Herschel Walker. Charley Trippi. Frank Sinkwich. Garrison Hearst. Bob McWhorter. Knowshon Moreno. Those were the running backs taken by panelists Mark Schlabach, David Ching and Josh Kendall in this week’s Georgia Bulldogs all-time draft. They are some of the brightest stars to shine at running back between the hedges. Sony Michel (Plantation, Fla./American Heritage), the No. 17 prospect in the 2014 ESPN 300 and a University of Georgia verbal commitment, plans to one day add his name to the list.
“I think I could be one of the best to ever play in college,” Michel said. “I am going to try and go in there, do my best, compete for my spot next year and see what happens. If I stay healthy I feel like I will be in the mix for early playing time.”
Reporters and those in the know in South Florida have told Michel, who stands 5-foot-11 and 205 pounds, he compares favorably to Adrian Peterson coming out of high school. Former Miami Hurricanes running backs coach Terry Richardson, who coached Donald Brown at UConn and now coaches running backs for the Jacksonville Jaguars, told Michel two years ago that he could be the next Willis McGahee. Strong comparisons like that put a lot of pressure on a rising high school senior, but Michel has dealt with the hype machine for some time now.
In 2009, Michel, playing on the American Heritage varsity team as an eighth grader, ran for 1,825 yards and 18 touchdowns and returned two kickoffs for touchdowns, each over 90 yards. As a freshman the following season, Michel added to his local legend by running for 1,730 yards and scoring 22 touchdowns.
Tales of his impressive feats quickly spread throughout Miami, and buzz grew as fans learned that the ninth-grade running back grew up a huge fan of the Hurricanes. Already targeted by the Miami coaching staff, Michel pictured his dreams coming true in the near future, suiting up to play for his hometown school in Coral Gables.
“I always thought I would end up at Miami,” Michel said. “At one point after they offered me I was certain. I visited that campus over 20 times.”
But Michel took visits to other programs such as Alabama, Florida, Florida State and Notre Dame over the next two years and his stance changed.
“I started getting more offers and after taking visits my perspective changed and the reality set in that I needed to take everything into consideration with this decision,” Michel said.
Entering last fall, Michel still felt he probably would end up staying in state, whether it be for the Hurricanes, Gators or Seminoles. But a trip out of state in September changed everything.
“Soon after I stepped foot on campus in Athens, I felt like with the coaching staff and facilities at Georgia, it was the best place to help me better my game in all aspects,” Michel said. “Plus I wanted to experience something different and get away from home.”
Michel committed to the Bulldogs April 26 on ESPNU, giving Mark Richt another highly touted running back for the 2014 class. Miami still recruits Michel, who will return to Athens this Friday for Dawg Night, an annual prospect camp event at Georgia. The ESPN 300 prospect says he only plans to visit Georgia and is 100 percent committed to the Bulldogs.
“I want to leave a legacy at Georgia that I helped everyone else on the team get better,” Michel said. “My goal is to leave as an All-American and Heisman award winner, so I will need to continue improving as a blocker, receiver and just overall as a runner.”
If Michel is able to reach his own lofty expectations, he surely will be a part of any future all-time Georgia drafts.