in town for free camps
Radio. I'll be on WCBN around 7 tonight talking about the 2008 recruiting class, if you're interested. 88.3 on your dial or WCBN.org.
Certain slighted folk are making much of Joe Tiller's claim that some sort of "gentleman's agreement" to not recruit each other's verbal commitments exists between Big Ten schools . Black Shoe Diaries:
Shaw led the Penn State coaches to believe he was going to be a Nittany Lion. ... I can understand a kid changing his mind. It happens. But when he first started having doubts he should have informed the Penn State coaches he was reopening his recruiting. How many kids did we stop calling after Shaw gave his pledge?
The other untold story here is that many insiders say the Big Ten coaches have an unwritten gentleman's agreement not to steal each other's recruits. Once a kid commits to a Big Ten school the other Big Ten coaches back off and stop recruiting the kid. Rich Rodriguez being new to the conference either has no knowledge of this pact or he blatantly ignored it as he openly pursued Shaw after he was committed to Penn State. So it appears RichRod is bringing more than just his spread offense to the Big Ten.
We'll get to the "gentleman's agreement" later. Now, let's flash back to February 4th, 2004, the day before signing day:
Blue-White Illustrated is finally reporting what most of us already knew was a foregone conclusion: former Panther recruiting class headliner Penn Hills Quarterback Anthony Morelli has reneged on his commitment and will instead sign with the Penn State Nittany Lions. ESPN just confirmed it. Ouch.
And how about January 25th, 2006?
Logan-El said he remained committed to Maryland while he took official visits to other schools. Despite this "commitment", Logan-El held a press conference in late January, just about a week before Signing Day, that was televised by ESPN at the ESPN Zone in Baltimore. He invited the Maryland coaches (they could not attend due to recruiting rules) and welcomed Maryland fans to attend. On television he put on a puppet show of sorts by holding up the hats of Florida, Tennessee and Maryland and saying why he liked each school but wasn't choosing them. Then he held up a picture of himself and Joe Paterno and committed to Penn State, causing a near riot at the Zone between his family and some very irate turtle lovers.
Logan-El knew he wasn't going to Maryland for weeks, if not months, but he strung the coaches along regardless. He used Florida, Tennessee and the Terps as well as ESPN to make a mockery of the recruiting process. And he ticked off his head coach, Charles Harley, in the meantime.
Logan-El was part of a Penn State class featuring nine layers who decommitted.
How about... uh... Wednesday?
Penn State looked as if it had a shot to sway Christchurch, Va., wide receiver Deion Walker and Cresco, Pa., tackle Corey Lewis from their original choices of Notre Dame and Illinois, respectively. But both players stuck with their initial choices.
Penn State fans should be the last to complain about anyone's recruiting tactics. I know it sucks to lose a kid, especially late, and it sucks double when the kid makes a production out of "pulling a shocker," but this is a rampant issue across college football. Over 200 recruits decommitted this year. Singling out Rich Rodriguez is sour grapes.
And what about the "gentleman's agreement"? Last year alone featured at least four intra-conference decommitments:
- Cedric "The Entertainer" Everson switches from Michigan State to Iowa on signing day.
- Jerimy Finch switches from Michigan to Indiana.
- Renaldo Sagesse switches from Illinois to Michigan.
- Quincy Landingham switches from Michigan State to Wisconsin.
This year opposing schools across the Big Ten battered at Michigan commitments in the wake of Michigan's coaching change. Boubacar Cissoko scheduled visits to Illinois and Penn State he didn't end up taking. Michigan State pursued every in-state Michigan commitment fervently, and long after each had publicly reaffirmed their decision. They continue to recruit 2009 defensive tackle Will Campbell despite his commitment to Michigan. Ohio State offered Michigan commit Patrick Omameh just before Signing Day. As noted above, Penn State was chasing an Illinois commitment. Some gentlemen.
There is no gentleman's agreement, just one oatmeal-loving old coot who will run to Tom Dienhart this summer and rip on the rest of the league "anonymously."
Coachin'. Rodriguez (and Lloyd Carr) reeled in 17 four-star players this year, which is more than Rodriguez picked up during his entire tenure at West Virginia. We know the results there. Elaboration:
Under former coach Rich Rodriguez, WVU's classes were generally rated from the mid-30s to the mid-50s. But the Mountaineers have won two BCS bowls in the past three seasons, have consistently been highly ranked and came within one win of playing for last year's national title.
"They've done a good job identifying kids from around the country that may get overlooked," says Bobby Burton of Rivals.com. "And they've done a very strong job of going into the South and getting speed guys, historically."
WVU quarterback Pat White, who is from Alabama, originally committed to LSU, which was interested in him as a wide receiver or defensive back. "Rodriguez had the right offense and told him the right things," Wallace says.
The 180. Michigan's gone from the most paranoid, information-hoarding program in the country to perhaps the least. Part of that will be a new coaching clinic held this spring:
Head coach Rich Rodriguez of the University of Michigan football team will host his initial clinic as a member of the Wolverine staff, conducting a three-day spring coaches clinic Thursday-Saturday, April 3-5.
Just 40 bucks, Dantonio. There's also going to be a seven-on-seven camp immediately following Michigan's traditional summer camp.
Rodriguez on other topics.
Rodriguez on yet further topics. Varsity Blue got to talk with Rich Rodriguez after his recruitment press conference:
The most notable content: yes, Michigan plans to have a spring game somewhere or other for the express purpose of getting the program publicity. Schwing.
There's also an interview with DC Scott Shafer; I don't want to steal all their content so you'll have to click through to see that.
Rodriguez on imports. He's giving it his best shot at assimilating into the Michigan hivemind:
Thirty members of the 1969 Michigan team visited with the current Wolverines during a team meeting Tuesday.
The message from the 45-minute session was simple: They understand the transition from one coach to another.
The 1969 team, after all, was the first under the late Bo Schembechler , and this year's team will be the first under Rich Rodriguez .
"They talked to them about, hey, they were in a similar transition 38 years ago with a bunch of new coaches and it was really neat," Rodriguez said. "Reggie McKenzie had me fired up, Dan Dierdorf , Dick Caldarazzo these guys were outstanding. They had everybody on the edge of their seats.
"It's amazing the parallels between that team and the team right now. If we could come even close to the success they had, I'll be happy."
There's also an event scheduled for sometime in the next couple months where Rodriguez has invited ever letter-winner back for a meet and greet.
Mealer. The local TV station in Toledo had a feature on local recruits signing that focused on Mealer; kid seems as upbeat as possible given what's happened to him over the past couple months. There's also a Rivals article on him.
(Via Genuinely Sarcastic.)
Slight chance of expansion. Michigan is, of course, waiting on PA QB Terrelle Pryor's probably-disappointing decision. But there's another recruit lurking out there who Michigan might pick up:
[FL WR Martavious] Odoms was the team's top deep threat this season and remains the area's biggest mystery. Blaze Thompson said Odoms is considering offers from Miami, South Florida, West Virginia and Michigan. A source close to Odoms said last week the race is really between South Florida and West Virginia, but that may have changed after Odoms visited Michigan last weekend.
"He hasn't decided yet - that's the God's honest truth," Thompson said. "He's torn. Each school has something to offer. He's been a UM fan for years. West Virginia runs the style of offense he likes, and so does South Florida. Michigan is going to start running it, and they don't have any wide receivers.
With Terrence Robinson, Michael Shaw, and Roy Roundtree in the fold Michigan's need for receivers of any sort (but especially in the slot) is no longer critical, but Michigan's going to be short scholarships the next couple years and Odoms is one of those little fast guys. Still seems like a longshot.
Vision quest. The Houston Chronicle has an article on Sam McGuffie's odd Signing Day sojourn:
"It was weird," [teammate and A&M commit Chris] Lathrop said. "He hadn't answered the door for anyone. He was doing exactly what everyone thought â€” sitting there thinking what school he wanted to go to.
"He told me 'My heart wants to go one way and my (head) is telling me to go another way.' "
I wonder which was which. (Via MSC.)
A lot of inexplicable things have happened over the last couple days. Terrelle Pryor decided to not decide. Michigan stole commitments from Penn State, Purdue, and Florida. Sam McGuffie went on some sort of vision quest. (Fortunately, his totem animal is a wolverine.) And sooner or later Michigan will give a full ride to a long-snapper. It's been the craziest Signing Day in the internet era of Michigan recruiting.
But it doesnt hold a candle to the local media's reaction to MSU's class. I discussed this a bit on the Fanhouse:
Michigan State struck out on instaters Nick Perry (USC) and Mark Ingram (Alabama) late; Ingram's decision to flee is especially grating since his father was one of Michigan State's best wide receivers. Ohio linebacker Taylor Hill took an official visit to MSU and liked it so much he committed to Michigan on the way home. Hell, linebacker Yourhighness Morgan took a look at MSU and said "thanks, but I'm going to play for Florida."
MSU ranks 7th in the Big Ten, and this was both their new-coach-bump year and a year in which Michigan changed coaches. Michigan's little brother continues to bow down.
If there was ever going to be a year in which Michigan State wrested instate recruiting from Michigan, this would be it. The results are Fred Smith and, depending on who you listen to, Tyler Hoover. Though Hoover claimed a Michigan offer, he ended up ranked a three-star at both sites. If he was part of the Michigan class, he would be the at best the #18 recruit in it. This is MSU's silver medal recruit. By any standard this is an immensely disappointing class... unless you're in the media.
You sort of expect spin like this from the Steve Grinczels of the world who make their living by telling State fans "wait till next year":
As things stood through Tuesday, MSU ranks in the bottom half -- as low as ninth by Scout.com -- of the Big Ten.
However, that should not be interpreted as an indictment on the overall quality of the players coming in, according to CSTV recruiting analyst Tom Lemming.
Sure. The fact that this is a class on par with Northwestern's shouldn't be interpreted as an indictment of the players' quality, just their ability to play football. Which they have none of.
This is even funnier:
Ray, who committed early, joins a full stable of running backs that returns senior starter Javon Ringer, junior A.J. Jimmerson, Andre Anderson and Ashton Leggett from last year's recruit class.
The addition of Ray allowed MSU to make four-star running back Mark Ingram Jr., of Flint Southwestern, less of a priority even though he was rated higher.
Yes, the reason they didn't get Ingram Jr. -- remember Ingram Sr was a star for MSU -- was because they snatched Caulton Ray away from the MAC. Meanwhile, Ingram is part of the #1 recruiting class in the country.
It gets better:
National signing day turned out to be a day of bold statements at Michigan State, including the one Mark Dantonio made to one of his top recruits, Charles Burrell, on Wednesday morning.
"Look down at your feet," Dantonio said to Burrell, a safety from Detroit. "Now you just imagine those feet playing in the Rose Bowl, because that's where they'll be within four or five years."
(One of MSU's top recruits on why he didn't pick Michigan: "I didn't receive a scholarship offer from Michigan. That was the school I always wanted to go to. It was kind of disappointing they didn't offer me. I worked real hard to receive an offer.")
Tim Brewster, meet Mark Dantonio. You're both bats. Except you can recruit, Brewster.
Lemming again pops up for a ludicrous quote:
"They basically battled to a draw with (U-M) on in-state guys, which is big," said CSTV recruiting analyst Tom Lemming.
In-state recruits with M and MSU offers who went to M: 5, including three of the top four kids in the state. The reverse: 2.
"I know a lot of people nationally don't think this class stacks up with a lot of classes in the Big Ten [including me], but I think it does [except I don't]," said Jeremy Crabtree of Rivals.com, which ranks MSU's class No. 7 in the Big Ten and No. 47 in the nation [see?]. "They got a lot of the best kids from Michigan [that no other Big Ten teams wanted]. Any class that has (Detroit receiver) Fred Smith in it, I'm a fan of. If anything, this class could have used a couple more
home runs[good players]."
MSU thinks it got three from its back yard in Smith, Hoover and Burrell. They helped MSU compete closely with U-M for in-state talent, for the first time in recent memory.
Asked how the Spartans did against the Wolverines, Dantonio stuck with the tone of the day. Bold.
Indeed, "compete closely" now means pick up one guy Michigan wanted, one other they were kinda lukewarm on, and none of the top four guys in the state.
This is expected from Lansing party organs. But what's the deal with Drew Sharp writing his bi-annual positive column about one of the worst recruiting classes in the Big Ten? And Mike Rosenberg trashing Rodriguez for "running off" malcontented, disrespected, and teammate-hated Ryan Mallett?
Rosenberg's piece is especially disappointing, as it lingers on the off-the-cuff comment provided by Rodriguez when he was surrounded by reporters at halftime of a basketball game:
A month after Mallett left, I've not forgotten what Rodriguez said about him. A reporter asked where Mallett was going.
"I don't care," Rodriguez said. "He's not playing for Michigan. I'm concerned with who's playing for Michigan. ... I recruited him once, I recruited him twice, and after the third call, I'm thinking, 'OK, three calls is enough for me.' It's a great institution, and if somebody doesn't want to be here that's already here, you wish them well and move on."
He doesn't care. Why should he care? Mallett decided to leave the program, at which point he no longer cared. Follow up:
The problem is that Rodriguez didn't just say that to Mallett, or to the media. He acted like the wronged party, and he made a Michigan freshman look bad in the process.
I do not understand the leap from "I tried three times and he does not want to be here, I wish him well" to "I am a wronged party! Mallett should look bad in your eyes!"
You know who else was about to run off Ryan Mallett? Saintly Lloyd Carr, who according to a source told him "I don't like anything about you" and then hurled transfer papers his way halfway through this season. Mallett almost transferred two seconds after he showed up on campus, then almost transferred the summer between his early enrollment and fall, and then actually did transfer as soon as Rodriguez was hired. There's a common thread here. It is not Rich Rodriguez.
About every week I got an email from someone on campus who had seen the kid getting high or trashed. Some talked to him; all who did came away with the opinion that the guy didn't care about anything. Sources inside the program confirmed multiple times that Mallett had a major attitude problem, something that was so pervasive that it even worked it way into one of the local newspapers. The dissent was evident on the sidelines
during the disastrous Wisconsin game, when Mario Manningham bitched him out on the sidelines, or during Mallett's disastrous stint in the Illinois game, when Carr bitched him out for two solid minutes.
In October I wrote this based on multiple sources:
The situation here is precarious; without a major attitude adjustment things could be very sketchy at quarterback next year.
I have heard it far and wide and so many times from so many sources that the conclusion is indisputable: Ryan Mallett is the reason Ryan Mallett transferred, no matter what Ryan Mallett's mom -- no doubt the least biased source around -- says.
Mallett would be on his way to Arkansas and failure no matter who Michigan's coach is.
Meanwhile... Drew Sharp. What can you say?
There were no news conferences from attention-hungry teenagers announcing there wouldn't be a news conference. There were no last-minute decisions that left the recruiting-obsessed almost breathless in anticipation.
"No one decided to go to Michigan State."
There was little buzz surrounding Michigan State's fresh list of football signees because it's boring building a foundation.
Also boring: Northwestern's class.
There's only one "four-star" player coming to MSU? Detroit Southeastern wide receiver Fred Smith. But the commitments don't seem to include the illogical reaches that defined many of John L. Smith's recruiting classes.
This class looks more Big Ten than Mid-American Conference.
MSU's 2008 class: #49 to Rivals. MSU under JLS: #16, #35, #33.
For Michigan State, it's not about the number of four-star recruits it signs now, but the two- and three-star players that can help develop a sturdy program. That's the foundation from which championship seasons and Rose Bowl appearances are inevitably erected.
That's how Jim Tressel did it in Columbus.
Indeed. Tressel's second recruiting class: #5. A foundation of... uh... three five-star recruits and fourteen four-star recruits. Just like Michigan State's class.
There are private whispers around East Lansing that Rich Rodriguez's radical transformation of Michigan football creates opportunities for the Spartans. While the new guy from West Virginia introduces himself to the local prep coaches, Dantonio is already in the door, gaining familiarity.
Indeed, Rodriguez, who hopes to have a spring game at Ford Field and will invite every coach in the state to come to his frequent clinics and camps and finished his first recruiting class with a flourish, will have to fear Michigan State's insane short-joke-making curmudgeon. Because Jesus, man... they got a guy!
This is what you need to know about Michigan State's class: its second-best guy would be Michigan's 18th, and this year is the first time in 40 years Michigan changed coaches. Meet the new boss, little brother.
Gone, gone, gone, whoahoaoahoah. Alex Mitchell and Jeremy Ciulla, previously mentioned as departees, were officially announced as such today. Also leaving the team are Antonio Bass and Chris McLaurin. Both of the latter will remain on medical scholarship. The only surprise there is McLaurin, who played sparingly as the third or fourth tight end a year ago and was seemingly passed by Martell Webb by year's end.
No mention of this George Morales kid supposedly offered as a long-snapper. You'd think the guy would send in his LOI at 12:01 AM if he had a legitimate offer. There's a theory kicking around that Michigan wanted to delay his signing in case everything fell perfectly and they needed him to grayshirt, but IIRC grayshirts usually sign anyway.
Rodriguez did mention Michigan would like to add somewhere between one and three guys to the class: obviously this refers to Demens, McGuffie, and Pryor.
This sounds a little grim on McGuffie: "When a kid confirms they are coming the night before and then don't come through it is tough, but it is understood in our profession." He did follow that up with a reference to his dogged recruitment of Noel Devine, the electric scatback from last year who took his decision to March 30th.
Update: Demens' LOI is in.
LOIs are in save those of Kenny Demens, Sam McGuffie, and hypothetical long-snapper George Morales. Demens' absence is probably not cause for alarm; if he was going somewhere else there'd be something up about it now. You can check out Rodriguez's press conference at MGoBlue.
Probably meaningless notes on positions: Feagin at QB, Omameh at DL(?), Koger and Moore both TEs, and Robinson and Shaw listed at ATH.
Some editorial opinion with McGuffie and Pryor still in flux:
The most important thing Rodriguez did in the scanty time he had was get the class near the 25-kid maximum without taking warm bodies. The Rodriguez commits (we're excluding JT Floyd and Brandon Smith here, as both were on Michigan's radar for months before the coaching transition):
- TX WR Terrence Robinson, a four-star to both major sites.
- OH RB Michael Shaw, a four-star top 250 kid to both sites who's just outside the Rivals 100.
- OH WR Roy Roundree, a Rivals four-star who was the best kid in Purdue's class until Michigan went "yoink"
- FL OL Ricky Barnum, a four-star who had committed to freakin' Florida until Michigan went "yoink"
- OH LB Taylor Hill, a one-time Oklahoma commitment and Rivals 250 member.
- FL QB Justin Feagin, a three star to Rivals and two-star to Scout, but with reported offers from Miami and LSU.
- OH OL Patrick Omameh, a sleeper offensive lineman who Ohio State offered once Josh Jenkins decided to stick with West Virginia.
Of the seven, only Feagin and Omameh weren't given four stars by at least one service, and there are reasons to think even those two are on track for significant contributions. None are top-100, but all are potential contributors.
There are some downers. QB became an urgent need when Ryan Mallett transferred and unless we get a Christmas miracle it looks like the only guy at that spot will be Feagin. That's insufficient. Nick Perry's inability to read a depth chart leaves Michigan without a defensive end in this class a year after taking only Ryan VanBergen. DE is less of a concern because one of the linebackers or OH TE Kevin Koger could end up there, but a class with only one guy recruited as a defensive lineman gives me the heebie-jeebies. In this new era of college football where the fifth defensive back is as much or more of a starter than the third linebacker, just three DBs seems one too few. And losing McGuffie would suck if it happens.
But the results are the results: Michigan is currently ninth in Rivals' rankings of the top classes (eighth in star average) and tenth in Scout's after a coaching transition. That never happens. Classes implode when coaching changes are made and generally finish weakly. Michigan didn't lose anyone it still wanted except maybe McGuffie, and Rodriguez's strong finish bodes well for future classes.
Enthusiasm will no doubt scale back if Pryor goes elsewhere and McGuffie defects; for now the new staff has done an excellent job.
*(Koger was supposedly opposed to playing D earlier in his recruitment, but he told the Toledo Blade "wherever [Rodriguez] wants to put me" in a January article. The rest of that quote is about how he played in the slot, not as a true TE, which makes me think maybe he meant "wherever on offense"; the next paragraph starts out with his coach saying he could play on either side of the ball.)
Okay, Shaw is in($). Unfortunately, we've got a minor PANIC on our hands about Sam McGuffie, who visited Cal last weekend and has not sent his LOI in($) to anyone. Losing McGuffie would be a crushing blow to morale... I don't think that's likely but am spooked. (Again, these articles all have the meat in the headlines.)
In other bits, here's Justin Feagin:
"I hope, and it would be better for me, if he goes to Michigan," said Feagin of Pryor, a quarterback from Pennsylvania, who will not sign today. "That really lets me see where I stand as a quarterback and if I have really enough potential. He's a good player, and if he goes there that means I have to work twice as hard to get what I want."
I love his quotes. I think he'll be a success. FWIW, a friend in the Florida media says Feagin is not really a collegiate QB but more of a "wr/wingback" sort who, though he threw nothing except deep balls, is "fast as shit." So there you go.
Pryor on ESPN:
Terrelle, there's no one to throw to at Penn State. Also OSU is evil. SAVE US CHARLIE BATCH. WE'RE SORRY ABOUT THE WHOLE COMMENCEMENT THING, EMU RULES.
Update: Dann O'Neill in the Grand Haven Tribune on McGuffie:
"That's just talk," O'Neill said. "Those people on Rivals are just trying to get more subscriptions. The other recruits and I would know if someone was going to commit. The two kids who did de-commit let us know before they did it so we wouldn't have to find out on Rivals.
"There were rumors about J.B. Fitzgerald going to Rutgers. He and I talked probably more than any other recruit, and he was talking about (Rutgers) before the new coaches were announced, but once they announced Coach Rod, he was set on Michigan.
"McGuffie loves it in Ann Arbor. He doesn't want to go anywhere else."
Worth something, though less than definitive.
Also, let's point and laugh at State:
Carr's personal phone call was the first step in the process that convinced O'Neill to commit to U-M last winter. While he's been badgered at times by various other programs, especially Michigan State, over the past several months, O'Neill has never wavered on his decision to attend Michigan.
Ha, ha, ha.