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Tuesday, February 19, 2013
State of the rivalry: Running backs

By Chantel Jennings & Brad Bournival

The writers at WolverineNation and BuckeyeNation put their heads together to break down the rivals' 2013 classes. They'll give readers a position-by-position look at who coaches Brady Hoke and Urban Meyer brought in and, ultimately, which class edged out the other. It's too early to say what will happen through the next few seasons, and we won't make any promises except that Hoke and Meyer are going to put talent on the field.

Deveon Smith, Wyatt Shallman
Deveon Smith and Wyatt Shallman, along with five-star recruit Derrick Green, complete a formidable incoming RB trio for Michigan.
Michigan got: The highlight of the Wolverines' 2013 running back class is obviously No. 5 RB Derrick Green (Richmond, Va./Hermitage). He’s one of the few players for whom Michigan coaches beat out the SEC, and he could be a player who immediately impacts the game next season. At 6-foot-0 and 215 pounds (and only getting bigger), he’s a player who finds holes and, more often than not, breaks them for big gains. With Fitzgerald Toussaint recovering from injury and sitting out of spring ball, Green could be the name that Buckeyes linebackers focus on the most next November.

But Wyatt Shallman (Novi, Mich./Detroit Catholic Central) and Deveon Smith (Warren, Ohio/Howland) can’t be discounted. Smith is more similar to Green in that he’s quick enough to find the holes and break them, proving a nightmare for opposing defenses.

And then Michigan has Shallman, a big-bodied player (6-3, 245) who will be a difficult to take down in the upcoming seasons. He’s not the quickest player in the world, but for his size and strength, his speed is quite impressive. If he gets past linebackers, 190-pound defensive backs are going to have a difficult time doing anything to pester Shallman.

Ohio State got: Ezekiel Elliott (St. Louis/John Burroughs), and the Buckeyes held on by the seat of their pants to get him. After saying “no thanks” to Green in July because they promised their ESPN 150 back they wouldn’t take another tailback, the Buckeyes had to wait until 5 p.m. ET on national signing day to know for sure Elliott would be in the fold. He took an official visit to Missouri on Jan. 25 and then clammed up until Feb. 6, leaving fans in a bit of an uncomfortable state before he sent in his letter of intent. Incidentally, his letter was the last to grace Ohio State’s fax machine.

Elliott is in a bit of a conundrum early, as Jordan Hall, Carlos Hyde, Rod Smith and Bri’onte Dunn come back with experience for Ohio State this fall. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him redshirt, though Urban Meyer isn’t one to grab a commitment and then put him on the shelf. So Elliott could find his way onto special teams. What he brings is a knack for finding the end zone, as his 100 career touchdowns attest while he starred for a three-time state runner-up Bombers team. He isn’t a one-season wonder, either, as he backed up a 42-touchdown junior campaign with a 50-score senior season. He set the state final record for all-purpose yards in a game (419) and is as athletic as they come.

Advantage: Michigan

Their possibility of early contribution as well as their significance to the changing offense at Michigan gives the Wolverines signees the advantage in this head-to-head battle. The Wolverines bring in a more solid trio of running backs who will likely need to prove their worth earlier than their Ohio State counterparts. With the state of Michigan’s run game in near panic mode, these three bring a bit more security to the changing of the guard in the run game at Michigan.