my favorite part of this conversation is people looking at Brad Hawkins and Brad Hawkins in consecutive recruiting classes and identifying them as separate people
Michigan's large recruiting classes the last couple years occasionally see grenades lobbed at Harbaugh and accusations that Michigan has "sold its soul" leveled. These accusations are dumb, whether they come from 'Bama hilljacks in my twitter mentions or Stewart Mandel.
The problem with oversigning is not that any year in particular has a lot of kids in one recruiting class but that certain schools used to go well over 85 on Signing Day and had to cut 8-10 kids by fall. (This was usually just Alabama.) The hue and cry about the practice was at least partially successful in reining it in, as Power 5 conferences initiated restrictions on the practice. The Big Ten allows it, but it allows just three and supposedly you have to explain where the scholarship is coming from. Michigan operates in that environment.
And in any case, the amount of attrition needed for Michigan to get under 85 despite back-to-back large classes is well within the bounds of normal. Michigan's roster is comprised of their last five recruiting classes:
2013. 27 recruits, with those remaining all redshirt seniors. There are 5: Patrick Kugler, Henry Poggi, Mike McCray, Maurice Hurst, and Khalid Hill. They have two fifth-year senior transfers, John O'Korn and Ty Isaac. Michigan also expects to bring back sixth year senior Drake Johnson.
2014. 17 recruits. One, Blake O'Neill, was a grad transfer with one year of eligibility. A second, Jabrill Peppers, was three-and-out to the NFL draft. That leaves 15 kids who could be on this year's team. 12 are.
2015. 14 recruits. All could be on this year's team. 12 are.
2016. 27 recruits who actually signed and/or enrolled. Dytarious Johnson and Brad Hawkins ended up going to prep school, with Hawkins joining the 2017 class. Ahmir Mitchell and Devin Asiasi transferred. The other 25 are on the roster.
2017. 30 recruits. Possible one or two might end up in the same boat as Hawkins.
8 + 15 + 14 + 27 + 30 is 94, meaning that Michigan had to lose nine players naturally over the course of the last four recruiting classes to avoid oversigning. Michigan's lost seven. You can be the judge of how natural they are:
- Brady Pallante took a medical hardship scholarship.
- Michael Ferns transferred to WVU after one year under Brady Hoke.
- Freddy Canteen had injury issues and recently announced a grad transfer to Notre Dame.
- Andrew David transferred to TCU to play baseball.
- Brian Cole ran afoul of team rules, ended up at a JUCO, and will play at Mississippi State this fall.
- Ahmir Mitchell transferred to Rutgers after one semester.
- Devin Asiasi, depressingly, transferred after a highly promising freshman year.
That is far from an unreasonable amount of natural attrition for an 85-man football roster, especially because the latter three were highly ranked guys who lasted at most one year. Highly touted guys don't get run off that quickly.
That leaves two spots left, one of which is known and should be announced in the near future. I'm not sure of the second, but the worst case scenario is that Michigan does not bring back a fifth year senior who has a degree in hand and can use his final year of eligibility elsewhere. More likely is someone lighting out for greener pastures voluntarily.
If that's "selling your soul," we're going to have to invent some new lingo for Baylor. Michigan is only oversigning if you consider the practice of offering redshirted seniors a firm handshake instead of a fifth year to be oversigning. That's something literally every school in the country does annually, and is bad-faith pearl-clutching by anyone who would attempt to use that as a slam against Harbaugh.