Observations on Michigan Football Recruiting 2014

There is no doubt that this was the most "up and down" recruiting campaign conducted in Michigan Football History. The end of the Brady Hoke era (31-20, 18-14 in the Big Ten) at Michigan began with last season's dismal finish to the recruiting campaign in 2013, he began the 2014 campaign with a lot of momentum; however, he and his staff couldn't overcome the negative recruiting by other schools as they convinced many top prospects that Hoke's days were numbered at Michigan. Unfortunately, they were right! Michigan was a sinking ship.

Michigan had six early enrollees January, 2014 which followed seven early enrollees in 2013. We started the year with five pledges with Andrew David, Jon Runyan Jr., Tyree Kinnel, Damien Harris, and Shaun Crawford. When Brady Hoke fired Offensive Coordinator Al Borges on January 7 and replaced him with Doug Nussmeier on January 8, only 2 of those early enrollees played on offense. As a result of the Borges firing, we lost the commitment of five star running back recruit, Damien Harris, on January 21; he later pledged to Alabama. Defensive Back Garrett Taylor of Virginia pledged to the Wolverines in March. Thomas Rawls transferred to Central Michigan, and Josh Furman transferred to Oklahoma State rather than compete for the Wolverines in their 5th years. We then gained the pledges of Alex Malzone at quarterback and Darrin Kirkland at linebacker in May, but lost the pledge of Defensive Back Shaun Crawford who was determined to visit other schools much to the chagrin Hoke's "no visit policy." Crawford had also been suspended from track the same week, and pledged to Notre Dame on June 15. We got the transfer of Ty Isaac from USC along with the pledge of offensive tackle, Grant Newsome and #1 Ranked Tight End, Chris Clark in June. In July and August, Four Star prospects Brian Cole, Mikey Weber and Darian Roseboro committed to the Wolverines.

We had a Top 10 class prior to the beginning of the 2014 season on August 30 with 10 commitments with what looked like more on the way as recruiting momentum peaked following the Barbeque at the Big House on July 27, and all the hype and hope in August to start the Fall campaign. To initiate the downward spiral, wide receiver, Csonte York, sucker punched a 23 year old man at Scorekeeper's on August 18, and was dismissed from the team. Kyle Bosch left the team on September 3 after the Appalachian State game after he lost his starting offensive guard position to Garrett Glasgow. Glasgow was suspended for the first game of the season following a drunk driving incident where he drove a drunken ride with six others including volleyball star, Lexi Dannemiller, on March 15. Hoke's staff had the early commitment of five star, George Campbell, but lost him to Florida State on September 5. We secured the pledge of Michigan Legacy Defensive End/Tight End Jack Dunaway on September 14 as a Preferred Walk-On. Then, after the losses to Utah and Minnesota on September 20 and 27, Roseboro decommitted on September 29 after being committed only 4 weeks. Concussiongate on September 30 and the firing of David Brandon on October 31 sealed the season's doom in an ugly October with more losses to Rutgers and Michigan State on the 4th and 25th. We lost Linebacker Asmar Bilar who had us leading Notre Dame, but he chose the Irish on October 16 with all the controversy swirling around the imminent firing of Brandon and Hoke. Garrett Taylor decommitted on October 24; then, he committed to Penn State three days later. Roseboro went to his backup plan for in-state, North Carolina State on October 11. Saline Placekicker Ryan Tice pledge on October 21 as a Walk-On. Darrin Kirkland and Mikey Weber decommitted on November 6 and 23 respectively; then, as was forecast, Brady Hoke & Staff were fired on December 2 following more losses to Maryland and Ohio State to finish with a 5-7 season; Chris Clark decommitted that same day. Mikey Weber committed to Ohio State on December 10, and Kirkland to Tennessee on December 15 where he enrolled on January 7.

During the four weeks it took to hired Jim Harbaugh on December 30, Michigan had fallen to its all-time low in football recruiting in any season with ranks of 102nd in Rivals, 95th by 247, and 68th by Scout with only six pledges; we were dead last in Big Ten Football Recruiting and most of the MAC schools were ahead of us. During the same period, other schools, including our rivals, were gaining recruiting momentum. On February 3rd, two days before signing day on February 4, Michigan's ten commitments was the lowest of any Division I Football Program. Since Brady Hoke was fired on December 2, we have had five players request a transfer: Brendan Ferns and Kyle Bosch went to West Virginia, Russell Bellomy, Keith Heitzman, and Justice Hayes have yet to name their destinations; they are not expected to be pursued by Alabama, Ohio State, Oregon, Florida State or other national contenders.

Coach Harbaugh didn't waste any time as he put his new staff into place, contacted recruits to set up visits, and held three weekends of recruits in January to re-create excitement and credibility to the Wolverine Football Program. We had a six month drought from July 26, 2014 to January 24, 2015, probably the longest in Wolverine Football Recruiting History, until Reuben Jones flipped from Nebraska. Coach Mattison tried to gain another defensive line flip from Nebraska in DaiShon Neal, but was escorted from Neal's home when discussion of Michigan's admissions standards resulted in negativity. Harbaugh and staff gained three pledges from December 28 to February 3, and set up a base for the future 2016 and 2017 recruits so we'll be in the Top 10-15 teams for the best prospects to consider athletically and academically. Coach Durkin is a positive presence especially in the State of Florida where he established a recruiting base as the Gator Defensive Coordinator; however, he is from Youngstown, OH so he'll also be a solid contributor to landing Ohio recruits. Mattison and Durkin coached together at Notre Dame, 2003-2004, when Durkin was a graduate assistant.

On offense, we recruited the #4 and #11 Rivals Pro-Style Quarterbacks in Zach Gentry and Alex Malzone, and Malzone enrolled on January 7 so he'll compete in Spring Practices with Shane Morris and Wilton Speight for the starting position. Gentry will come in late June. Quarterback was our top position for recruits. The race for starter is between Shane Morris and Wilton Speight with Malzone hoping to enter the mix by April. At running back, we missed out on #1 Damien Harris and #7 Mikey Weber, but we surprised everyone including Mikey Weber by signing Karan Higdon. We are now well-supplied with USC Transfer Ty Isaac, Derrick Green, and DeVeon Smith competing for starter. We'll have to be patient with the ACL rehabilitation of Drake Johnson, but we know he's a solid back. We'll simply have to get a couple solid additions in 2016. At wide receiver, we gained an outstanding athlete in Brian Cole; he also enrolled January 7 so we'll get to see him compete in the Spring as well. Cole, our highest rated recruit, may see reps at running back in addition to a wide receiver. We also just pledged Alex Malzone's teammate, Grant Perry. Our receiving corps will feature Amara Darboh, Jehu Chesson and Freddy Canteen as starters with Cole, Maurice Ways, Dennis Norfleet, Perry, and Drake Harris backing them up. We could get help from holdovers, Demario Jones, Jack Wangler, Jaron Dukes, Ross Douglas, and Bo Dever, but I'm not counting on it. We will definitely need more help in 2016. At Fullback, we return Joe Kerridge as starter; however, Sione Houma and Wyatt Shallman should also see action. We missed out on a good prospect in Reagan Williams who kept his pledge to Stanford. At Tight End, we return Jake Butt as starter; however, he just had his second surgery on a torn meniscus. Khalid Hill did a great job until we lost him to an ACL; his recovery could also take time. Ian Bunting may also be a contributor in 2015 coming off a redshirt year. We signed Tyrone Wheatley Jr. as our new tight end recruit.

We missed on several good prospects we offered at the skill positions. We offered at least fifteen other running backs, six other quarterbacks, six tight ends, and sixteen other wide receivers. While you "can't get them all, " our biggest disappointments offensively in recruiting must point to wide receiver where we pledged Cole and Perry, but could have used one or two more prospects who can immediately help. New Running Backs Coach, Tyrone Wheatley, should help us with State of Michigan recruits, but also out East after playing for the New York Giants, and coaching for Syracuse and the Buffalo Bills. Our new passing game coordinator, quarterbacks and wide receivers coach, Jed Fisch, is also from the East. Our new recruiting coordinator, Chris Partridge, should further help us with recruiting in the East.

The offensive line added Grant Newsome, Jon Runyan Jr. and Nolan Ulizio to a veteran group so all three may redshirt; Newsome is ranked as Rivals #12 Offensive Tackle, and Runyan is ranked #45 Offensive Guard while Ulizio is a "sleeper." We did the second best job at offensive line after our quarterback haul. Probable Offensive Captain, Jack Miller, should start at Center backed by Patrick Kugler with Kyle Kalis, Graham Glasgow and Erik Magnuson rotating at the guard positions, and Ben Braden and Mason Cole at the tackles. The development of backups have been troublesome on the offensive line, but the hope is that our new coach, Tim Drevno, will help develop depth from the likes of Redshirt Juwan Bushell-Beatty, Chris Fox, Dan Samuelson, David Dawson, and Logan Tulley-Tillman. We really need to get back to a gritty, nasty and athletic offensive line in the Wolverine tradition. We offered at least 28 offensive linemen prospects. Drevno is from California, and should help recruit there with a base of over two decades of connections. One thing for certain, the four year Darrell Funk era really hurt our tradition of offensive lineman.

On defense, we needed the most help in the defensive backfield where our coverage was very poor. Harbaugh offered at least eleven defensive backs since the beginning of January, most of any position. Our backfield will be strengthened with the return of Jibreel Peppers from an ankle injury, and returning starter Jourdan Lewis who improved significantly throughout the season. In all, we offered at least 28 defensive backs; we earned a pledge from Tyree Kinnel who stayed "True Blue" through all the months of negativity and temptation to pledge elsewhere. We also signed Alabama native and California commit, Keith Washington, who has yet to visit Ann Arbor. The new coaches, Greg Jackson and Mike Zordich, must tighten up our backfield so we don't give up so many big plays to opponents. Jackson should help a lot with prospects in the State of Louisiana where he played in college, and coached after his NFL career; however, he is originally from Miami, FL. Zordich is from Ohio, but played at Penn State and the Eagles so he should help us recruiting in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, neither Jackson nor Zordich were very active in recruiting 2015 prospects since their appointments to the Wolverine staff; however, they have contacted a few 2016 prospects. Zordich is the only Michigan football coach not on twitter other than Greg Mattison.

Senior Jarrod Wilson should start at one safety with Delano Hill, Brandon Watson, or Peppers starting at the other safety. Justin Clark and Dymonte Thomas are other possibilities, and perhaps Kinnel and/or Washington will emerge. We are weak at these critical positions in coverage as well as run and blitz support so the coaches really have a lot of work to do, but they need more talent to draw from as well. Our opponents continue to exploit and target our weaknesses here. Our new coaches will have significant work to do in the defensive backfield.

On the defensive line, we only offered six defensive tackles because we have so many players returning at those positions. We have Ryan Glasgow, Bryan Mone, Ondre Pipkins, Maurice Hurst, and Redshirt Brady Pallante competing at the Nose position. At the 3 Technique or Defensive Tackle, we have Willie Henry, Chris Wormley, Matt Godin, Tom Strobel plus Hurst. All are underclassmen except Glasgow and Pipkins. While we have many returners, it would have been nice to see Tim Settle, Kendrick Norton, Darian Roseboro or others added, but it was not to be. At Defensive End, we gained the commitments of Rueben Jones and Shelton Johnson. We offered at least 17 defensive end prospects including five in January from Coach Harbaugh. We definitely needed help on the outside with explosive players. Our starters, Taco Charlton and Mario Ojemudia will be backed up by Henry Poggi and Lawrence Marshall.

Our linebacking corps are pretty solid with returner and probable defensive captain, Joe Bolden, at WILL. 5th Year Starter, Desmond Morgan, will be at MIKE along with Sophomore Michael McCray and Junior Ben Gedeon. While these four are expected to get the "lion's share" of the minutes at those two positions, we also redshirted Noah Furbush who recovered from an injury (left arm/shoulder). Our biggest need in recruiting was at the Outside Linebacker-SAM position where production has been lacking. James Ross and Royce Jenkins-Stone both return along with redshirts, Chase Winovich, Jack Wangler, and Junior Allen Gant. We offered at least 16 linebacker prospects, and had our best chances with Darrin Kirkland, Joshua McMillon, Roquan Smith, Osa Masina, and Asmar Bilal; however, we came away with no pledges.

Our biggest disappointments on defensive recruiting would include the low number of recruits, only four, and the fact that we landed only a pair of defensive lineman or linebackers with Shelton Johnson and Reuben Jones. Michigan landed only seven 4 star prospects, all on offense except Kinnel, Jones and Johnson. Rivals listed 374 four/five star prospects, 247Sports listed 340, ESPN had 548 including Junior College prospects, and Scout had 317 four star and 37 five star prospects for a total of 354. One would think a great and historic program like Michigan would be a target destination for many of the nation's best prospects, but recruiting has changed; youngsters are only paying attention to the present, not the past, and the Wolverines have not won a Big Ten Championship since 2003, 12 years ago, and it was also the last time Michigan finished in the Top 10. 

With the loss of both punter and kick with Matt Wile and Will Hagerup, we know that we'll have an untested starter; however, we did get a good one in Andrew David along with local star Ryan Tice to compete with fellow walk-ons, Kenny Allen and Kyle Seychel. It is believed that the versatile David is on a baseball scholarship as an infielder. We still have a shot at Australian Soccer Style Punter, Blake O'Neill. We haven't added any returner prospects so it looks like Stribling and Norfleet will continue to return punts and kickoffs. Our new special teams coordinator, John Baxter, has a lot of connections in California and out West where he has coached for most of the last two decades, but also in the Midwest since he was originally from Illinois and went to college in Iowa. This is the first time in Wolverine Football History that a coach is specifically dedicated to Special Teams. After signing day, we were ranked 38th by 247, 36th by Scout, 40th by ESPN, 49th by Rivals, and tied with Colorado State, East Carolina and Pittsburgh with the lowest number of recruits at the Division I Level with 14.

In all, we offered at least 150 prospects scholarship opportunities, and only came away with 9 commitments including 2 early enrollees. We did not fare well against our Big Ten competitors. The SEC attracted enough of the nation's top football prospects to have nine teams make the Top 20 nationally. The Big Ten only has two teams, Ohio State and Penn State in the Top 20, the ACC had 4 teams, the PAC-12 had 3 teams and the Big 12 had two teams. The other conferences: American Association, Mountain West, Mid-American, Conference USA and Sunbelt Conferences only gained three four star commitments: Central Florida's Tristan Payton, Hawaii's Desean Holmes, and Boise State's Brett Rypien.

National and Major Conference Football Recruiting Leaders for 2015

National Big Ten SEC ACC PAC-12 Big 12
Alabama Ohio State Alabama Florida State USC Texas
USC Penn State Tennessee Clemson UCLA Oklahoma
Florida State Michigan State LSU Notre Dame Oregon Texas Tech
Tennessee Nebraska Auburn Miami-FL Arizona State Baylor
LSU Wisconsin Georgia North Carolina Stanford West Virginia
Ohio State Michigan Texas A&M Virginia Tech Washington Oklahoma Statte
UCLA Maryland Mississippi North Carolina St. California TCU
Clemson Northwestern South Carolina Louisville Washington State Kansas St.
Auburn Indiana Mississippi State Georgia Tech Arizona Iowa State
Georgia Rutgers Florida Virginia Utah Kansas
Texas Iowa Missouri Duke Colorado
Texas A&M Illinois Arkansas Wake Forest Oregon State
Notre Dame Minnesota Kentucky Boston College
Penn State Purdue Vanderbilt Pittsburgh
Oklahoma Syracuse
South Carolina
Mississippi St.
Arizona State

Unfortunately, we also lost the battle in our own state to Michigan State. State gained Kyonta Stallworth, Wolverine Legacy Tyriq Thompson, Tyson Smith, Khari Willis and Cole Chewins. Michigan got Brian Cole, Grant Perry, and Alex Malzone, but way too many of our state's top players left to go to other out of state football programs. The "brain drain" took Mikey Weber and Joshua Alabi to Ohio State, John Kelly to Tennessee, David Moorman to Wisconsin, Ray Buford and Dior Johnson to Minnesota, Junior McMullen to Miami-OH, Eddy Wilson to Purdue, Joshua Holloman to Cincinnati, and Michael Ojemudia (Mario's brother) to Iowa. We have to do a better job recruiting in our own state. Western Michigan had its best season recruiting, and was the top school in the MAC Conference. Central Michigan was also having a terrific recruiting season until Head Coach, Dan Enos, left his team after five seasons to be Offensive Coordinator at Arkansas on January 22, less than two weeks before signing day.

Observations on Michigan Football Recruiting in 2013

Observations on Michigan Football Recruiting in 2012

Observations on Michigan Football Recruiting in 2011

Observations on Michigan Football Recruiting 2010

Observations on Michigan Football Recruiting 2009

Historical Perspective on Michigan Football Recruiting (1999-2005)
Historical Perspective on Michigan Football Recruiting (2005-2009)

In the State of Ohio, we only managed three of their Top 100 recruits: Tyree Kinnel, Nolan Ulizio, and Andrew David. The Spartans pulled five recruits out of Ohio, and the Buckeyes gained twelve of Ohio's best while stealing two of the top recruits in Michigan, Weber and Alabi. We were shut out of the State of Indiana after almost securing two of their top three players in Darrin Kirkland and Asmar Bilal. We were also shut out in Illinois, and gained only one recruit from the State of Pennsylvania: Jon Runyan Jr., a Wolverine legacy. We were also shut out in the other Big Ten states of Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. We only had three signees from the three biggest recruiting states in the nation: California, Texas and Florida with the additions of Higdon, Johnson and Jones from Florida. We have to do a better job recruiting throughout the Midwest especially in Ohio, the state with the most football talent. We also need to do a better job in the three big states where there is the most competition: California, Texas and Florida. Distribution of Recruits, 2008-2013