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Friday, March 21, 2008

Below is the board in all its yellow smiley guy glory. Right now it's really rough. The sites have preliminary top 250 and 300 lists out but at this point they can be wildly inaccurate and should be taken lightly, so a lot of the stars on the list are real shaky. Also, there's a ton of yellows, a few greens, and a few reds, and not many articles yet. I'm working on filling in the gaps, but right now the board probably isn't that useful to the generic observer. Let me fill in the gaps as best I can, starting with the obvious...

Arrrrgh NO QBS AAAARGH. This year's top ranked dual threat QB is Russell Shepard. Unfortunately, he turned out to be the anti-Pryor, committing to LSU a few weeks ago. Shepard had a tendency to think that whoever he had just talked to or wherever he had just visited was the bee's knees, so there's a hope out there he might be one of those guys who has a Shocking Decommit later in the year. Doubtful, given the LSU depth chart (almost as questionable as Michigan's with Perrilloux bound and determined to screw himself up) and Les Miles' status as God of Louisiana For Now. Another high profile guy, Tajh Boyd, went off the board to West Virginia.

Who's left? Lots of kids, most prominently CA QB Tate Forcier and VA QB Kevin Newsome. Both are top-100 types who have spoken favorably about Michigan. Tate, of course, is Jason's little brother and is supposed to be the best of the flingin' Forcier clan (the middle brother is entering his freshman year at UCLA). Newsome showed very well at the Army All-American game. Both maintain they're open to anyone at this point. Forcier seems really interested in Penn State as well, which means 1) distance is not a factor and 2) wooo recruiting against Jay Paterno. Newsome is reportedly looking at VT hard.

Those are the two top targets at this point, with more emerging down the line.

Aaaaaarggh NO DES ARRRRRGH. Yeah. Well... I got nothing for you. There doesn't appear to be a Michigan caliber DE in state this year, at least not yet, and the only guys who have been popping up on the recruiting sites are from unlikely locations like South Carolina, Mississippi, and Florida. It's too early to be freaking out, but the numbers are uncomfortable here.

Yeah, what is the deal with that? All the Mississippi stuff? If you didn't notice, there's a huge amount of "MS" in the "state" column relative to the first couple years of the board's existence, when Mississippi representation consisted of one kid who went to Michigan's camp and said he liked it a lot, then didn't get recruited by M. This year there are something like a dozen kids who have mentioned Michigan and a half-dozen sporting offers. WTF?

Michigan brought in former USM DC Jay Hopson to be the linebackers coach, and Rodriguez has apparently directed him to recruit the hell out of everyone in that state. It's an interesting gambit. Michigan's long made a habit of picking off random top prospects from states without an instate power (Adam Patterson from SC, Zirbel, Logan, and McKinney all in one year from KY, this year's New Jersey expedition, frequent forays into Indiana, the Gallimore/Campbell recruitments from Missouri), which describes Mississippi to a T. Theoretically, Mississippi is a free-for-all full of top prospects -- IIRC, the state has the best per-capita production of NFL players in the country -- ripe for the picking.

In practice, maybe not so much:

  • The place has a weird hold on its inhabitants. The last time Michigan went after a Mississippi player, David Pegues, he chose obvious misery at Mississippi State over Michigan and a bunch of other schools. Five-star wide receiver DeAndre Brown just decided to head to Southern Miss instead of... well, anywhere he wanted.
  • It's not like the SEC doesn't know about it. The high profile guys Michigan is going after have already been offered by LSU, Alabama, Georgia, and the like.
  • As soon as Hopson and company left USM, the Golden Eagles reeled in their best recruiting class ever.
  • The Mississippi school system is widely regarded to be Southeast Asian in its modernity, efficacy, and willingness to proclaim horrible gelatinous animal bits food. Though we've conclusively established this week that Michigan football players are not taking EECS 543 with Satinder Singh (who spent a solid hour scribbling down equations and proofs, then looked up at a classroom full of bewildered Michigan grad students, sighed, realized this wasn't MIT, and spent a month going over stuff so remedial to him we must have seemed like an offensive tackle trying to spell "cat"), since kids from non-third-world school systems are having difficulty keeping up with the coursework required of them, the chances a Mississippi kid flames out seem unacceptably high.
So, yeah, I'm a little skeptical of Michigan's new Southern strategy. Rodriguez's impressive last second haul in Florida mitigates that somewhat; I still think Michigan's signing itself up for leftovers most of the time.

Instate? Argh? Michigan State's strong start was discussed earlier. The executive summary: good job by MSU to sell these guys on State, but probably a short-term thing that will disappear once Rodriguez gets settled. Michigan will keep recruiting the ones they're interested in, especially after Dantonio's relentless assault on Michigan commits last year, and may swing one or two.

The good news is there are still a ton of Michigan targets:
  • DT Will Campbell, the #1 player in the state and a Michigan commit.
  • OLs Reid Fragel and Zach Mattias. No offers yet but seem likely to get them eventually; there may also be another Michigan-caliber guy or two somewhere in the class.
  • Fast little buggers Teric Jones, Cameron Gordon, James Jackson, and Hersey Jackson. There's a frickin' avalanche of spread-O talent in the state this year. Michigan is evaluating all of it; expect these guys to camp and viciously battle each other for offers.
Why is it so slow? Michigan has only one commit and it's late March, which isn't that unusual historically -- maybe one or two guys short -- but in the ever-accelerating world of recruiting, it's a little uncomfortable to see a bunch of guys go off the board without filling any spots. Like the instate thing, this is likely a temporary, transition-caused issue. When Rodriguez came in he had to scramble to fill out a 25-man class at a new school; usually by that time Michigan is almost done with its class and can start focusing heavily on juniors. That luxury was not extended this year and Michigan is getting their offers out there later than many schools. I expect things will pick up. The initial returns on the new staff's recruiting abilities were excellent.