Michigan’s 2013 recruits a star-studded class

Goodbye Denard Robinson, hello Derrick Green.

That’s the opinion of recruiting experts, who think Green is the crown jewel of Michigan’s top-rated recruiting class. Green is rated as the nation’s top running back prospect by Scout.com and as the sixth-best prospect overall. He rushed for 1,285 yards and 20 touchdowns as a senior at Hermitage High School, despite sitting out the second half or fourth quarter of many games because of his team’s big leads.

“Green is a durable, physical runner who doesn’t have elite speed, but that really isn’t needed to have success,” says a profile on the website. “Just think Emmitt Smith.”

Green, who is expected to officially sign his letter of intent on Wednesday’s signing day, will help Brady Hoke rebuild a running game that struggled badly last season. While Robinson made big plays out of nothing, the offensive line struggled to open holes for Fitzgerald Toussaint. Toussaint still has eligibility remaining, but his availability is a question mark after he suffered a gruesome leg injury late in the season.

Another of Michigan’s five-star recruits should also help with the running game — guard Patrick Kugler. Kugler has line play in his genes — he’s the son of Pittsburgh Steelers offensive-line coach Sean Kugler — and was an outstanding defensive tackle in high school as well as a guard. Even with Taylor Lewan’s shock decision to return for his senior season, Kugler should compete for a starting job right away at Michigan, given the problems that the line had last season.

Hoke has also gotten commitments from several four-star offensive linemen, including guard David Dawson — one of three four-star recruits joining the Wolverines from two-time state champion Detroit Cass Tech.

Michigan’s third five-star recruit, Ohio’s Dymonte Thomas, will help fill the gap left by Jordan Kovacs’s graduation. Thomas is a big hitter — he was also a bruising running back at Marlington High School — but will have to improve his coverage skills before he’ll have a shot at stepping into Kovacs’ spot.

The final five-star recruit was the one who was originally expected to directly replace Robinson, De La Salle quarterback Shane Morris. Morris has a strong arm, but was hurt by missing most of his senior season with mononucleosis. Despite that, he’s Scout.com’s fourth-rated quarterback in the country, and will get at least one season to learn as Devin Gardner’s backup.

Behind the five-star recruits, Michigan has 15 four-star recruits — the depth that gives them Scout.com’s No. 1 recruiting class going into Wednesday’s signing day. The star of that group might be another of the Cass Tech seniors, cornerback Jourdan Lewis. The Wolverines had very little depth at cornerback — they were forced to move running back/returner Dennis Norfleet there during preparation for the Outback Bowl — and Lewis will compete for playing time right away.

Taco Charlton, a 6-foot-6 defensive end out of Ohio’s Pickerington Central High School, has the speed and athletic ability to give Michigan an outside pass-rush force early in his career, while 300-pound Maurice Hurst Jr. has NFL bloodlines and the size to become an interior run stopper. Another Ohio native, running back DeVeon Smith is a power back who will give Michigan another young option if Green stumbles.

Recruiting classes are what they are, and it may turn out that a senior rated at three stars becomes the best player in Michigan’s 2013 group, while at least one of the five-star players will probably vanish into obscurity. But it is always better to be ranked No. 1, especially with Ohio State at No. 2. If these two classes are as good as experts think, the Wolverines and Buckeyes will be playing important games for several years down the line.