Five-star running back Sony Michel could end up being the marquee recruit for head coach Brian Kelly and Notre Dame in 2014, but Georgia, Miami, Florida, Florida State and North Carolina may have something to say about that.
In fact, according to the 247Sports Crystal Ball feature, it will be the Bulldogs who will have something to say about that. Eight experts predicted where Michel will land, and all eight picked Georgia.
These are just predictions, but it's tough to reject the predictions of noted recruiting analysts like JC Shurburtt, Keith Niebuhr, Gerry Hamilton and Barton Simmons (all of 247Sports).
But don't count out Miami as the sleeper in this race. Fort Lauderdale is only about 45 minutes away from Coral Gables, and Michel has taken a plethora of unofficial visits to Miami. Considering the Hurricanes' momentum right now on the 2014 recruiting trail, it would be naive not to see them as an option to land the running back. Florida, Florida State and North Carolina are also listed as "warm interest" on his 247Sports interest list, so keep them in mind as well.
All that said, the consensus amongst the experts is Georgia, and it's hard to deny what they see with the Bulldogs in regard to how Michel would fit the program. Head coach Mark Richt's program has become known for producing some great running backs in the past.
Currently, the Bulldogs boast two elite backs in sophomores Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, but Georgia has also been home to running backs like Knowshon Moreno, Garrison Hearst and some guy named Herschel Walker.
That's good company to be in if you're an aspiring star running back like Michel.
While it may look like Michel would be stuck on a depth chart behind Gurley, Marshall and 2013 4-star running back A.J. Turman, keep in mind that Coach Richt and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo have been good at utilizing multiple backs and allowing each one to be very effective.
In 2012, Gurley received 222 carries, and ran for 1,385 yards and 17 touchdowns, averaging 6.2 yards a touch. He was the main option, but Marshall notched 117 carries himself, to the tune of 759 yards and eight touchdowns. Recent transfer Malcome even got in the mix, running for 272 yards and two touchdowns on 57 carries.
Michel is more than talented enough to compete with Turman to be the No. 3 behind Gurley and Marshall right away, and he could take over as the main option once both star backs move on.
That's not to say that the Fighting Irish don't share carries, because they certainly do. Last season Theo Riddick received 190 carries, Cierre Wood notched 114 and George Atkinson III ran 51 times. There appears to be a bit more opportunity at Georgia when compared to Notre Dame.
The Fighting Irish signed two big-time running backs last year in 4-star Tarean Folston and Greg Bryant, and they'll be added to a group that already features Atkinson III, Cam McDaniel, Amir Carlisle (currently injured) and redshirt freshman Will Mahone.
Notre Dame will be fine at running back, and frankly, the Fighting Irish don't need Michel. Would he be a huge pickup and a big-time luxury for Coach Kelly and his staff? Certainly. That said, the fact that Georgia appears to be the favorite to land Michel shouldn't be that disappointing for Fighting Irish fans. I personally have confidence in the talents of Folston and Bryant, and Notre Dame fans should look forward to the future of the running back position with those two in the backfield.
The final factors to consider in Georgia's favor are the proximity advantage (Michel is from Fort Lauderdale) and the dominant nature of the SEC—both in recruiting and on the field. Notre Dame is certainly far away from Fort Lauderdale, and the chance to compete and even win the SEC crown in the next few seasons is certainly a possibility at Georgia.
It looks like the odds are against Notre Dame. Is it possible for the Fighting Irish to prove the experts wrong? Yes, without a doubt.
Is it probable though?
I'll let you discuss that below, but I think I've made my answer to that question rather clear.
Note: Michel will announce his decision (Derek Tyson/ESPN) this Friday, April 26, at 4:30 p.m. EST on ESPNU.