When it comes to personal goals, Derrick Green doesn't want much — 3,000 yards rushing in a single season will do just fine.
Even suggesting such a lofty mark might seem absurd for most high school running backs, but Green isn't your run-of-the-mill talent. At 5-foot-11 and 223 pounds, he is a compact bundle of power running potential and has drawn interest from some of the nation's top college football programs.
In the midst of piecing together my annual Fab 15 in-state recruiting rankings, which will be released in July for the class of 2013, I had a chance to catch up this week with Green — a rising senior at Hermitage High in Richmond. I met him for the first time in July at the Football University Top Gun camp in Williamsburg, when he still had just five scholarship offers (granted, they were big offers — Virginia, Virginia Tech, Ohio State, Penn State and Tennessee).
Since then, his number of offers has ballooned to 32. His offers have more than doubled since Christmas.
It's fair to say there's more than a little buzz surrounding Green, who is considered by most recruiting analysts to be among the nation's top 10 running back prospects, and one of the top 60 overall recruits (regardless of position) in the nation.
At this point, Green isn't feeling any strong need to stay in-state, but he's definitely considering both U.Va. and Tech. He's a young man with options, and he plans on exploring them all.
“It doesn't matter,” said Green regarding his potential to stay in-state for college or head elsewhere. “I'm just going to the best school that fits me — where I have the best relationship with the coaching staff and where I can get the best education. Right now, it doesn't matter where that school is.
“I don't have a top 10 right now. Everybody is still on the same playing field. I'm just in the process right now of visiting schools and seeing what the schools have to offer.”
He had a busy spring with unofficial visits to U.Va., Tech, Wisconsin, Michigan, North Carolina, N.C. State, Tennessee and Clemson. He said he plans to tour half the West division of the Southeastern Conference in July when he visits Alabama, Auburn and Mississippi.
He has offers from all of the aforementioned schools, plus Oklahoma, Oregon, Southern California, Miami, South Carolina, Arkansas, West Virginia, Mississippi State, Oklahoma State, Washington, Rutgers, Purdue, UCLA, Vanderbilt, Pittsburgh, Boston College, Illinois and Georgia Tech.
So, where does U.Va. stand in its pursuit of Green?
“(Defensive coordinator Jim) Reid and (defensive line) coach (Jeff) Hanson have been building a good relationship with me,” Green said. “I've been trying to build a good relationship with them so I can see what they have to offer.”
How about Virginia Tech?
“Me and (running backs) coach (Shane) Beamer talk on the phone all the time,” Green said. “He writes me a lot of letters. I keep in contact with him.”
Green is one of two coveted in-state running back recruits in the class of '13 that are getting a lot of love from U.Va. and Tech, in addition to several other elite programs. Taquan Mizell, a 5-10, 182-pound rising senior at Bayside High in Virginia Beach, is looked upon by most analysts as one of the nation's top 30 running back recruits and top 125 overall prospects. He has offers from U.Va., Tech, Ohio State, Notre Dame, West Virginia, Clemson, Miami, UNC, N.C. State and Illinois.
It'll be interesting to keep tabs on how intent Tech is on getting Green and/or Mizell, considering the Hokies invested so much time and effort in recruiting the running back position in this past year's class (signees included at least three running backs, and possibly a fourth if Trey Edmunds from Dan River High in Ringgold winds up at the position).
Tech also will go about the process of re-recruiting Drew Harris, a 6-1, 220-pound running back from Downingtown, Pa. who signed in February with Tech, but who's headed to Fork Union Military Academy in the fall. He was considered one of the nation's top 30 running backs in the class of '12.
While Tech's running back situation is anything but settled with redshirt freshman Michael Holmes and true freshman J.C. Coleman from Oscar Smith High in Chesapeake vying for most of the reps this coming fall, the Hokies at least have some options to explore. Still, Green and Mizell are too good to ignore, and Tech surely knows it.
As for U.Va., getting Green and/or Mizell in the fold should be a priority. Perry Jones will leave the program after this coming season, which means Kevin Parks, Khalek Shepherd, Menchville High graduate Clifton Richardson — all rising sophomores this fall — and incoming freshman Kye Morgan from Somerset, N.J. will be left at the tailback spot.
There's plenty of talent for the future with Parks and Richardson on the roster, but Green or Mizell could conceivably end up making a bigger splash at the college level than any of U.Va.'s current backs.
Last season, Green ran for 1,493 yards and 19 touchdowns while leading Hermitage to the Division 6 Central Region championship. With those kinds of numbers, where does Green come up with a number like 3,000 yards as his biggest personal goal?
Well, Green is quick to point out he put up those yards last season while playing only about two quarters in each of his regular season games. He wants to see what he can do if given the chance to play the entire game throughout the season.
“Getting that state championship for my team is the first thing,” Green said. “As far as personal goals, I set goals high for myself. I want over 3,000 yards and about 30 touchdowns. I want to set records and help my team get that championship.
“I think if I did play four quarters, I probably would've gotten close to (3,000 yards) last year. I think I can do that this year.”
Of course, reaching 3,000 yards would be no small feat. No Group AAA player has ever run for more yards in a single season in the state of Virginia than Lee Suggs, who had 2,810 yards in '97 for William Fleming High in Roanoke. Suggs went on to star at Tech.
Thomas Jones ran for a Virginia High School League state-record 3,319 yards in 1994 as a junior for Powell Valley High, a Group A school in Big Stone Gap. He came back in '95 to run for 3,007 yards, which is third all-time in the state, before heading to U.Va. Eric Bates gained 3,039 yards, which is second all-time in the state, in '87 for James Monroe High, a Group AA school in Fredericksburg. He went on to play at Ferrum.
Green will stay busy this summer. In addition to his trips to Alabama, Auburn and Mississippi, he plans to be at the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge this weekend in Atlanta. He also intends to go July 5-8 to Beaverton, Ore. for The Opening, another hot-shot invite-only camp for top recruits.
He'd like to make time to return July 19-21 to Williamsburg for the Top Gun camp, but he's not sure he's going to be able to fit it into his schedule, especially since he might consider squeezing in another trip to Oregon to visit the Ducks' camps in Eugene. Gary Campbell, Oregon's running backs coach for the past 29 years, has come to Virginia twice to visit Green — a long journey that hasn't gone unnoticed.
“That's a big thing for him to come all the way from the other side of the country to see me,” said Green of Campbell, who has coached 12 of the 14 running backs in Oregon history that eclipsed 1,000 yards rushing in a season. “I'm trying to get out there sometime this summer to see the school, but I haven't been able to set a date.
“I'm blessed to have all these opportunities. I'm taking advantage of everything that's being put in front of me.”
More on Green and Mizell to come in July when the Fab 15 is released.
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