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August 19, 2013Travis Johnson infamously went to bed a Wolverine but woke up a Seminole. Rarely, it seems, has the opposite occurred. But in 2006, after eliminating the Maize and Blue from contention, Carlos Brown had an instantaneous change of heart.
No. 4 - Carlos Brown - 2006
Hailing from a football-mad state (Georgia) and with coveted physical skills - 6-0, 205, 4.47 40-yard dash - Brown was a national recruit from the get-go. He would rank No. 39 in the country in the 2006 class and was the No. 2 player in the state of Georgia and the No. 5 running back overall.
In July before his senior year, Brown noted he would like to visit Michigan and Ohio State unofficially, but didn't know if it was possible. With the likes of Auburn, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech and South Carolina rolling out the red carpet to keep him close to home, the thought of him actually showing enough interest in U-M to warrant an official seemed like a pipedream.
Yet, Brown was impressed by Michigan running backs coach Fred Jackson and quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler, and as the summer rolled into the fall, he still showed interest, telling TheWolverine.com he was considering an official to Ann Arbor in December.
Brown would actually make the trek in November for the 2005 Ohio State game.
"It was a good game, but it went by really quick," he said. "It was so loud and the atmosphere was great. It's cold outside, but it gives you chills not from the weather but to see the tradition and fans. I particularly liked what they did with the running backs. They split them out wide, put them in the slot and they throw and run to them. I was also really impressed with the team chemistry. I saw that all the players bonded together really well."
Brown told Josh Helmholdt, the visit ranked about a 'nine' on his own personal scale and was about even with a trip to Florida State Nov. 4. He would still see South Carolina Dec. 2 and Georgia Dec. 9.
Five days after his final visit, Brown eliminated one school from contention - Michigan.
"Michigan was by today and I had to tell them that Carlos said he had narrowed it down to South Carolina, Georgia and Florida State," his coach, Tim Barron shared.
Less than a week later, Brown made his decision, and he picked Michigan.
"I've been thinking about Michigan hard for a few weeks now, and I just went with my gut," Brown said. "I committed to Michigan over Georgia. It was very hard, but I feel real good about it. I am now done with recruiting, and I'm solid to Michigan.
"I told my family and a lot of them were very surprised. I've been thinking hard about Michigan and really just kept it to myself. I guess I just kind of shocked the world."
The Rivals.com experts, the fans from all four schools, and even the coaches were caught off guard.
"We were definitely told we were out of it with Carlos Brown," then U-M recruiting coordinator Mike DeBord said. "And then two days later, he's committing to us. That was the biggest surprise.
"He called our quarterbacks coach, Scot Loeffler. Scot walks in my office and says, 'This is Carlos Brown, and he wants to commit.' Lloyd Carr and I were sitting there talking, and we looked at each other and said, 'What?'"
Five-star Kevin Grady draws a little bit of flak as his first career carry in a practice has been exaggerated as a 100-yard untouched TD run, but while Grady's tote became mythical because no one was there to see it, everyone could see one of Brown's first touches; an early enrollee, he went 60 yards for a score in the 2006 spring game (see the video at the 1:10 mark, here).
Despite his presence in the spring, Brown wasn't an instant sensation as a freshman, rushing for only 41 yards on 16 carries in five games, slowed by an injury.
In 2007, he again battled injuries, but with Mike Hart ailing, Brown was called on to replace the senior ball carrier, and he delivered - first rushing for 66 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries in a win over Purdue, and then going for 113 yards and 132 yards in back-to-back victories over Illinois and Minnesota.
Hart returned to the lineup shortly after that and Brown saw his opportunities (11 carries the rest of the year) plummet.
Injuries derailed Brown in 2008, starting with a broken finger that kept him out of an important spring in which first-year coach Rich Rodriguez was installing his offense and getting used to his personnel. The 6-0, 213-pounder went for 115 yards against Northwestern but had only seven yards total the rest of the season.
Finally, in 2009, Brown was healthy, or as healthy as he ever had been (he still missed four games due to injuries). In nine contests, including seven starts, Brown rushed for 480 yards and four scores on 81 carries (5.9 yards per rush), going for a career-high 187 yards in a win over Eastern Michigan.
In that game, Brown broke off a 90-yard run that represents the third-longest run from scrimmage in Michigan history. (His 85-yarder against Minnesota in 2007 is also the ninth longest).
Brown's inability to stay healthy for an entire year greatly reduced the overall impact he would make, but he certainly showed flashes of his big-play potential, finishing with 1,025 yards and eight TDs on the ground (and a 5.1-yard career average), and 16 catches for 145 yards and another touchdown.
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