A Brief History Of Instate Recruiting: Late Carr Era Comment Count

Brian May 4th, 2011 at 3:56 PM

The recent spate of instate commits and the buzz that Michigan has two or three more likely on the way in the near future caused me to wonder if Michigan hypothetically pulling eight of the top ten players in the state was unprecedented in the star era of recruiting. As almost always happens when I do something like this it got long, then got longer, and then I split it into two parts. This part covers the late Carr period from 2003 to 2008*; tomorrow's bit will cover what happened under Rodriguez and how Hoke appears to be doing so far.

*[By the time Carr announced his retirement in late 2007 Michigan had acquired all the instate prospects they were going to. Rodriguez didn't lose any, so there aren't any ambiguities there.]

2003-2004: The Old Boss Is The Old Boss

Lamarr Woodley, Jake Long, Will Johnson (with hair!)

  Touted Recruits Head To Head Signee Rankings
Year Mich MSU Other Mich MSU Mich MSU
2003 4 0 3 5 0 1, 3, 6, 7, 8 13, 17
2004 3 2 1 4 1 1, 2, 3, 7, 8 4, 5, 10, 13-16, 25

(MSU H2H win: TE Kellen Freeman-Davis.)

Yea, the long long ago when Michigan had a half-dozen four stars on an annual basis and Michigan picked who they wanted unless they were a bit weird. In 2003 Michigan locked down the top eight with the exceptions of Illinois-bound Lonnie Hurst and Purdue-bound Doug Van Dyke and Garret Bushong. Bushong would later find fame as the "'we run this place" [Ed-M: link was broken, hope I got it right] guy; Van Dyke would have some sort of freakout and leave school to work construction; Hurst had three career catches after a nice freshman year. Meanwhile, Michigan State's haul consisted of Kaleb Thornhill, Derek Outlaw, and a couple of guys who didn't make the top 25. (One, Will Cooper, was a former Michigan commit who didn't qualify.)

The next year was much the same. Michigan got five of the top eight. The escapees did not have Michigan offers and didn't do much in college. Carl Grimes had seven career catches; Justin Hoskins transferred to CMU from Notre Dame; Dwayne Holmes bounced from TE to DE and finished his career with a 14-tackle season.

This year did see instate #10 Kellen Freeman-Davis pick MSU over a Michigan offer; in college he dropped the "Freeman" and was honorable mention All Big Ten as a senior. You may remember him as a two-way player—he was a pass-rush specialist DE, too. Michigan's main whiff in this class, though, was physical freak Vernon Gholston. Michigan was tardy with an offer and lost him to Ohio State, whereupon he turned into a monster until people started testing him for steroids.

This period and the many years before it in which recruiting rankings weren't as codified represent Michigan fans' opinion of The Natural Way Of Things. Michigan gets who they want. When they pass over a four star sort they're generally right about it. Every once in a while something slips through their fingers, but that's life.

2005-2006: The Great Wasteland


Brandon Graham, Patrick Rigan, Antonio Bass

  Touted Recruits Head To Head Signee Rankings
Year Mich MSU Other Mich MSU Mich MSU
2005 3 0 0 1 0 1, 2, 3, 7, 12 4, 5, 8, 11, 13
2006 1 3 1 2 0 1, 6, 11, 12 2, 3, 4, 15

This period of relative fecundity was followed by a couple years in which no one wanted anyone. In 2005 only three players picked up four stars and it's not like the offers defy that. #4 Ryan Allison had a smattering of mid-level BCS offers of which MSU, BC, and Wisconsin were the best; #5 Andrew Hawken had only MSU, Wisconsin, and Indiana; #6 Evan Sharpley ended up at Notre Dame, but this was during the Great Willinghamming when a Notre Dame offer was more indicative your ability to caddy than anything else. The rankings were largely borne out—thanks to Antonio Bass's mysterious leg explosion only #3 Terrance Taylor and #11 Otis Wiley were all-conference-ish players.

2006 was probably worse. After Brandon Graham the top three players in the state were Charlie Gantt, Eric Gordon, and Patrick Rigan. All went to Michigan State. Michigan didn't offer any, and neither did anyone else. Gordon had one other BCS offer, that from Missouri. Rigan had one from Indiana. Gantt had Duke and UNC. While Michigan screwed up their talent evaluation by taking Obi Ezeh and Quintin Patilla over Gordon, it's not like there were a bunch of other schools who were vying to prove Michigan wrong. Talent evaluators were again validated: other than Graham, Gantt, and Gordon the only player to start in at a BCS school was Ezeh, and we know all about him.

These years sucked, but Michigan got everyone they wanted and picked off a few sleepers here and there. That their sleepers were not useful may have been the first sign of the degradation the program was to endure over the next half-decade. "Trust the coaches" was no longer in effect. The Natural Way Of Things seemed to be, however.

2007: Disaster


Ronald Johnson, Dionte Allen, Joseph Barksdale

  Touted Recruits Head To Head Signee Rankings
Year Mich MSU Other Mich MSU Mich MSU
2007 2 1 10 2 0 10, 12, 19, 23, 25 7, 21, 24, 27

The next year Michigan rebounded massively with 13 four-star-or-better guys. Michigan got all of two: #10 Ryan Van Bergen and #12 Martell Webb. Michigan State did worse with one. While both would eventually reclaim four-star QB prospects from the class when Keith Nichol and Steven Threet transferred home, Nichol eventually ended up a WR and Threet a Sun Devil. Everyone else was all like "I'm GTFO."

Michigan botched the recruitments of Joseph Barksdale, Mark Dell (who didn't even get offered because Michigan was after Zion Babb and Toney Clemons, although FWIW Clemons was highly ranked), Ronald Johnson, Dionte Allen, and Chris Colasanti. They wisely avoided Taurian Washington and Cedric Everson and never really had a shot at Nichol, who didn't fit Carr's offense, or Darris Sawtelle, a third generation Vol. They filled in their class with sleepers who did not pan out. Meanwhile, Michigan State grabbed #27-ranked Kirk Cousins.

The end result for Michigan was the infamous class that's been dissected ever since. Four years later it's clear this was the moment when Wile E. Coyote ran off the cliff. While the legs still pumped a while longer, inexorable gravity was now in control.

2008: Transition


Fred Smith, Mike Martin, Nick Perry

  Touted Recruits Head To Head Signee Rankings
Year Mich MSU Other Mich MSU Mich MSU
2008 4 1 3 3 2 1, 2, 7, 8, 11 5, 9, 10, 12, 14, 17-20, 25, 26

(MSU H2H wins: Fred Smith and Tyler Hoover, though Hoover is disputed.)

Michigan maintained most of its gains in the evaluators' eyes the next year with seven four-stars and a number of additional guys with solid BCS offers. Michigan grabbed their usual number of four stars. They passed on Jonas Gray in favor of Mike Cox, lost Nick Perry to USC, and lost Southeastern WR Fred Smith in a "shocker"—yes, people can be surprised by high schoolers with hats on the table—that was the first indication Detroit Southeastern had been colonized by Spartans.

When Rodriguez came aboard he had to re-recruit Mike Martin; everyone else stuck around. Gray is in about the same place on Notre Dame's depth chart as Cox is on Michigan's. Smith decided he liked ham more than football and is now a fullback or something. Perry was a freshman All-American but has only played part-time since because of concerns about his size.

While Perry represented the continuing bleed of talent outside state borders and Smith was a harbinger of things to come, this wasn't too far off the early years. The problem was that instead of getting great players at the top Michigan's guys blew up: Boubacar Cissoko hates cabbies and Dann O'Neill was massively overrated and transferred to WMU. Meanwhile, Michigan ignored Mark Ingram and Keshawn Martin, and probably passed on Hoover. Michigan was got no one of note from the bowels of the Michigan rankings except for the occasional interior OL.

But whatever combination of bad luck, bad scouting, and bad recruiting affected Michigan in 2007 and 2008 was nothing with the rain of hellfire* Michigan would experience in 2009.

*[I believe this is called "the hard sell."]



May 4th, 2011 at 4:42 PM ^

As near as I can tell the chart is in 3 sections:

1) Touted Recruits -- How did Mich, MSU, and everyone else do with the state's elite (prob defined as 4-star or better)

2) Head to Head -- of the guys that Mich and MSU _both_ offered, who went to Michigan, and who went to MSU

3) Signee Rankings -- What were the in-state recruiting rankings of the Mich and MSU commits?  (And the text below often tries to determine why MSU might have snuck the #1 guy...or whatev...out from under Mich's nose/defend why Michigan didn't offer him using hindsight.)


Hope this helped :)


May 4th, 2011 at 4:33 PM ^


I'm not sure we'll ever see a recruitment with as many crazy conspiracy theories and insinuations as that one.  


May 4th, 2011 at 6:09 PM ^

That one still hurts, because damn is Rojo good. It doesn't happen very often where Michigan has a guy rated top ten nationally. USC really screwed us between him and Nick Perry. Oh well, enjoy your bowl ban. 


May 4th, 2011 at 9:10 PM ^

play receiver and Michigan was recruiting him primarily as a CB? That's my recollection. I know I recall message board folk saying "Carroll is just feeding him what he wants to hear ... once he gets on campus, they'll switch him to DB." Carroll kept his word on that one, though.

Still, a very strange recruitment indeed.


May 5th, 2011 at 10:51 AM ^

For Warren there was no either or...he was a cornerback all the way, so his career was going to live or die by whether he panned out on defense.  Rojo, on the other hand, had two options, and he went with wide reciever over defensive back.  I'm not saying he would have been a first rounder on defense, but his NFL prospects probably wouldn't be any  worse, and may have been better had played DB for Carr.  That's all I'm saying.

Ultimately the kid did what he wanted, and I certainly don't blame him for it--just another in a litany of what-ifs that have plagued Michigan football for the last 5 or so years.


May 4th, 2011 at 4:46 PM ^

Patrick Rigan is actually a really close friend of mine despite him going to MSU. He is a freak of an athlete and if it weren't for injuries and bad coaching he might be in the NFL right now. He actually had a pre-existing shoulder injury from playing rugby in high school that college coaches didn't know about. The first surgery was not done properly and he had two more corrective surgeries to fix it. It was never quite right, but it didn't help that John L. tried to put 300 lbs on him. He had the frame for it, but it was a waste of his ability. Really great friend though. 


May 4th, 2011 at 5:11 PM ^

How much of our slide, over both regimes, can be partly credited to the cratering of talent in Michigan? It's back up this year, but will it go back down to normal levels, or is the recent past really the future? Because it still seems we mostly got who we wanted. It's just there wasn't a whole lot in our backyard that we wanted.  Which is scary, because you need to control your backyard, then branch out. It's amazing that MSU was able to put together as good a season as they did (even with schedule and other aids) considering at best they're getting half that meager talent. This year's class has to scare them big time, even if they won't admit it.

MI Expat NY

May 4th, 2011 at 5:36 PM ^

MSU's success last year was just their year.  Everyone likes to point out that you recruit 4-5 star kids because they are more likely to be successful.  But on the other side, every year there is a school or two that gets lucky and has an inordinate amount of 3-star nobodies develop into legitimate studs.  MSU had that kind of year last year.  

Their best players weren't amazing recruits, they just developed better than expected.  In that sense, it didn't effect them that the state of Michigan wasn't producing kids that we wanted.  MSU still got the kids they normally would get and all that mattered were that the type of kids they got, developed.  What's important about this year's class, a year where there is plenty of in-state talent, is that by keeping MSU, in a year where they are coming off their best season in 25 years, from getting the type of talent they are unaccustomed to getting, we lessen the chances that they maintain this short term success.  



May 4th, 2011 at 8:14 PM ^

That those "3-star nobodies" developed to their full potential because of the coaching. (EGAD! Did I just write what I think I wrote?!?)

Or maybe they just had a ridiculously favorable schedule that comes along once every ten years, and they were in a position to capitalize for the first time in a couple of generations.


May 5th, 2011 at 11:27 AM ^

I would guess that it has a lot to do with the population shift to the south and west. Michigan was the only state to decrease in size over the past ten years. With that kind of population shift, its only natural that talent in the state would be down.


May 5th, 2011 at 9:17 AM ^

Didn't jamie mac write this in the the 2010 HTTV?

I believe he tried to show a strong correlation betwixt Michigans success recruiting OH and on the field. Of course, his take home message was how RichRod was going to get Michigan back on track by recruiting OH. You can't be right every time or really ever if you've been betting on RichRod recently.


May 4th, 2011 at 5:49 PM ^

In Michigan, there are eight 4-star (no 5-star) recruits this year according to Scout. We have wrapped up 3 (Ross, RJS, Funchess) and from what the interweb buzz is, we stand strong on 3 more (Thompson, Terry Richardson and Ojemudia). The two remaining 4-stars are not as strong on Michigan/grades/etc, yet still obtainable recruits for UMich (Burbridge and O'Brien). Seems like we in-state-recruiting the crap out of MSU thus far. I'm sure Brian is going to elaborate more on this, I'm excited for part deux.


May 4th, 2011 at 7:22 PM ^

Lloyd losing on the Rojo class was the start of our downfall for a couple years. That was truly a rare time to have that much highly rated talent in Michigan at the same time and to strike out on all of them really hurt.

On the flip side we did develop a few lower rung guys like David Harris.

All in all for whatever reason the mid 2000's was not good for for Lloyd and Michigan.

Right now Brady is on a huge wave of momentum with a nice class of talent in the state this year and landing the top couple guys will always have the other recruits looking to jump on that train.


May 5th, 2011 at 9:38 AM ^

I believe one of the big reasons for our problems recruiting in 2007 probably had to do with the 2005 season. That's the year when these recruits were juniors and being heavily recruited. By the time the great 2006 year rolled around most of them were already leaning away from Michigan. Add to that Lloyd was seemingly near retirement and you end up losing out on a  bunch of talent.


May 4th, 2011 at 8:39 PM ^

I just hope the current class isn't overrated. It's hard to believe that the state of Michigan has the 5th and 6th best tight ends in the country - not ot mention the 2nd and 3rd best middle linebackers. I think that they are all good players, especially Ross, but I get the feeling that Allen Truie might have a little bit too much sway in the Scout rankings. I'm eager to see how these players are ranked on Rivals and ESPN.

Indiana Blue

May 5th, 2011 at 1:29 PM ^

is infinitely better than getting 3* or 2* in terms of recruiting rankings.  How they develop on the field is a total different analysis.

It is also important to remember that MSU hasn't changed offensive or defensive schemes in the last decade ... so you can recruit knowing a player has specific talents that fit your system.  However, U of M has had MAJOR system changes ... especially on defense.  I think it's obvious that Hoke is going to develop the defensive philosophy and system beginning right now with recruiting.  this is a great move because with Denard, he has at least 2 years to build the offensive side.

Go Blue !


May 5th, 2011 at 12:25 AM ^

Style complaint.  This kind of sentence....

Yea, the long long ago when Michigan had a half-dozen four stars on an annual basis and Michigan picked who they wanted unless they were a bit weird.

....was awfully confusing at first.