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June 18, 2014
Maize 'N View: Busting out
He's a bust. He was a four-star recruit. He was an early enrollee. He was supposed to be the next great thing, and now, here we are headed into his sophomore season and he's not even expected to be a starter? Just another overhyped player that is squandering his talent.
Who am I talking about? Does it matter? It could be safety Dymonte Thomas or tailback Derrick Green, or slews of other highly touted recruits beginning their sophomore year and already being branded as "busts."
Admittedly, recruiting sites play a large role in this. Sites such as Rivals.com, Scout.com, 247Sports.com and ESPN base business models on the notion that every recruit - from five-star to two-star - in some way stands the chance to alter the future of your favorite college team.
Five-stars and four-stars are obviously supposed to create a bigger impact immediately and over the course of their careers, but three-stars and even two-stars can be positive influences.
Unfortunately, the current landscape of fandom (again admittedly that we have helped fashion) is one with little patience, and it leads to dramatic overreactions to a player's present-day and future potential.
For the record, Thomas is not a bust. Nor is Green. Thomas was an early enrollee, but he is just set to begin his true sophomore season at Michigan. He was making an adjustment from high-school linebacker to college safety, and that takes time.
Green is not a bust. Like many elite talents, he steamrolled through competition in high school that quite often featured defenses without a single Division I player on their rosters. Sometimes he played against a four-star, or a three-star, or maybe a couple, but he never once saw an entire starting 11 of all recruited prospects.
He's learning on the job, as is Thomas, but the skills that made those two coveted players remain, and with patience, fans hopeful that Thomas and/or Green will be impact players may just be rewarded.
They may not. There is no guarantee either will deliver even after four or five years, but two seasons, and especially one season, cannot be the timeframe permitted for a player to develop and contribute.
If it was, then players such as Gabe Watson, Prescott Burgess, Shawn Crable, Tim Jamison, Stevie Brown and Ryan Van Bergen would have all been considered busts after arriving at Michigan with much fanfare (and at least four stars next to their name) and producing very little two seasons into their careers.
Yet, each of those players went on to enjoy impressive tenures at Michigan, contributing as redshirt sophomores, juniors and seniors.
U-M's current roster even provides proof of why two years is far too early to write a player off, as linebackers Joe Bolden and Royce Jenkins-Stone are both in position to start in their junior season after rather pedestrian freshman and sophomore campaigns.
"There are some guys, some freaks we call them, that can just make that transition physically and mentally seamlessly from high school to college, but for most guys, there is a really big learning curve because most guys in high school are the 'star' and they're playing not one or even two, but three, four, five positions for their team," 2005-06 defensive end starter Rondell Biggs said.
"In college, you can't get away with just being a great athlete. Even a guy like LaMarr Woodley, who played as a true freshman, was more than an athlete - he was one of those freaks that processed everything mentally so quick. You have to specialize in your technique, in your film study, and processing all of your assignments takes time."
There are disappointments in recruiting. Players that never fulfill expectations, and there is even a point where an observer can make that argument, but it's not after one year. It's not even after two years.
Thomas and Green came to Michigan with a lot of hype, and they may not be starters this season, but they're not busts. They are players adjusting to their college responsibilities and the college game. They are players learning and adapting.
They may end up putting it together this season, or they may not. It could take another year or two, and when they've completed four years, we can weigh and measure their contribution, and that's fair. Busting on them today is not.