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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

It's back. Sort of.

This space lost track of recruiting news during the rollercoaster ride of the coaching search; now that things are resolved and the program has a direction again we can focus on college football slightly sleazy underworld with a clear conscience, or at least the faith that whatever we're doing isn't going to be completely invalidated in two weeks.

Instead of an incremental change/update like was usual in the offseason and, to a lesser extent, during the season, we require a total reset as a reminder.

What changes?

Probably not that much except a more diverse approach to quarterback recruiting and perhaps an increased emphasis on picking up little darty guys like Steve Breaston, Darius Reynaud, and Cameron Saddler. Offensive linemen still have to block. Receivers still have to catch. Defenders still have to tackle.

Rodriguez did mention his intention to bring the 3-3-5 stack to Michigan when it was appropriate, but Michigan is no stranger to sort of personnel grouping, at least situationally. (I remain unclear on what, exactly, the stack entails and how it manages to be a decent run defense; this is an area for offseason study.) With the prevalence of spread offenses this year, Michigan spent large swathes of the season in a nickel package with a designated "nickelback" who might be a "hero" or "bandit" to other programs. The scheme might change a bit, but the recruiting is unlikely to shift much. We'll still recruit Detroit DE Nick Perry, but he's probably going to be Detroit LB Nick Perry. Etc.

Who bolted?

IL QB John Wienke is definitely gone, having decommitted in favor of Iowa over the weekend.
MI CB Boubacar Cissoko claims he is still committed but also claims he is down to a final two of Penn State and Michigan; he'll visit PSU the weekend of January 11th. It seems like Ron English will not return, so he might be a battle. PA H-back Christian Wilson had started to look around and is understandably concerned about his role in Rodriguez' offense; hopefully some Owen Schmitt highlights...

...will set him back on the path of righteousness. (Might not want to show this one to your mom, though.) As mentioned this morning

Various recruiting sites and local newspapers have gotten hold of most of the rest the class; everyone seems to be more or less solid. The Free Press got Kenny Demens, Brandon Moore, and Dann O'Neill on the record as still committed and have indirect indications from those three that McGuffie, Wilson, JB Fitzgerald, and Mike Martin are on board, though the McGuffie thing remains a question as mentioned above. There's also a Grand Haven Tribune article on O'Neill's conversation with Rodriguez:

"We actually just chatted, getting to know each other," O'Neill said. "I thought that was impressive. Most coaches would call and talk business. He called to find out who I am. He said he wanted to get to know me and my family, and wanted me to get to know his family."
Bill Kurelic has been in contact with IN OL Kurt Wermers; he remains a firm commit.

There might be some wiggle when and if certain position coaches get replaced, but as of right now the only casualty is Wienke and that list is unlikely to grow by more than one or two players. Potential casualties are more likely on the offensive line and at linebacker.

Who's new?

Well, that Terrelle Pryor guy. Pryor is this year's consensus #1 QB recruit and has drawn comparisons to Vince Young for three years. (He's also a top-25 basketball recruit, a small forward.) When Rodriguez left for Michigan, Pryor might have been the first guy to know. Pryor called up Bob Lichtenfels, told him the news, and said "put Michigan on my list." Some low-level internet buzz suggests he's not just interested, but likely to commit.

There's also OH WR/DB DJ Woods, a guy who badly wanted offers from Ohio State and/or Michigan earlier in the year. When he didn't get those, he committed to Nebraska, only to watch Bill Callahan and company implode and leave. He then switched his commitment to West Virginia, only to see Rodriguez leave. Michigan has now offered him and intends on pursuing him heavily; he seems a good bet to end up here.

Who's gone?

A wide array of prospects committed elsewhere during Michigan's monthlong coaching search. Many of them were thought to be longshots, but a fair number seemed good possibilities before the turmoil:
  • PA WRs Jonathan Baldwin and Cameron Saddler committed to Pitt (Baldwin then donned a stupid-looking hat), as did PA TE Hubie Graham. Graham was a longshot, but the other two seemed to have high interest in Michigan at one point. West Virginia was thought to be a strong contender for Saddler and the spread offense is one in which his talents will be maximized, so Rodriguez will probably take a run at him despite the commitment.
  • PA DE Shayne Hale dropped Michigan and is apparently leaning to Pitt. Given this reaction upon Rodriguez's hiring, he's probably not rushing to put on a winged helmet:
    "I was still considering West Virginia, so this is a big shocker," Hale said. "Personally, I didn't expect him to be leaving. He was telling everyone that he was going to be there for a while and that he wasn't going anywhere. This makes him look like he lied."
  • NJ LB Chris Pantale committed to BC.
  • NC S Spencer Adams was leaning away from Michigan last week:
    Four-star safety Spencer Adams took an official visit to Clemson last weekend.

    "I'd definitely give the visit to Clemson a 9.5," he said. "It's Clemson and North Carolina, with Florida and Michigan trailing. I have my last visit to NC State on Jan. 18, and then I’ll make my decision sometime in January."

    Maybe the Rodriguez hire will change things, but as of now he's a longshot.
  • PA CB Jared Holley hasn't been recruited by Michigan since Carr's retirement and now has Pitt, UVA, and Iowa as his leaders; TX CB Adrian Bushell dropped Michigan.
What's the upshot?

Michigan's done a good job of holding together its existing class. Uncommitted recruits, on the other hand, have dropped Michigan left and right, leaving Rodriguez with a good base but little opportunity to bring in more highly rated guys with the obvious exception of Pryor. We'll know more in a couple weeks when the dead period ends and Michigan's recruiting priorities re-assert themselves. The most likely outcome of the next couple months: Michigan picks up a bunch of three-stars and sleepers to fill out a class that ends up less than great, with Pryor being an enormous swing between a top ten class and a top twenty one.

More specifics as things become clear; I'm going to hold off on changes to the board for a week or two.