In response to occasional "gasps" I read in various places about UMs recruiting falling off under RichRod, I've looked over UM's recruiting classes for the last 7 years (that's as far back as Rivals and Scout go) and compared those classes with this 2009 class (as it is so far). The results show that this class is going to be a "typical" UM class in terms of quality. In fact, this year's class will likely end up above average when the final pieces fall into place (Do you hear me Big Will??).
I've used average star ratings from Rivals and Scout. I use the average star rating rather than the rankings of the classes for some obvious reasons. First, the ranking of the class depends somewhat on its size and I am interested in quality, not quantity. Second, the rankings of classes year to year does not allow good comparisons across years for the same school. For example, UMs class in 2005 was ranked second in the nation but had a lower average star rating than the 2007 class which ended up ranked 10th in the nation:
This year's class, as it currently stands, is average for Rivals and a little below average for Scout. There are 5 spots left to fill in the class (+ or - one depending on who you listen to). If Will Campbell is one of those spots, the number will shift into above average territory on both Rivals and Scout. If another 4-star or two are added to the class in addition, the class will move firmly into above average territory. In fact, if Big Will and a few additional 4-stars are added, the class will be the second best since 2002 on Rivals (with 2003 being the best) and firmly above average on Scout.
The perception that recruiting has fallen off comes from something OTHER than the actual quality of our recruits. My opinion (and only an opinion) if that it comes from a shift in the emphasis of the recruiting. Recruiting attention has shifted to the slot-dots and fans' attention and discussion is disproportionately about those players. I think this is because they are the new type of player UM is after and people tend to focus on changes. Anyway, there are quiet a few of them and many are 3-star guys. I think this means the perception becomes that "most" of out recruits are 3-star guys when, in fact, there hasn't been much of a change from the traditional quality of UM recruiting classes.
I've read here and elsewhere that going to the 3-3-5 will hurt recruiting, especially D-Line. The reasons given vary, but center on the assumption that D-Line players won't want to play the 3-3-5 since they are not "showcased" (or words to that effect). I decided to take a look at the one program I know runs the 3-3-5 consistently (WVU) and see if their defensive recruiting (and especially D-Line recruiting) is consistent with this claim.
**NOTE: ALL rankings according to Scout**
Last year, their defensive line recruiting was pretty good (2 3-star DTs, a 4-star DE and a 3-star DE to go along with two more 2-star linemen). That is a pretty good haul for WVU. For comparison, they only pulled in 6 3-star or above players on offense, compared to 4 on the D-Line alone (along with 8 more LBs or secondary players).
In 2007, they got a 4-star DT, a 3-star DE and one additional 2-star DT. Defensive recruiting again was a bit better than offensive, with only 2 of 16 defensive recruits below 3-star status (compared with 2 out of 11 on the offensive side).
In 2006 they had a crappy class in general, but note that 4 of their 5 3-star or higher rated players are on the defensive side of the ball.
In summary, while the recruiting classes at WVU are generally lower quality than UM classes, within those classes, RR doesn't seem to have had a problem recruiting for the 3-3-5, especially the D-Line. If fact, it seems he had an easier time recruiting defensive players than offensive players.
Side note: It does appear true that the supers WVU (rarely) got tended to be on the offensive side of the ball--Devine, Gwaltney, Jenkins--but those were few and far between.