Not only has Michigan produced players that have made a big splash early in their careers, with the likes of DE William Gholston (Detroit/Southeastern), QB Robert Bolden (Orchard Lake, Mich./St. Mary's) and WRs Ronald Johnson (Muskegon, Mich./Muskegon) and Mark Dell (Farmington Hills, Mich./Harrison), but the running backs alone from the state of Michigan have been fantastic, including Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram (Flint, Mich./Southwestern Academy). He was a prospect who had little film out publicly, and we did not actually insert him into the ESPNU 150 for the 2008 class until January of that year because we had not seen enough. Glad we did!
The Michigan State Spartans have been the beneficiary of two fine in-state runners, both of whom were in the ESPNU 150 from the 2009 class in Edwin Baker (Oak Park, Mich.) and Larry Caper (Battle Creek, Mich./Central). Michigan, in our opinion, is often like Virginia year-in and year-out in the sense that there are always going to be three to five obvious BCS prospects followed by a slew of good, yet not quite developed prospects with BCS-level potential.
Based on what the Michigan Wolverines would like to be on offense, they are going to continue to move southward and nationally in search for more skilled, speedy athletes, but that is not going to make coach Rich Rodriguez anymore popular within the state. Mark Dantonio's style and philosophy at Michigan State may be a better marriage for the style of player being produced in state. However, if there is a speedy in-state prospect at a skill spot or a difference-maker on the defensive front you can bet both programs will be battling until the bitter end.
WR DeAnthony Arnett (Saginaw, Mich./Saginaw)
The 6-foot speedster is not only a fine receiver, but a gifted return man. It is the Spartans' hope that they can keep the top receiver at home just as they did with Dell in the 2007 class. The Cal Bears seem to be making quite a push for Arnett, and we are sure they are selling the DeSean Jackson comparison, only Arnett is bigger. Arnett's best football is certainly ahead of him, and he is a raw talent who possesses speed, quickness and leaping ability, and to make him even more dangerous he has upside as a route-runner.
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ATH Raymon Taylor (Highland Park, Mich./Highland Park Community)
If the Indiana Hoosiers have done one thing well over the last decade or so, they have landed good skill players who can compete with anyone in the Big Ten. This time around, they dip into Michigan for a player, Taylor, we feel will likely end up on defense at cornerback. Taylor has ball skills, and he is a return man, which could place him on the field early in his career. He isn't big, but he plays with a chip on his shoulder and is a tough, feisty football player.
Taking up residence
Here are the colleges that are doing the best with prospects from Michigan.
The addition of RB Demetrius Hart (Orlando, Fla./Dr. Phillips) is huge. He is the type of back Rodriguez covets, and the Wolverines beat Alabama for his services. Michigan has addressed its defense early on. Seven of the team's 12 incoming prospects are on the defensive side of the ball, including two four-star prospects, cornerback Delonte Hollowell (Detroit/Cass Technical) and defensive end Brennen Beyer (Canton, Mich./Plymouth). Hollowell does a good job reading the quarterback and jumping routes in zone schemes. He can mirror tightly with his fluid hips and turns in off man coverages. He's effective in press and bump-and-run coverages, too.
Dantonio has done good job thus far by landing 16 prospects, including the No. 1 defensive player from the state of Michigan in ESPNU 150 linebacker Lawrence Thomas (Detroit/Renaissance). The 6-3, 230-pounder is athletic and demonstrates the ability to take on or avoid pass-blockers with good playing strength and change of direction moves. He has a quick closing burst to the quarterback, too. Expect MIchigan State's terrific evaluation efforts at the RB position to continue with Onaje Miller (Lansing, Mich./Sexton), who could also play defense.
Tom Luginbill is ESPN's national director of football recruiting.