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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Please note that grades handed out are strictly results-based. Obviously any recruiting class that undergoes a coaching changeover is going to suffer; given the circumstances faced Michigan did very well.

I know it's a month after signing day, but Pryor's still out there: 2008 is not over. The 1,000 foot view of this recruiting class with links to the street-level:

  • Quarterbacks: D. Once Mallett transferred and Rodriguez came in, this became the biggest area of need by a mile. The results: one guy who might be six feet tall and might be able to throw. I like Justin Feagin as a player and a person (and by "person" I mean "disembodied quote machine"), but not so much as the QB recruiting class that will transition us into the RichRod era. Obviously getting Pryor, even with all the warning flags, bumps this up.
  • Running Backs: A. Sam McGuffie has the potential to be Michigan's Noel Devine; I am driving his bandwagon. Michael Shaw may be a slot receiver -- though with Terrence Robinson and Martavious Odoms I think he'll start off in the backfield -- and may be a running back but is definitely fast, fast, fast. Picking him off from Penn State at the last minute was a major boost. Mike Cox provides depth.
  • Wide Receivers: A. Darryl Stonum was heavily pursued by USC and Florida and has the ability to be a gamebreaker in the mold of Edwards or Manningham. Roy Roundtree is a possession complement to Stonum. And the two slot guys are exciting, man.
  • Tight Ends: A. Brandon Moore slipped as the year went on but had the offers of an enormous national recruit by the time he committed to Michigan; a lot of potential that may go to waste. Michigan won a head-to-head battle against Ohio State for Kevin Koger, a guy just outside of the top 100 to both recruiting sites.
  • Offensive Line: B+. Numbers and some quality. Dann O'Neill is a critical recruit, an impact left tackle. The late steal of Ricky Barnum gives Michigan one of the highest-rated interior linemen in the country. Mealer, Omameh, Wermers, and Khoury are in the nebulous mass of OL who can contribute; the way each was recruited implies that they're all worth having around to see if they pan out. Would have been nice to pick up a Zebrie Sanders or Lane Clelland instead of Khoury.
  • Defensive Line: D. Michigan only needed one DT and filled that need with Mike Martin, a low downside, moderate upside sort who's very likely to be a multiyear starter. At DT, he alone warrants an A- given the four sophomores in front of him. DE, however, was a crying need and Michigan got no one, which is an F-.
  • Linebacker: A-. Michigan needed some quality here and got it. Fitzgerald is a near-blue chip who picked M over Florida and Rutgers; I expect he'll get early PT and battle for a starting spot this fall unless Johnny Thompson turns a corner most think he's already skidded past. Marcus Witherspoon may be a DE, or may be Shawn Crable (who, come to think of it, might have been a DE). Michigan also got him away from Florida. Kenny Demens is kinda shortish but brings wood when he tackles; hopefully he's not Chris Graham redux. Taylor Hill is an edge terror.
  • Cornerback: B+. Boubacar Cissoko is a smurf but is otherwise a perfect corner. If he can overcome the smurf thing he'll be smurfy. JT Floyd is generally regarded as slow and didn't get a ton of interest from anyone other than UT and M. Would like to have seen one more high caliber player here.
  • Safety: B. Brandon Smith is a moderately shirtless recruit who slipped in the rankings throughout the year as he played all sorts of things for his high school team, including kick returner and quarterback. Though he might take some work he has the athletic ability to be an excellent safety. Again, would have liked to see another player here.
(Specialists were N/A this year with both starters returning.)

An overall grade: B+. There are two howling holes and I wanted one more four-star recruit in the secondary; other than that Michigan did very well. They held on to every recruit the Carr staff brought in except a QB (John Wienke) who no longer fit the system and an h-back (Christian Wilson) who Rodriguez just didn't appear interested in for whatever reason. The Rodriguez closing surge (LB Hill, CB Floyd, QB Feagin, WR Roundtree, RB Shaw, WR Robinson, WR Odoms, OL Barnum, OL Omameh) brought 3-4 of the speed players Rodriguez needs on his offense with McGuffie and Stonum already in the class; it also added two more OL to a group that badly needed more bodies. I was continually skeptical Michigan could fill a 25-man class with quality players, or even get close: they did.

I didn't expound on the WRs when their time came, so let me do that now:

Wide receivers: Stonum has the same high profile and potential as any of the guys who wore #1 (or should have) in years past. He enrolled early and will participate in spring practice; I expect he'll see Mario-esque playing time as a freshman and have a similar career path. Every indicator from offers to guru ratings to high school performance to personality is positive. I expect he'll be a huge success. Roundtree does not have the ceiling Stonum does and is going to have to put in serious time in the weightroom before he finds himself on the field; once there he can be a solid #2 in the realm of Mathews or Avant.

And the slot guys are awesome. Please take this with something of a grain of salt -- I am and have always been irrationally in favor of little ankle-breakers -- but man, I think these guys are good. After I did the WR summary I was stumbling around Scout and ran across a bunch of Klein Oak-Team About To Be Bludgeoned highlight reels (for those who subscribe, they're here: versus Spring, Woodlands, and Magnolia). Sometimes guys turn in dud performances in a single game or their 50 yard touchdown run is a simple matter of taking it off tackle and being faster than everyone who's not going to a BCS school, but in each of these highlight packages Robinson did something sweet.

I know the offers weren't the sort you get excited about (BC and Wake), but Robinson had to sit out his junior year because of a transfer. Since recruiting in Texas is so screwed up, by the time Robinson started lighting up opponents UT and A&M and OU were sitting on 25-man classes or whatever and going "whoah... f***!" Both recruiting services had him a four star largely because of his size, which is understandable, but Robinson's going to a system that wants him just the way he is and has a specific role for a guy with exactly his skillset. He's a five star in the Rodriguez system. Think Steve Breaston, hopefully during his freshman year when we all thought he was Black Jesus.

Klein Oak had a weird rotation going where they had a zone-read offense featuring Robinson and Hales alternate with a more conventional shotgun passing attack where some white guy would throw the ball (on third and long, probably); when this happened Robinson was a slot receiver. So he's not totally unfamiliar with what he's going to be doing this fall; I expect to see a lot out of him.

And then there's Odoms, who didn't do anything amazing on film and is short and is just the kind of guy who goes out there and reels in long touchdown catches. If I'm just totally wrong about Robinson they've still got this guy from the muck who everyone except ESPN thinks is the fastest electron they've seen this year.

2009? The board is under assembly and reaching the point at which it will be relased into the wild; probably sometime early next week. Varsity Blue has beaten me to the punch on this and has been flaunting a 2009 board for a few weeks. Though it's redundant to maintain my own, the board is the framework of the recruiting coverage around these parts. Maybe we can wiki-ize it or something and work on the same one.

Anyway, I'll accompany that with a look at Michigan's needs, early prospects, and various recruiting issues facing the program.