plowing the field behind the future ox crew of big, talented offensive linemen Michigan has collected in the last two classes? Below is a short synopsis, so follow on to completion.
First off, there may be more similarities than differences, and that may not be a bad thing. Michigan clearly wants to plow the road, Wisconsin style, in the modified West Coast offense of alchemist Al Borges.
Both backs are around 5’11 and weigh between 210-220 pounds. That number may go up in future years, although the staff will certainly want to keep the new backs in premium running condition. This is a better situation than trying to take a 5’ 8” back and put 40 pounds of muscle onto a frame.
Both Smith and Green are very hard to arm tackle, or even tackle with one defender. At this skill, the two may be among the best in the nation. These guys are truly mules if a defense does not get leverage and lets the runners get two or three yards downfield before contact. Like Mike Hart, Green and Smith will depend on the line to get two or three yards and then get two or three more on their own accord.
In that vein, it is not a stretch to say that both backs are physically ready for college. Yes, indeed, both will be in the weight room working on strength and position dependent skills. But compared to the typical back entering a program, both are far ahead in the package of strength and size.
Smith and Green may make the most noise between the tackles; however, going outside is not out of the question. Think of Nebraska’s Rex Burkhead, a back no one will say has blazing speed, but given a decent convoy of destroyers, Burkhead caused damage in the tight end alley or on the stretch. Green presently presents the most potential for making yardage outside with his speed advantage. But observers must remember that Smith is excellent at reading holes, blocks, and making instinctive cuts.
Speed wise, some sites have bashed Smith a little. But against good competition in Ohio he frequently cleared 2nd level defenders and was off to the races. Neither back is going to hang in with Denard Robinson on a forty-yard dash. But tales of slowness may be greatly exaggerated. Smith has taken offense to such criticism and has stated he has worked on and improved his speed. Green has reported a 4.4 time, which is scary for a guy pulling a big choo-choo. Both backs have received improvement notices for breakaway speed on major sites.
Now keep in mind Mike Hart came to Michigan probably running a 4.65 forty, but he was a football player. In the first article written about Mike Hart for GBMWolverine, the author predicted that Mike Hart would break few 50-yard runs, but tons of five and ten yard runs. Green and Smith may not break plenty of Denard Robinson dashes of 50 or more yards, but get them to the second level untouched and the chains will move, and move again. The key is getting them to the second level with great blocking. Few backs that are power runners break long runs in college ball today, the defensive players are simply too fast. The backs that break the 80-yard blowouts are spread backs like Percy Harvin and Oregon backs. Every good back breaks one now and then, but with the defense Michigan is building, moving the chains and being in control is an old-fashioned (but highly effective) formula to winning football.
Smith and Green are both in the too be determined category when discussing the ability to catch passes out of the backfield. In their high school offenses, such an option was not needed and riskier than giving either the ball to pound in for easy touchdowns.
There are traits that are very difficult to teach and some backs seem to have these traits and some do not. Even with years of practice there may not be improvement. The collective group of traits mentioned above involves seeing the hole, reading the block, and making cuts. These to some degree are instinctive and feel skills and again are taught by coaches but never mastered by many backs. These skills are sometimes referred to as vision, but vision alone fails to explain the differences in this skill set between backs. Mike Hart was exceptional at these skills, from day one. He could squeeze, go sideways, and contort himself into a five-yard gain that should have yielded one yard for a normal back.
DeVeon Smith is at least very good in the collective traits described above. To some degree, he merits comparison with Mike Hart’s ability to find and get through a hole with high skill. Green is at least good at these skills, but it is probably a fair assessment to state Smith is ahead. Both have good feet and balance.
Mules are great; they may not have the glamor of the thoroughbred, look as pretty, or gather the attention. But mules will work and work and not be affected by the extra load. Indeed mules are what Michigan needs to improve on offense. Using these guys on play action may yield desirable results when the Wolverines pass.
Mules are said to eat more then horses, a fact not verified by the author. But so do offensive linemen.
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Written by GBMWolverine Staff — Doc4Blu
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