One thing we can agree about with Michigan Football recuiting in the past year is that there were a lot of "ups" and "downs," and certainly an exciting finish in the last couple of weeks. As a fan of Michigan Football, I'm elated about the determined, aggressive effort and results of Head Coach Brady Hoke and his new staff (Mattison, Smith, Jackson, Hecklinski, Borgess and Funk) in retaining the previous pledges and closing the commitments for new pledges to our program. Overall, our class was ranked #21 nationally by Rivals and #27 by Scout. Of the 20 commitments, 10 are considered 4 star recruits by either Rivals, Scout, MaxPrep or ESPNU rating services. In the Big Ten, we finished 3rd behind Ohio State and Nebraska; however, many of the schools finished pretty closely to us including Michigan State, Iowa, Wisconsin, Penn State and Illinois. Coach Hoke and staff rescued the Michigan Football Program from the bleakest, most depressing time in Michigan Football Recruiting history between January 5-15 or so when we fell from a Rivals/Scout rankings of about #30 to #41 with several decommitments with more impending had he and his staff not asserted their leadership.
On offense, we received pledges from 7 commitments: Quarterback Russell Bellomy, Tight End Chris Barnett, three offensive linemen in Tony Posada, Jack Miller and Chris Bryant and two running backs in Thomas Rawls and Justice Hayes. Our needs on offense were not that great considering we have 10 of 11 starters returning on offense; however, Hoke and staff did an excellent job identifiying and filling obvious needs. First, the transfer of Tate Forcier and the need for a "pro style" quarterback was filled by the addition of Bellomy, a former Purdue pledge. This was an excellent solution to an great need especially with less than 3 weeks to go prior to signing day when Hoke and Borgess were hired. Second, we really needed a tight end, and we were very fortunate to steal a 4 star Arkansas commitment in Chris Barnett. He is currently 271 lbs. and he should be able to back up Koger as a Freshman. I predict he will break all reception, yardage, TD and career start records at Michigan for Tight Ends. Next, we needed running backs who can endure and dish out punishment in Big Ten competition and we found two great ones in Thomas Rawls and Justice Hayes, both Michiganders. Hayes is a 4 star recruit that was previously pledged to Notre Dame, and Rawls gives us a second big back along with Stephan Hopkins for red zone yardage situations. Lastly, we got three solid offensive linemen in Posada, Bryant and Miller. Although all three may redshirt in 2011, Bryant probably has the best chance for playing time next year and in 2012 for sure.
Many fans, including myself, were frustrated with losing pledges. On offense, we lost Demetrius Hart to Alabama, Jake Fisher to Oregon and Kevin Sousa to Wake Forest; however, we gained pledges from Justice Hayes from Notre Dame, Chris Barnett from Arkansas and Russell Bellomy from Purdue so on offense things evened out in my opinion. Since we have 14 receivers on scholarship which includes 3 tight ends, Hoke and staff felt we had enough receivers and that is understandable. We'll need to recruit some wide receivers and offensive linemen in 2012 for sure since we'll lose Stonum, Odoms and Koger along with Molk and Huyge.
On Special Teams, we got a great kicker in Matt Wile. We were really fortunate that Brady Hoke had been recruiting him in San Diego prior to taking the Michigan job because he will definitely will help in 2011 as a placekicker and punter. Wile's commitment made the decommitment of Matt Goudis a non-issue. Coach Ferrigno will be handling special teams, and any improvement over what we've seen over the past three years with Rodriquez's staff will be welcome.
On defense, we did an abolutely phenomenal job! The priorities of Hoke and his staff are obvious: we are going to return the Michigan Football Program to be a respected, punishing defense that will be able to compete against other Big Ten football programs. First, he was able to pledge 5 defensive backs: Blake Countess, Delonte Hollowell, Tamani Carter, Ramon Taylor and Greg Brown. The staff did a great job retaining 4 star prospect, Countess, when he was wavering on his pledge with the coaching change and looking at Penn State. Also, they convinced Tamani Carter to switch his pledge from Minnesota to us and Ramon Taylor from Indiana when he had offers from several other Big Ten programs including Iowa and Illinois. We will have good depth and great competition for playing time in the defensive backfield now. At linebacker, we recruited 5 guys although Hoke called Brennan Beyer a defensive end so if this is the case, we'll say 4 guys. Kellen Jones, Antonio Poole, Desmond Morgan and Frank Clark give us a solid core, and two or three of these guys may be able to contribute in 2011. Hoke, Smith and Mattison did a great job in convincing Clark and Poole to pledge in the last two weeks of the recruiting season along with retaining Jones. On the defensive line, we all had hoped to add at least one defensive tackle, but we do have both Mike Martin and Ryan VanBergen back as starters with Quinton Washington, Will Campbell, Redshirts Terry Talbott and Richard Ash backing them up so we'll be able to hold off until 2012 to add a few defensive tackles. At defensive end, we added Keith Heitzman, Brennan Beyer and Chris Rock. Beyer is the highest rated and most like Craig Roh when he came in to start as a Freshman. Heitzman was convinced by Hoke, Smith and Mattison to change his commitment to Vanderbilt and we must trust the coaches that he is a bonafide prospect. Rock is from Columbus, and decided to pledge to us over Notre Dame.
We lost defensive pledges from Dallas Crawford to Miami-Florida and Kris Frost to Auburn; however, we gained Ramon Taylor (Indiana), Tamani Carter (Minnesota), Keith Heitzman (Vanderbilt) and the pledges of Countess, Clark and Poole to offset those losses. Some Michigan fans wanted Anthony Zettel, Darian Cooper and others who were close to pledging, but it simply wasn't meant to be. Overall, we did a fine job. We got some very, very competitive players and many should be able to help us right away in 2011.
One thing Hoke and staff did was show us that they'll be prioritizing Michigan and Ohio in recruiting along with defense rather than outsourcing our football program to Florida. We will be a factor in recruiting in the Midwest and all across the country as we always were in the past, but our recruiting efforts will have integrity. Coach Hoke was praised by new San Diego State Head Coach Rocky Long for not going after his pledges, and one could see what Coach Magee, Coach Gibson and Coach Dews did once they landed at Pittsburgh. It is good to be rid of that group of coaches. Kudos to Coach Hoke and staff! I'm proud to have their leadership and focus on restoring our football program to the values and greatness that were established before Rodriquez came.