Michigan's 2010 recruiting class clarifies the debate about whether Rodriguez will go after higher-ranked recruits now that he's at Michigan. Brian has already documented our program's "natural" prediction for "tweeners," players who don't fit neatly into the ranking services categories, and thus draw lower star ratings. But I think the issue goes beyond that
- Michigan's midwest recruiting base has not been Rodriguez' territory during his tenure at West Virginia, Tulane, etc. Here, he's competing not only against MSU for state recruits, but against the perennial challenge of pulling recruits from Ohio against OSU's turf. He has some leverage against Pennsylvania, perhaps, and some against Ohio because of his stint at West Virginia, but overall he will not find many 5 or 4 stars in the Midwest.
- Rodriguez' preference for the spread-option scheme inevitably pushes him to recruit in talent-rich southern states, in Texas, and in California. These areas, like the Midwest, feature powerful programs that draw the highest rank recruits, leaving our program to fight for those not committed to LSU, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, USC, Texas, UCLA, Cal, etc. Drawing 4 and 5 star recruits to Ann Arbor from the south and west has always been a staple of Michigan recruiting, and will continue under Rodriguez. But it will not increase significantly under Rich Rod unless he shifts his balance from emphasizing "scheme" to "raw talent regardless of scheme." He won't do that.
- Compared to other high-profile coaches, Rodriguez strikes me as more doctrinaire. Oddly enough, Bo, Mo, and Lloyd were more willing to try different offensive schemes during their careers. Among current coaches at established powerhouses, Tressel, Carroll, Saban, Meyer, Stoops, Mack, Meyer, Miles, etc. strike me as more adaptable, more flexible than Rodriguez. Put simply, it is impossible to talk about Rodriguez as a coach without immediately jumping into his success with the spread. But it is possible to talk about some of the best of his peers without identifying a single offensive scheme. Were the spread to become the pros preferred offensive scheme, I think we would double the number of 4 and 5 star recruits. Until that happens, college coaches who continue to be more flexible in offensive philosophy will probably draw more of the higher ranked recruits, because there will be more opportunities for larger, less nimble players, players with great talent but not well-suited to the spread.