I have been mulling over this for some time, so I figured I would ask the board (especially posters who are knowledgeable about recruiting) for some fresh perspective.
For the past couple of years, it's been a pretty consistent argument that defensive players will want to go to UM, in part, because of the availability of immediate playing time at key positions. The thinking is that a young player will see walk-ons and overmatched graduates on the two-deep and figure they can step onto the field as freshmen and compete for a starting spot from day one, as opposed to being buried behind a couple of experienced players. This makes sense intuitively, since it is obviously hard for a kid to go from being a star on his HS team to being a backup for 2-3 years, so the allure of immediately PT should be very enticing to stud defensive players.
Now, while I agree with this outlook to an extent, do people think the cratering of this defense the past few years might actually be working against defensive recruiting because good players don't want to be on a unit that is one of the worst statistically in college football, and has been a disappointment under RR? Beyond the obvious "good players like to play with other good players" argument, it seems even more important for defensive players to play on a good unit as opposed to offensive players - e.g. Calvin Johnson had a horrible QB, but he still gained recognition because one-on-one plays are "easier" for an offensive player than a defensive player. There are fewer one-on-one situations for defensive players (outside of DB in man coverage and maybe edge rushers), so a breakdown in the defense may lead to a players looking beaten on a play when in reality that is not true. And from a pure ego standpoint, why would a top-notch recruit want to come to a team that will give up 450+ yards a game and be subjected to criticism all the time, or want to play for a DC who might be gone in a year or two?
In this scenario, having early PT means you are also going to be thrown out there with a bunch of guys in similar situations (inexperienced and/or less-talented), and for the next 12-13 games you are going to be constantly highlighted as the weak link, chasing down guys on broken plays, etc. I'm not saying this is an insurmountable barrier for recruits - they might see this as an opportunity to turn the program around, to be the guys who brought back a great UM defense - but do people think it will have (or has had) an effect on the quality of defensive recruits?
In no way am I trying to question RR or his recruiting, but I am just wondering.