University of Michigan head football coach Brady Hoke has put the Wolverines in prime position to land two of the nation's best prospects in 5-star running back Derrick Green (Richmond, Va.) and potential 5-star wide receiver Laquon Treadwell (Crete, Ill.), but with 23 verbal commits in their 2013 recruiting class, will there be enough room for both of the rising high school seniors?
Before Michigan's standing with Green skyrocketed the last weekend in July when the nation's No. 1 running back made a visit to Ann Arbor for the Barbecue at the Big House recruitment event, the Wolverines staff planned on signing 24 recruits, with the final spot being reserved for Treadwell until he says he is no longer interested in playing for Coach Hoke.
Over the past couple weeks, though, things have changed significantly in terms of how many prospects the Wolverines can actually take in February.
Rising junior cornerback Terrence Talbot left the program July 26, likely because of depth chart-related issues, and Frank Clark's status with the team is up in the air at this point due to a felony home invasion charge. Clark is accused of stealing a laptop from a campus dorm, waived his preliminary hearing Thursday afternoon and will be back in court on Sept. 11.
Until Clark's trial concludes, his status with the team will remain a mystery. The only comments Coach Hoke has made about Clark's suspension is that it will be addressed at a later date.
"It's a growing and educational process guys go through," Hoke told the Detroit Free Press. "They're paying the price for it because there's consequences."
All of this, along with the possibility for more natural attrition (i.e. injuries, academic problems, non-renewed fifth seasons of eligibility, disciplinary, etc.), likely means the Wolverines can sign 25 prospects without oversigning, or asking a current member of their class to take a grayshirt, which is not something Hoke and his staff would do to sign a highly coveted prospect.
Hoke is not Nick Saban, Les Miles or any of the other coaches around the country who accepts as many verbal commitments as they can and offers lesser-rated commits grayshirts to give a scholarship to another 5-star recruit. The Big Ten handles recruiting a lot differently than the Southeastern Conference, and that's something in which fans of the conference should take great pride.
"In no order they are Tennessee, Michigan, Virginia Tech, Auburn, Ole Miss and Oregon," the Hermitage High School star said. "Oregon is my wildcard team. I've never been out there but I want to keep them in the mix."
The nation's No. 12 overall prospect will now turn his attention toward getting ready for his senior season of high school football and hopes to narrow his list to three schools "sometime soon," if he can.
Michigan is more than in the hunt for the 6'0", 220-pounder with sub-4.40 second speed in the 40-yard dash, and Farrell believes the Wolverines are the team to beat for Green's signature on national signing day.
"Still feel very good about Michigan with Green, Auburn is my guess at No. 2 still," Farrell tweeted on Thursday.
Green wants to take his time with the process to be sure he makes the best decision for him and his family, which means his recruitment will probably drag out until it gets closer to national signing day in February—leaving the Michigan coaching staff with plenty of time to figure out the scholarship situation.
If there is only one scholarship left to give, Michigan will hold it for Treadwell until he eliminates the Wolverines from his shortlist of schools, which is highly unlikely given the fact that he has close bonds with several of Michigan's current commits and has made it clear they are his outright leader on multiple occasions.
Although the Wolverines' last two classes have lacked a running back with the prototypical pro-style build (in addition to top-end speed like Green has), Michigan has proven in the past that it can win without the biggest or fastest running backs, as long as it fields a talented offensive line. The staff is setting themselves up for just that, with 10 offensive linemen prospects in their last two classes and a game-changer at wide receiver.
If Treadwell can live up to all of his press clippings,—and you always have to say "if" as a result of numerous cautionary tales about highly ranked recruits who do not pan out at the college level—he would be like former Michigan All-American wideouts Braylon Edwards, Marquise Walker and David Terrell in Al Borges' pro-style offense.
Michigan would love to be able to reel in both Green and Treadwell, but if the Wolverines can only take one of them, then the nation's No. 5-ranked wide receiver and No. 39 overall prospect will be the one for whom Coach Hoke and his staff will save their final spot.
In other recruiting news, 4-star linebacker E.J. Levenberry (Woodbridge, Va.) created quite a rumbling among Wolverine fans Aug. 1 when the C.D. Hylton standout and current Florida State commit announced he would be making official visits to both Oklahoma and Michigan this fall.
Levenberry chose the Seminoles over the Wolverines back in April, which closed out Michigan's recruitment of linebackers for their 2013 class. Farrell talked to Levenberry's father on Aug. 1 and found out Michigan would not re-recruit the nation's No. 3-ranked outside linebacker.
"And just like that Michigan pulls out of the Levenberry race unless they lose a commit per levenberry's father," Farrell tweeted.
The staff also feels they already are set at the linebacker position with true freshman Joe Bolden looking like he could be an All-Big Ten middle linebacker sooner rather than later and a combined four 4-star linebackers in their 2012 and 2013 classes.
Finally, rising junior linebacker and Ohio native Michael Ferns (Saint Clairsville, Ohio) enjoyed visiting Ann Arbor with his family this past weekend and also informed Tim Sullivan of TheWolverine.com that Michigan is out in front for his services at the moment. Ferns also said he is shutting down his recruitment for the time being.
Stay tuned for more updates on these prospects in the coming weeks.
Zach Dirlam is the former lead editor of the college basketball section as well as Big Ten columnist for the FOX Sports/MSN/YardBarker affiliate website Sports at Work. Check out his blog, Dirlam's Dirty Dugout Sports Blog, which features this story, along with other articles and video reports on major sports.
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