Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Michigan Lands Top 15 Recruiting Class for 2009

The Michigan football program and head coach Rich Rodriguez finished the 2009 recruiting campaign strong for the second straight year, signing a class ranked 13th nationally according to and 7th according to . Following the 3-9 2008 football season, many didn't know what to expect from Rodriguez and his staff on the recruiting trail.

Would prospective recruits see the 3-9 season as an opportunity for early playing time? Would UM verbal commitments during the 2008 football season eventually decommit? Would opponents use negative recruiting tactics against Rodriguez and his coaching philosophy (spread offense, doesn't throw the ball enough, RR philosophy not conducive to developing players for the NFL)?

The answer was yes to all. But Rodriguez and staff ignored the media bashing and continued to work. So how did Michigan's 2009 class measure up in the Big Ten recruiting rankings?

Not too bad at all. Yes, Michigan's recruiting class finishes behind their white hot rival Ohio State Buckeyes for a second straight year, but well ahead of Michigan State, Penn State (Rivals) and Notre Dame.

Rodriguez's 2009 haul of recruits appear to answer a number of key team concerns:

Holy mother of God, is it just me or were high school kids insane not to see the glaring Captain Obvious advertisment for early playing time in Ann Arbor? Incredibly, Michigan had to cope with the mid-season decommitment of then 5-star QB recruit Kevin Newsome (Penn State) and post season decommitment of 4-star QB recruit Shavodrick Beaver (Tulsa).

Yes, Penn State and Tulsa. Let that sink in for a moment or two.

Michigan's quarterbacks Steven Threet and Nick Sheridan were not productive in 2008. Inexperience, learning a complex playbook, and inexperienced offensive line, and poor throwing accuracy undermined their effectiveness. Come hell or high water, Rodriguez was going to get himself a QB or two. Only a few weeks ago this situation looked dire. Today Michigan signed freshmen Tate Forcier (No. 15 QB) and Denard Robinson (No. 16, QB/CB). Both are welcome additions to the Michigan QB competition this spring and fall respectively. The most notable attributes of these two fine freshmen are a.) blazing footspeed and b.) high throwing accuracy. Both achieved high school fame for their QB elusiveness and uncanny ability to make big plays. Both ran spread-run oriented offenses in high school which should only help with the timing and playbook-learning curve. The good news is that Michigan finally is accumulating the depth it needs at this position once again.

Running Back / Slot Back
Entering 2008 Michigan assistant coach Fred Jackson stated that Michigan may have the fastest group of running backs he's ever seen at Michigan. But numerous injuries and a young OL lessened the production of this group. Michigan adds 4 running backs to the fold in 2009, some of whom will play the slotback position in the spread formation: Teric Jones (No. 44 RB), Jeremy Gallon (No. 45 RB), Fitgerald Toussaint (No. 49 RB), Vincent Smith (No. 102 RB).
Most notable attribute of this group: 4.4, 4.5, 4.5 and 4.5 shuttle times in the 40 yard dash. Shazaam!

Defensive Line
Graduations in 2009 opened up a lot of opportunity for incoming Michigan freshmen. It's only surprising that more players didn't commit to Michigan for the DL.
Michigan landed Craig Roh (No. 8 DE) and Anthony Lalotta (No. 15 DE) to help lessen the blow of losing Tim Jamison to graduation last fall. Michigan also landed the Wolverine state's best player in William Campbell (No. 6 DE). Unfortunately Michigan did not land DE Sam Montgomery (committed to LSU), and both DT Pearlie Graves (Texas Tech) and DE Daquinta Jones (Arkansas) decommitted from Michigan on signing day.

Offensive Line
Michigan's offensive line in 2008 gradually improved as the season wore on. In 2009 Michigan's recruiting efforts havce paid off with the signing of Michael Schofield (No. 10 OL) , Taylor Lewan (No. 20 OL) and Quinton Washington (No. 25 OL). William Campbell played OT in high school and could play on offense next fall as well. For 2010 Michigan needs to seriously consider getting a top notch center.

Anyone who observed a Michigan football game in 2008 can tell you that the Michigan secondary needs work. The Michigan defensive backfield gave up way too many big plays last year - and in virtually every game. The good news here is that Michigan has a good bit of talent and experience now at safety. Cornerback is the biggest question mark for 2009. Justin Turner (No. 3 CB) and Denard Robinson (No. 13 QB/CB) signed with the Wolverines today and should bolster the talent at that spot.

Wide Receiver ?
Come on. Honestly, is there a football team in the Big Ten right now that even remotely comes to close to Michigan's depth talent at wide receiver? Odoms, Mathews, Hemingway, Clemons, Stonum, Rogers, T. Robinson. The depth, speed and talent here is borderline disgusting. Rodriguez didn't have to land any WRs this fall. But he did anyway. Je'Ron Stokes (No. 17 WR) and Cameron Gordon (No. 82 WR) should get reps this fall at outside wideout. Stokes is supposed to be scary good.

Tight End?
Um, Michigan recruited zero tight ends in 2009 and probably won't be recruiting many going forward under Rodriguez due to the sale on Michigan tight ends. I think Rodriguez prefers to call them "fullbacks".

Overall a great Michigan class, all things considered: 3-9 season, incessant negative recruiting, mid-season, post-season and signing day decommitments, and the limited recruiting time available after such decommitments. 8 of the 22 commitments for 2009 came from Florida. 7 of the 22 are already enrolled at Michigan. 2009 may very well constitute the fastest recruiting class top to bottom ever at Michigan.

Not too shabby, Coach Rodriguez. Good work.

(Photo of Denard Robinson,

No comments: