The Beilein Recruiting Trajectory Comment Count

Brian August 2nd, 2011 at 11:28 AM


Over the past two days Michigan has locked down the services of two touted 2013 players, IN SF Zak Irvin and MI PG Derrick Walton. The two commitments just about complete Michigan's recruiting for the next three years and, with the recent additions of Nik Stauskas, Austin Hatch, and Mark Donnal to go with ever-rising Glenn Robinson III, establish a new baseline for Michigan's ceiling under Beilein.

When John Beilein arrived at Michigan he'd never acquired a player ranked in the top 100 by the diverse and sundry recruiting gurus who translate AAU performance into college projections. Despite this, he'd turned West Virginia into a consistent tourney program and run to a couple of Elite Eights.

This made him attractive to Michigan. Since the Ed Martin thing Michigan has been erring on the side of caution. Beilein's reputation as a guy who could win without even glancing at the seamier side of basketball recruiting separated him from Brian Ellerbe, who seemed to seek out kids who were neither good at basketball or life, and Tommy Amaker, who recruited decently but could not coach to save his life.

Beilein's first class lived up to that reputation:


  • UR Stu Douglass: one other offer, that from WMU.
  • UR Zack Novak: one other offer, that from Valpo.
  • UR Ben Cronin: one other offer from WVU.
  • UR Robin Benzing: German.

Cronin's hip prevented him from ever playing and Benzing ended up a point short on his standardized test. Douglass and Novak have been important contributors but are obviously limited—their rankings and offers were on target. Benzing developed into a German national team player who's consistently been mentioned as a late-first or early-second round NBA draft prospect.

This was something close the script we expected when Beilein was hired. Michigan attractiveness relative to West Virginia should produce an uptick, though. Where is our uptick?

Mid-major sorts: 3
Touted recruits: 0
Outperformers: 0 (unless you count Benzing)


  • UR Blake McLimans
  • UR Jordan Morgan
  • #100/#137 Matt Vogrich
  • ~#60 Darius Morris

Uptick achieved: Darius Morris was Beilein's first-ever consensus top-100 recruit. Beilein identified Morris early and followed him around like he was a Grateful Dead concert; Morris held Michigan to be his leader throughout his recruiting process and picked Michigan over offers from Oregon State, Washington State, and USC. He proceeded to considerably outplay his ranking en route to becoming a two-and-done.

Matt Vogrich was regarded a pure shooter and given the last slot on the Scout 100 for having the purest stroke in the country; Rivals had him at the tail end of their 150. His offer list had a number of mid-to-low-level BCS teams (Stanford, ND, Wake, GT, Colorado). If not for Morris, Vogrich would have been Beilein's highest-touted recruit ever.

The rest of the class was not so much with the uptick. McLimans took a post-grad year in an effort to draw interest and did get Boston College and Georgia Tech offers, but his ratings were decidedly mid-major. Early commit Jordan Morgan was regarded a major reach even by Morgan's father; he had no other BCS offers.

Mid-major sorts: 2
Touted recruits: 1
Outperformers: 1 (Morgan)


  • #84/59/#98 Evan Smotrycz
  • #93/UR/UR Tim Hardaway, Jr.
  • UR Jon Horford
  • UR Colton Christian

Uptick sustained, with another guy around Morris's rankings in Smotrycz. Smotrycz was a non-entity when Beilein started recruiting him and committed just before a blazing AAU season that saw him leap high up lists—at one point he was a top 50 recruit. He came back to earth a bit before final rankings came out.

Meanwhile, Tim Hardaway, Jr., was rated on par with Vogrich but is playing on a much higher level. Horford is another mid-major sort who is moving towards contributing. His only other offer was from Providence. Christian was a very late addition who was headed to Tulane before a coaching change freed him up.

Mid-major sorts: 2 (Christian, Horford)
Touted recruits: 1 (Smotrycz)
Outperformers: 1 (Hardaway)


  • #81/94/142 Trey Burke
  • #73/98/106 Carlton Brundidge
  • UR Max Bielfeldt
    The established pattern has gone from a single touted guy to one and a half touted guys to two, with one big body to develop in the mix. Michigan snagged Burke before another rise, this one spurred by a dominant high school campaign that saw him named Ohio Mr. Basketball; if anything it seems like he's underrated.
    Brundidge committed earlier and saw his rankings drop a little bit but still remains in the 70-100 range; Bielfeldt was a very late addition Michigan managed to grab over Illinois.
    Mid-major sorts: 1
    Touted recruits: 2


This is where Beilein seems to ignite:

  • #46/60/55 Glenn Robinson III
  • #99/100/UR Nik Stauskas

If you believe the chatter coming out of this AAU summer, Robinson is due for another move up the rankings (he's already gone from a three-star to a top 50-ish guy) and Stauskas may as well. Either way this class is two solid four-stars who fit the system while simultaneously drawing attention from NBA folks. This class does not have the project/sleeper/mid-major recruits that have featured in all his previous classes, and it seems like if it adds anyone it will be national top ten recruit Mitch McGary. (Which they probably won't, but if they don't they don't have to add a random guy for roster purposes.)

Mid-major sorts: 0
Touted recurits: 2-ish.


It's too early for anyone to have a solid grasp on where this class is going to be ranked but Beilein has acquired a full class about a month after scholarship offers could officially be issued:

  • PF/C Mark Donnal is on early top 100 lists.
  • SG/SF Zak Irvin had offers from IU, Purdue, and Butler; two different sources have recently talked him up as a potential top 30 player in his class.
  • SG/SF Austin Hatch's story is well known.
  • PG Derrick Walton was set to visit MSU this weekend, whereupon he was likely to be offered. He's on early top 100 lists as well.
  • Even if the Irvin chatter is optimistic it seems like this will be another class full of solid top 100 guys well below the one-and-done range. That's three straight: a trend.

    Mid-major sorts: 0
    Touted recruits: 3?


Time will tell how each of these guys develop, but it's clear that Michigan has gone from picking off late sleepers to identifying and acquiring their plan A targets. When the 2013 class is on campus the only players who can plausibly be identified as backup plans or reaches will be Horford—who seems like he'll at least be useful as a senior—and Bielfeldt. Everyone else will be a guy who Beilein was after hard early.

Sometimes that doesn't work so well and you've got Jarrett Smith and Ron Coleman on your team, but Beilein's track record when it comes to unplucked gems is unparalleled. See: every player at West Virginia, Morgan, Novak, Hardaway, Smotrycz, GRIII, and even Morris and Horford. Now that he's plucking gems other schools are interested in, well… as soon as Michigan figures out its point guard spot they seem Back. For now, and for a long time.



August 2nd, 2011 at 11:39 AM ^

that honeymoon must have gone well. Loving the BBall optimism. FWIW, agree on everything. We're pretty close to a regular tourney team and in good years an elite 8 contender.


August 2nd, 2011 at 5:02 PM ^

That's what WVU was under Beilein.  Our ceiling could be higher, especially now that we're getting some long-awaited facilities upgrades.   I think this year's team will do about as well  as last season, but if THJ stays in school, the 2012-13 team could be very good - Final Four good, perhaps.


August 2nd, 2011 at 11:43 AM ^

All your pessimism was understandable considering what we've been through with basketball for the last 14 years or so. And when the team collapsed two years ago, I was a little worried. But I always thought the ceiling for Belien has been an NCAA championship with consistent tourney appearances and Big Ten title contention. Hope he coaches us for a very long time.

Michigan Arrogance

August 2nd, 2011 at 11:48 AM ^

It's amazing that the 1st week of Feb '11 was the low point for the program under Beiline. Bad B10 losses, looking like a repeat of the prev years underachievement. Missed on Trey Zeigler & the german. Cronin out of the game.

quick turnaround, eh?


August 2nd, 2011 at 4:52 PM ^

Yeah, the loss to Minn (where we were outrebounded by like a 3-1 margin) was definitely the low point.  At that point we were in last place in the league and even the NIT was looking doubtful.  I was starting to wonder about our program's direction.  Not anymore, thankfully.


August 2nd, 2011 at 11:49 AM ^

This exactly captures what Beilein has done and is doing. It also explains why we should be so excited. Our recent results were not an outlier based on one lucky season or one star player. Beilein is rebuilding the program from the bottom up.


August 2nd, 2011 at 11:50 AM ^

Horford "at least useful as a senior"?  How about,

"Suprisingly effective as a freshman", or

"At least useful as a sophomore"?

Don't get why we'd have to wait another 2 years for him to be useful, when he came in as a twig, was productive at times, and apparently has bulked up to 250 this offseason.  

El Jeffe

August 2nd, 2011 at 12:04 PM ^

I don't think I disagree with your larger point, but calling Horford's 2.0/2.0 per game stat line last year "surprisingly effective" only makes sense if you expected absolutely nothing.

I'm hoping for a trajectory more like

  • Fr: Was a carbon-based life form. Composed of matter, he occupied three-dimensional space on the floor.
  • So: Occasionally made a play you didn't think he would make and kept Morgan from fouling out of every game.
  • Jr: Surprisingly and consistently effective.
  • Sr: Al 2.0?


August 2nd, 2011 at 1:16 PM ^

If there is one thing about the users on this board - they know their football.  I can't argue with that.

Basketball?  A totally different story.  Horford was listed by Rivals as 6'9" 185 pounds.  To expect ANYTHING from a freshman big man of that size is ridiculous.  Looked to be headed for an obvious redshirt year.

Instead, he played and played very effectively in limited minutes.  2.0 ppg / 2.0 rpg was the stat line that was provided.  However, he did that in 6.8 minutes per game.  Weighing around 200 lbs.  For a big man.  

If you give him starters minutes (30 per game) - he's 9 pts / 9 reb / 2 blocks per game as a freshman.  That's meaningful.  He's going to be a good one for us, and to imply he'll only be a bench player (not to be confused with sixth man or role player) for us until his senior year is idiotic.  


August 2nd, 2011 at 12:34 PM ^

I think the key part to that phrase is "at least". As in, the very worst case scenario for Horford is that we have to wait two years for him to be useful. This does not rule out more optimistic scenarios. The bulking up and productive times as a freshman seem to indicate something much better than "useful as a senior" are likely, but we don't know that for certain yet.


August 2nd, 2011 at 12:56 PM ^

You can't play everyone.  I like Horford and love his potential, but it's important to remember the Bielien teams do not focus on rebounding or shot-blocking.  If Horford is going to play a bigger role it would come at the expense of other players, who bring other talents to the team.  Namely:

-Smotrycz.  More upside, scoring, and a floor spacing shooter that creates valuable mismatches as a 5.

-Novak.  More grit, shooting, perimeter oriented game that creates mismatches at the 4.  Novak is argubly at his best playing 'out of position' as a 4, and Michigan has been at its best with him in that role.

-Douglass.  If you keep Smotrycz at 4, Novak at 3, that squeezes the guards.  Douglass isn't a PG, so in this scenario, you take a senior, quality shooter, and your best perimeter defender off the floor.  That's a lot to give up for rebounds and interior D.

So, while I like what Horford brings, you have to take into consideration the opportunity costs of increasing his role. My assumption was that after this season (i.e. Novak/Douglass graduating) the problem would take care of itself, but with recruiting looking more optimistic now, Horford may always play a marginal role as Morgan's backup.


August 2nd, 2011 at 2:42 PM ^

Morgan has more offensive game but is not close to the rebounder and shot blocker Horford can be if he gets his body to fill out. I think they should share the rotation at the five with Morgan getting more minutes now but with Horford getting about 12 minutes per game. In certain matchups, you could increase that if defense became more important at the 5 than offense. I agree you shouldn't take time away from the players you mentioned, but for this team to become a Big Ten title contender Smotrycz has to be a 4, not a 5,  and in certain situations we need a guy who can defend the rim at the 5.


August 2nd, 2011 at 3:10 PM ^

I agree the Smot can't be a full-time 5, but if you assume Morgan's going to play 25-30mpg, there's only 10-15 left over.  Are you better of giving that time to some combo of Novak/Douglass (via smallball w/Smot at the 5) or Horford?  Smallball has served us well over the last couple years and is nice as a change of pace.

Good point that Horford could gain minutes at Morgan's expense.  We don't know how well Morgan will play w/o Morris around.



August 2nd, 2011 at 4:41 PM ^

I think the assumption that Morgan is going to play 25-30 is probably wrong. He averaged 24 minutes a game this year, without there really being any feasible alternative. If Horford has bulked to the point that he is a reasonable alternative, I don't see why Morgan would all of a sudden play MORE, now that the altenative isn't Evan Smotrycz. Morgan seemed to have an iffy motor, and bad foul discipline - if those continue, there's 15 minutes for Horford to play.

Furthermore, while I legitimately love Morgan, I think that with an expected decline in play at PG this year, his offense won't be quite as effective - how many bunnies did he get purely from Morris' play? Horford actually seemed to have more of a jumper than he did.

FINALLY, I think there's a legitimate chance we see both on the floor at the same time for stretches.


August 2nd, 2011 at 5:53 PM ^

Maturity and experience should translate to less foul trouble and increased availability.  If he's a better option than Horford, there's no reason to split time evenly.  Playing 30mpg isn't over-extending your starter.

Iffy motor?  I strongly disagree. Got most of his baskets based on beating his man down the floor or aggressively cutting off pick and rolls.  Morgan has limited skills, but hustle and effort are his best attributes.

Desite what I said, I wouldn't be shocked to see Horford surpass Morgan.  The effect of losing Morris could be significant. Horford seems to have more upside and talent, but is (or was) physically and mentally ready yet.  I wish he had been able to red-shirt. 

If Horford develops the range on his jumper he could fit at the 4 as well as the 5 in Beilein's system. In that case, as you said, they could play side by side.  But again, that would take time from Smot or Novak...They'd both need to become better passers too

One other consideration - If Burke shows to have 3-pt range, then there's a little less need to have a big man with range than there was with Morris.  You'd still want that floor spacing with a non-shooter like Brundidge running the offense though.


August 2nd, 2011 at 4:43 PM ^

Not really sure where you are coming from here. First of all, there is a huge misunderstanding that John Beilein doesn't care about rebounding. It is completely false. Beilein stresses defensive rebounding like no other. You can't just look at rebounding as a whole and say he doesn't care about it; offensive and defensive rebounding are completely different. The reason he doesn't stress offensive rebounding is that if you send three guys to crash the board on offense, you are still going to miss out on a majority of the boards and a lot of the time you will give the other team an easy run-out. Watch Michigan games and you will see that while we don't get a whole lot of offensive boards, we give up almost zero transition points. Shot-blocking is another story. I have seen nothing to suggest that Beilein doesn't care about it. By all purposes shot-blocking is an important part of the game and Horford should develop into a pretty good rejector by the time his career is up. Shot-blocking depends heavily on help-side defense, which is very difficult to teach to freshmen. They typically take a couple years to get it down. 

As for your point about whose time Horford will cut into, I don't think it will be anyone but Morgan. While I expect Horford to develop a consistent three-point shot, I don't think he will ever be versatile enough to play the 4 in this offense, and Morgan is the same way. Therefore, they will never be on the court at the same time and Smotrycz, Novak, and Douglass(???) will not have their minutes affected by the 5 spot.


August 2nd, 2011 at 6:05 PM ^

I didn't say Bielien doesn't care, I said it wasn't a focus.  Based on his 1-3-1 history, his past teams, and his lineup choices it's pretty clear that he doesn't care about rebounding as much as someone like Izzo.

Horford is probably our best offensive rebounder, which, you admit, is not a point of emphasis.  He's also (statistically at least) the best defensive rebounder on a team that struggled at times in giving up offensive rebounds - yet he hardly played.

I agree with you about the difference between offensive and defensive rebounding. Michigan was 64th and 343rd in defensive and offensive rebounding percentage, an enormous disparity.  But both offensive and defensive rebounding are relevant here.


August 2nd, 2011 at 11:20 PM ^

I just want to be clear: I didn't mean to imply Morgan doesn't hustle - as you said, he runs the floor very well. What I meant was that it seemed like it didn't take that long for him to tire a bit - likely from pounding with dudes like Sullinger. Which brings me full circle - with his new found weight and long arms, Horford is bes suited for that. I expect to see both, but I imagine that, as ey progress, the playing time will move closer to an even split.


August 3rd, 2011 at 10:59 AM ^

I completely agree that eventually Morgan and Horford will be splitting time at the 5 almost evenly. Horford has the potential to have a much better all-around game than Morgan, so down the road he's likely to actually play more than Morgan.

Also, you mentioned in one of your posts above Morgan's "bad foul discipline." I just wanted to point out that Horford displayed the same problem, and statistically he was even worse. Morgan committed a total of 111 fouls in 841 minutes of action, or about 1 foul every 7.5 minutes. Horford committed 40 fouls in just 196 minutes, which translates into 1 every 5 minutes.

True Blue Grit

August 2nd, 2011 at 11:54 AM ^

Very good analysis. Beilein  and staff are really doing a great job identifying good players that fit our system early and developing a positive relationship with them.  Although, the coaches have done a very good job "coaching up" players like Morgan, it's still very important to bring in talented athletes who can contribute right away.  Now if we can just get a big, space-eating inside player (like McGary) the sky will be the limit for this team.


August 2nd, 2011 at 11:55 AM ^

...the next step in this trajectory is attractiveness to top 25 talent. This means the dreaded one-and-dones. With the outside chance that Mitch McGary might choose Michigan, this fanbase may have to adjust itself to accepting such players on the team sooner rather than later.

Voltron Blue

August 2nd, 2011 at 12:10 PM ^

I mean, first of all, you're talking about only the top 25ers that don't have recruiting baggage, which reduces the field significantly, and then you're going head on with the Dukes and Carolinas of the world.  Not saying we can't win those, but we probably need success on the court first.  McGary is not your average top 10-er given his relationships with Novak and GRIII.


But that said, even if Beilein could get one-and-doners...not sure that fits with his concept of building a team.  I think he'd rather have a top 50/100 junior/senior than a top 5 freshman.  But that's just a guess....I think Beilein has shown himself capable of adapting to the available talent.  For instance, it seems both Irvin and Walton have strong midrange games, which would be a new element to a Beilein offense based on what we've seen at WVU and thus far at Michigan.  So, bottom line...who really knows.


August 2nd, 2011 at 12:12 PM ^

I'm up for that. I have no problem with one-and-dones as long as we don't have a whole roster comprised of them, and they're willing and able to gel well with the team. To be successful you need to have continuity and player development, along with good chemistry. If you can bring in a stud every couple years that provides that extra spark, awesome.


August 2nd, 2011 at 12:14 PM ^

Honestly, I don't think that is a route that JB even needs to take.  I see absolutely no reason we can't compete for Big Ten and National Championships with a roster rull of guys in that 50-100 range and sometimes below.  Burke, Brundidge, Hardaway Jr., Stauskas, Irvin, Robinson, Donnal, Smotrycz all fit in that range.  That is the kind of talent that when it gets some experience and meshes together, has a chance to win BIG.  


August 2nd, 2011 at 11:57 AM ^

good to have you back, Brian.  I have to agree with Msoccer10.  We should have a elite eight/final four team by 2014, IMO.  I don't have facts to support my theory, just blind faith.  If Cody Zeller to IU means a 100% turn around for the program in Bloomington, imagine what we can do with more than one good recruit.


August 2nd, 2011 at 12:03 PM ^

It is so hard to dig yourself out of the hole you fall into when you have years of so-so teams, but it looks like Beilein is doing just that.  With winning all things get easier.

Welcome back, Brian.  How did you not have good food in France?  You couldn't find a bakery?

Voltron Blue

August 2nd, 2011 at 12:06 PM ^

...but for real, this time, perhaps?


As unfortunate as it may be, I think we have to point to facility upgrades as a major driver.  Or at least both Amaker and Beilein were both adamant that we needed it, and then we get it, and then




Doesn't take any credit from Beilein though.  The guy is a stud and hopefully wants to coach for a very long time.


August 2nd, 2011 at 12:15 PM ^

The write up is great, but Novak was a mid major recruit but you wouldn't consider a outperformer?  He's greatly exceeded all expectations of him.


August 2nd, 2011 at 4:47 PM ^

Yes, in fact even Valpo actually pulled his bball scholarship offer late in the process. He was looking at having to play baseball in college til Beilien came along. And you are kidding yourself if you don't think he has out-performed expectations. Ever since Duke in 2008...


August 2nd, 2011 at 6:36 PM ^

IIRC, Valpo pulled his offer before his senior year, but re-offered around the same time Michigan began recruiting him.  I also believe he got an offer from Oakland. 

I definitely agree that he has exceeded expectations.  Don't forget his game against Sparty in EL this year!



August 2nd, 2011 at 12:17 PM ^

Team does bad -> Beilein sucks

Team does good -> Beilen awesome


Let's wait for some consistency before we grade Beilein, good or bad.  We've seen two great NCAA runs and great recruiting, but also have yet to get over .500 in the Big Ten.  I think ths season sans Darrius will be the most telling of his coaching ability.


August 2nd, 2011 at 12:24 PM ^

From where Michigan was to where it is now, it's clear: Beilein is AWESOME.  He teaches the game and develops players individually and the team as a whole.  Improved facilities will only add to his sales pitch.


Also, I haven't had a chance to congratulate the newest members of the Michigan family.  Congratulations to Zak Irvin and Derrick Walton!  welcome and great to have you!




August 2nd, 2011 at 7:19 PM ^

Let's not forget, we're pretty much right back where we were two years ago.  Coming off 1-1 in BTT, 1-1 in NCAA tourney, pretty much the whole roster back, plus some new guys.  And we all remember what happened...flame-out and no postseason at all in '09-'10.  This is the year that Beilein really has to prove that the program is headed up and not just bouncing around.  He has all his own players this time, and his biggest competitors in the BT all had much bigger graduation losses.  Anything less than 11-7 in conference and 21 RS wins overall would be a major disappointment.


August 2nd, 2011 at 12:23 PM ^

I think that one major point that is missing here is the acknowledgement of the role that upgraded facilities may be playing in all of this.  The new practice facility and major Crisler renovations have to have an impact on recruits.  It may literally pull Michigan out of the dark ages (as far as Crisler is concerned) and put the program on level ground (higher ground?) with the competition.  Michigan may be a more viable destination now than it has been in the past.

I think that Beilein did a fantastic job last year and the future looks bright.  I bet a friend from NC State that Michigan would make the Sweet 16 before the Wolfpack does.  We made the bet several years ago and I'm looking forward to collecting in the near future.