With his visits completed, Dr. Phillips' running back Dee Hart now has a decision to make. And if he doesn't already know which college to which he'll be taking his talents, he at least knows when he's going to tell everyone.
Hart said Sunday night that he will announce his decision on Friday, when reached by the Sentinel during his drive back from Tuscaloosa, Ala., where he took in the Tide's 31-6 thrashing of Florida.
Most recruitniks figure Michigan has the edge among Hart's final schools, which also includes Alabama and Auburn. Hart, however, said Sunday night that Arkansas is still a factor.
Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez likes to recruit athletes similar to Hart, who can run around in a spread offense with a three-wide, one-back set. He could run in a slot position as a receiver, or line up wide or even sit in the tailback spot. That's versatility a coach like Rodriguez would love.
Hart has great hands out of the backfield, excellent leaping ability to overcome his 5-foot-9 height, and once he gets the ball in open field, anything can happen. His hip movement angers embarrassed defenders as he cuts, stops, starts again -- all, it seems, in milliseconds.
Michigan also has one of Hart's good friends Ricardo Miller on the team. Miller, who attended Dr. Phillips before committing to Michigan and moved to Ann Arbor for his senior year, is a freshman wide receiver who could get a redshirt this season. Another Orlando Wolverine with whom Hart is plenty familiar is former Apopka running back Jeremy Gallon, a RS-freshman who is fourth on the depth chart at 'Y' receiver in the spread.
The one thing Michigan may not have going for it is the difficulty that freshmen have getting in the lineup. The Wolverines start mostly seniors and juniors, with a few sophomores. There are no senior running backs on the depth chart, which goes six deep. the starting back is sophomore Vincent Smith.
Regardless, Hart still thinks he can get on the field early at the Big House.
As for Alabama, its been reported that the Tide will ask Hart to play defense, something he's not all that excited about. He told the Sentinel on Sunday night, however, that 'Bama officials have said he "would play whatever I wanted."
If he wanted to play running back, he's got some competition. Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram is just a junior, so if he does not head for the NFL he'll be an obvious starter for his senior season. If Ingram leaves, there are still plenty in the way in sophomore Trent Richardson from Pensacola Escambia ( Emmitt Smith's high school), RS-freshman Eddie Lacy and junior Demetrious Goode.
'Bama runs a lot of two-tight end sets, but should they drop one, Hart could certainly lineup in the slot or wide, whatever the situation.
Auburn might be more appealing and right now the Tigers have told Hart he is their No. 1 back for the 2011 class. Auburn also has its eye on Isaiah Crowell of Columbus (Ga.) Carver and Mike Blakely out of Bradenton Manatee. Many say Blakely is a lock for Florida.
The Tigers have Mike Dyer as their No. 1 running back. The top recruit from last season will be the Auburn starter likely for as long as he's there, and then there is sophomore Onterio McCalebb as No. 2. Beyond that, next year the Tigers will only have junior Eric Smith of Seffner Armwood, freshman Patrick Lymon and junior Davis Hooper on the roster. So with just five backs returning, Hart sees potential playing time in War Eagle country.
Then there's Arkansas, the longshot. Teammate DB Roderick Ryles has committed to the Hogs already. Teammate LB/S LaQuentin Smith said he had planned to commit last week, but just hasn't pulled the trigger. Smith also said that Hart enjoyed his visit to Fayetteville last week when the Dr. Phillips players took in the Hogs' near upset of Alabama.
"Dee told me it was one of his best visits yet," Smith told ARPrep.com. "He enjoyed himself. Everyone treated him like royalty and he's really considering the University of Arkansas."
Arkansas has eight running backs on its roster and no seniors. But in Coach Bobby Petrino's high-flying offensive scheme, players rotate and a lot of them see playing time, and he will also mix and match wide receivers and running backs.
Hart and his Dr. Phillips teammates will be back on the field hosting Orlando Boone on Friday night after the high-flying Panthers had a bye this past Friday. Hart is off to another stellar start for DP, which is 4-0. The running back has 70 carries for 569 yards and 12 TDs, an average of 142 yards per game and 8.3 yards per carry. He also has 10 catches for 130 yards and 1 TD, and added with his return yards, he has 813 all-purpose yards, about 203 yards per game.
Hart said there is no time or site set up for Friday's announcement.
Chris Hays is the Sentinel's recruiting coverage coordinator and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.