2007: The Disaster
I was scanning some message board or another and came across a statement about the '07 recruiting class and how it was dooming Michigan this year, so I took a look. The conclusion: holy pants, what a disaster. Here they are by position group they'd are or would be playing on this year's team, with available players bolded.
QB: Ryan Mallett is doing well… at Arkansas.
RB: Vince Helmuth transferred to Miami(Not That Miami), where he has zero carries. Avery Horn left school and was at Reedley CC in California last year. He's not there this year, but he's not anywhere else, either.
WR: Junior Hemingway is a starter. Zion Babb landed at a JUCO after getting the boot and was supposed to transfer to Colorado but didn't make it. Toney Clemons did make it to CU; he's their second-leading receiver with 18 catches for 219 yards.
OL: David Molk is going to be a four-year starter. Mark Huyge is the first guy off the bench at either tackle position and started all of last year.
TE: Martell Webb is a co-starter with Kevin Koger and has been a four-year contributor but not a star.
DL: Ryan Van Bergen is an above-average Big Ten player. Renaldo Sagesse is a backup who gets spot snaps. Steve Watson moved from TE to DE and is this year's David Cone.
LB: JUCO Austin Panter is out of eligibility. Marell Evans transferred to I-AA Hampton. Brandon Herron is Craig Roh's backup when he's healthy.
DB: James Rogers is a very bad starter. Donovan Warren was a multi-year starter who made a bad decision to leave for the NFL. Michael Williams is buried on the depth chart and headed for a medical hardship because of concussions. Artis Chambers transferred to Ball State but is not on the roster. Troy Woolfolk's ankle exploded.
Total contributors from the redshirt junior/senior class
WR: 1, Hemingway.
OL: 2, Molk and Huyge.
TE: 1, Webb.
DL: 2, Van Bergen and Sagesse.
LB: 1, Herron.
DB: 1, Rogers. (Woolfolk was a success but would displace Rogers from this list if healthy.)
Of the guys who are gone, exactly two contribute to a I-A team: Mallett and Clemons. That's like six genuinely good football players out of 20 (Mallett, Hemingway, Molk, RVB, Warren, Woolfolk). That is not a successful recruiting class.
2008: The Divide
2008, divided into Rodriguez and Carr sections. JT Floyd and Brandon Smith committed post-RR but had Michigan as their leader for so long before that they are categorized as Carr guys. The two decommits aren't considered, but Wienke is a third-stringer at Iowa and TE Christian Wilson has eight catches in his career at UNC.
The Rodriguez dossier
QB: Justin "Win At All Costs" Feagin got in trouble and is gone.
RB: Michael Shaw is probably the starting tailback if healthy.
WR: Terrence Robinson is a marginal contributor. Martavious Odoms and Roy Roundtree are productive starters when healthy.
OL: Patrick Omameh is starting as a redshirt sophomore. Ricky Barnum is the primary backup at guard and should be a two-year starter.
LB: Taylor Hill transferred two weeks after arriving. He is a productive player at I-AA Youngstown State.
Six of eight guys are still around with five of them looking like successes, pending Barnum moving into the lineup next year.
The Carr dossier
RB: Mike Cox is fourth string behind Shaw and younger folks. Sam McGuffie got concussed three times in his freshman year and transferred to Rice, where he's their leading rusher.
WR: Darryl Stonum is a starter.
TE: Kevin Koger is a co-starter with Webb; Brandon Moore is still on the team but has not seen meaningful snaps.
OL: Dann O'Neill transferred to WMU, where he is a starter. Kurt Wermers transferred to Ball State after flunking out and complaining about how RR was bringing in people who "weren't his kind of crowd." Rocko Khoury is Molk's backup and did okay against Iowa. Elliot Mealer looks like a career backup at guard.
DL: Mike Martin is awesome.
LB: Marcus Witherspoon never enrolled because of a Clearinghouse issue. Kenny Demens just got his first start and looked pretty good. JB Fitzgerald has been buried behind Mouton and then Roh.
DB: Brandon Smith was too slow to play DB, didn't want to play linebacker, transferred to Temple, and promptly washed out. Boubacar Cissoko got pulled from the starting lineup for performance reasons, was kicked off the team, and saw his life spiral out of control. JT Floyd is in the starting lineup by necessity.
Ten of sixteen guys are still around with… uh. Stonum, Koger, and Martin are obvious successes. Demens and Floyd are contributors. Fitzgerald, Cox, Moore, Khoury and Mealer are looking like either career backups or meh senior starters on par with Greg Banks, though in Khoury's case he's locked behind a very good player.
This isn't a Yet Another Defense Of Rich Rodriguez post, it's Yet Another Roster Implosion Explanation post. (All right: some of both.)
In retrospect the #12 2007 class was overrated. Vastly so.
At the time the line was about the two hyped five stars and the "high upside" guys behind them who were underrated by the services and so forth and so on. The two five stars mostly lived up to that hype, but Mallett did it at Arkansas because of the coaching transition* and Warren took off for the NFL because he thought he was still that good. Meanwhile, the high upside guys mostly can't play football. Even if everyone from the class was still around Michigan would be suffering. Save Mallett, no one who left would see the field. Maybe Artis Chambers would provide some help in the secondary, but he moved to linebacker before his transfer and washed out at Ball State—it's hard to see him displacing Kovacs.
It should have been obvious that recruiting was going in the toilet when Michigan made two desperate reaches at linebacker, grabbing a JUCO guy and a two-star with one other offer(Temple), then made a desperate reach to get a second offensive lineman in the class. But three different groups are proving that subscription models can work on the internet because hope is impervious to reason.
Michigan bounced back in 2008, but a lot of that was the late Rodriguez additions. One man's listing of the top ten recruits in that class, Rodriguez guys bolded:
- Mike Martin
- Patrick Omameh
- Roy Roundtree
- Martavious Odoms
- Kevin Koger
- Michael Shaw
- Darryl Stonum
- Kenny Demens
- Ricky Barnum
- Rocko Khoury
RR's strike rate on 2008 recruits was considerably higher than Carr's, as Michigan seemed like a magnet for overrated guys. Witherspoon, Cissoko, Smith, O'Neill, McGuffie, Fitzgerald, Moore, and Stonum have all under-performed relative to expectations, with only Martin exceeding them. You can make a case that coaching has something to do with it but I believe evaluations are a major factor. From time to time a guy who knows an NFL scout relays his impressions (this year's theme: "Michigan has nothing on defense except for Martin. Who is this Rogers guy?") and from day one this guy said O'Neill was way too stiff and would not work out. Similarly, it's hard to imagine just what position Brandon Smith was going to play in the Big Ten.
Class of 2008 departures who might see the field this year are… well… Cissoko? Definite nos: Wermers, O'Neill, Feagin. Very probable nos: Hill (OLB; would not beat out Mouton or Roh), Witherspoon (could not find the field at Rutgers and washed out), and Smith (like Cam Gordon except worse).
So. Michigan's 2007 class was a disaster and attrition from it did not matter save Warren's early NFL entry. The two thirds of Michigan's 2008 class acquired by Carr was appreciably better but still not so good; Rodriguez's late additions brought it up to something approximating an average Michigan recruiting class when it comes to on-field success.
(By the way: Rodriguez's second class is looking divergent as hell. Massive nuclear strikes at QB and OL, yet another disaster of a DB class—Witty, Emilien, and Turner are all gone and Mike Jones is a linebacker.)