Michigan Football: Will Taylor Lewan's Return Influence 5-Star RB's Decision?

Adam JacobiBig Ten Football Lead WriterJanuary 14, 2013

Nov 3, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA: Michigan Wolverines offensive linesman Taylor Lewan (77) makes a block in the second half against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at TCF Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Say what you will about the recruiting race in the Big Ten, but in terms of affecting a team's title hopes in 2013, the Michigan Wolverines pulled off the biggest recruiting heist in the nation when Taylor Lewan decided to come back for his senior year. How many other teams can say they added an immediately All-American caliber tackle to their expected 2013 roster?

Of course, recruiting is a longer game than just what happens in the first season of the recruits' collegiate career, and most recruits won't even play a down in their very first year on campus. So in terms of the guys actually putting pen to paper to commit to schools—Michigan included—these signings are more about 2016 and 2017 than 2013.

Still, Lewan's return is enormous for Michigan, and it's especially so for anyone who's going to be a direct beneficiary of his return by carrying the ball behind him. Devin Gardner's going to be kept more upright as a result of Lewan's return, and whoever makes up Michigan's rotation at tailback will likely rush for more yards now that Lewan's back than if the Wolverines were forced to go with an inexperienced left tackle.

Uncommitted tailback Derrick Green, a 5-star prospect out of Richmond, Virginia, could very well be one of those beneficiaries. Green is down to Michigan, Tennessee and Auburn for his choice of colleges to attend, and Michigan's a strong contender to land his services.

Green could very well play as a true freshman, especially if Fitz Toussaint is slow to recover from a major leg injury suffered against Iowa near the end of the 2012 season. Michigan is rather light in the backfield behind Toussaint, with bruiser Thomas Rawls and sophomore Justice Hayes being the only other Wolverines to return who played meaningful minutes at RB in 2012 (Drake Johnson, a middling recruit from the 2012 class, redshirted last year).

We do know Green is looking forward to playing as a true freshman; he told the Detroit Free Press that the prospect of doing so is one of the reasons he's considering Michigan as a destination. He would have a major chance to succeed right away, and his combination of size (6'0", 220 pounds) and speed (a slightly dubious 4.36 40-yard dash) means he's physically ready to carry a collegiate workload on the ground.

That being said, Green's got a four-year career at Michigan to be concerned about, so if offensive linemen are what will drive him to commit to the Wolverines (and for a tailback, that is very smart logic), it's going to be less about Taylor Lewan and more about the linemen in this class and 2012. 

In that class and this, Michigan is investing heavily in its offensive line, which promises good tidings for Green and any other running back who will eventually make his way to Ann Arbor. Kyle Kalis is the crown jewel of the 2012 class, a 5-star lineman who was under consideration for immediate playing time before eventually redshirting. Michigan added three other offensive linemen in the 2012 class, all of them being 4-star prospects according to Rivals.com.

But Brady Hoke was only getting started. Hoke boasts seven offensive line commitments for the 2013 class, with five earning four stars from Rivals.com and two already enrolled in school. Assuming no late movement from anyone involved, that's 11 offensive linemen within a year of Green in eligibility, and Hoke's almost certainly going to be able to craft a strong front five for Green from that group alone.

So yes, it's possible Taylor Lewan's return will bring Derrick Green to Ann Arbor. However, it's more likely that Green's fellow 2013 classmates will do so, because they're the ones who would be plowing the way for him as his career progresses.