Michael Hart, Jr.
Kevin Grady, So.
Jerome Jackson, Sr.
Mister Simpson, RS Fr.
High school: Heard County High School in Franklin, GA
Ratings: Rivals 4-star and #5 RB; Scout 4-star and #24 RB
Other notable offers: Auburn, Florida State, Georgia, South Carolina
Scoop: Brown arrived when the starting job was locked down by Michael Hart and probably should have redshirted as a freshman, when he contributed only 16 carries for 41 yards as the sixth-leading ground gainer. He made 12 starts over the next three years, several of which came when Michigan’s starters (Michael Hart, Brandon Minor) were injured. Brown led the team in rushing with 480 yards as a senior in 2009, despite missing several games due to injury. He finished his career with 201 carries for 1,025 yards (5.1 YPC) and 8 touchdowns. He also caught 14 passes for 135 yards and 1 touchdown and returned 19 kickoffs for 386 yards. The lightning-fast running back was known for three things: speed (85- and 90-yard touchdown runs in his carer), an inability to break tackles (witness the phantom tackle by an EMU safety), and injury (freshman inexperience aside, he played in only 21 of 37 games from 2007-2009 – which meant he was available only 57% of the time). He went undrafted in the 2011 NFL Draft.
High school: Varina High School in Richmond, VA
Ratings: Rivals 4-star and #1 FB; Scout 4-star and #29 RB
Other notable offers: Florida, Miami, Tennessee, Virginia Tech
Scoop: Just like Brown, Minor arrived at a time when Michael Hart was an established starter. Minor was second on the team as a freshman with 238 yards rushing, behind only Hart. Minor started only six games from 2007-2009 and had injury problems that limited his playing time, despite playing in 32 out of 37 possible games in those years. He led the team in rushing his final two seasons, led the team in scoring in 2008, and finished with less than a 5.2-yards-per-carry average only once in his career (2007). He finished his career with 331 carries for 1,658 yards (5.0 YPC) and 20 touchdowns. He also caught 10 passes for 70 yards and 2 touchdowns and returned 14 kickoffs for 261 yards. Minor was voted All-Big Ten Honorable Mention as a junior and prior to his senior season, he was on the Maxwell and Doak Walker Awards’ watch lists. He went undrafted in the 2011 NFL Draft.
High school: Middletown South High School in Middletown, NJ
Ratings: Rivals 4-star and #10 RB; Scout 4-star and #9 RB
Other notable offers: Florida, Miami, Oklahoma, Virginia Tech
Scoop: Moreno redshirted in 2006 due to the presence of a trio of talented backs in Thomas Brown, Kregg Lumpkin, and Danny Ware. However, he burst onto the scene as a redshirt freshman in 2007 with 1,334 yards on 248 carries and 14 touchdowns that season. Moreno was even better in 2008, when he had 250 carries for 1,400 yards and 16 touchdowns. For his career, Moreno had 498 carries for 2,733 yards (5.5 YPC) and 30 touchdowns. He also caught 53 passes for 645 yards and 2 touchdowns. Moreno was drafted in the 1st round (#12 overall) by the Denver Broncos in 2009. In two seasons he has 429 carries for 1,726 yards and 12 touchdowns.
High school: Brookwood High Schoo in Snellville, GA
Ratings: Rivals 4-star and #20 RB; Scout 4-star and #21 RB
Other notable offers: California, Oregon, Purdue, Virginia
Scoop: There were rumors that Smith wouldn’t qualify, and I can’t find any information about a college football career.
High school: Garfield High School in Akron, OH
Ratings: Rivals 5-star and #1 RB; Scout 5-star and #1 RB
Other notable offers: USC
College: Ohio State
Scoop: Wells shared time with Antonio Pittman as a freshman in 2006, but still had 576 yards and 7 touchdowns. Wells started in both 2007 and 2008 and totaled 481 carries for 2,806 yards (5.8 YPC) and 23 touchdowns. He also caught 14 passes for 63 yards. Wells was drafted in the 1st round (#31 overall) by the Arizona Cardinals in 2009. He’s been a backup running back for the Cardinals for two seasons with 292 carries for 1,190 yards 9 touchdowns
Michigan didn’t offer many running backs in the 2006 class, but 4 out of the 5 were pretty successful in college. Injuries derailed the careers of both Michigan commits, but both also averaged over five yards a carry in their careers. Minor was a tough inside runner with the ability to break tackles and big runs, and Brown was a home run threat with two 85+ yard touchdown runs and a 61-yard touchdown reception in limited time. His 201 career carries were less than Moreno or Wells ever had as starters in any season.
Biggest miss: Wells. Even though he was the lower pick in the 2009 draft compared to Moreno, he hurt Michigan with 222 yards and a backbreaking touchdown run in the 2007 version of The Game.
Biggest bust: Smith. Brown was rated higher on Rivals, but Smith never made it to college at all. Even though it was frustrating to watch Brown get tackled so easily and injured so often, he was also exciting to watch when he was on the field. I would rather watch Brown than a ghost.
Best in class: Moreno. Arguments could be made for Wells, LeSean McCoy (2nd round pick out of Pitt, current starter for Philadelphia Eagles), or Dexter McCluster (2nd round pick out of Ole Miss, punt returner and backup RB for Kansas City Chiefs). But Moreno was the highest draft pick of the four, had an excellent college career, and seems to have a decent NFL career in the works. Wells has been a disappointment in the NFL, McCoy played in a subpar Big East conference, and McCluster is more of a scatback than an every-down player.