Some Justification For The Recruiting Tizzy

Submitted by Brian on June 14th, 2011 at 1:21 PM


he wants you (probably not you unless you're 6'6")

Brady Hoke's swashbuckling recruiting start has put Michigan fans in a tizzy, yrs truly included. Whenever anyone's in a tizzy there's someone there to say "hey, wait a minute," and this is no exception: amongst the many threads that can be summed up with three punctuation marks—!!!—is a small cadre of very rational people who note a significant number of three stars and lack of top 100 types.

One of them did some research:

I looked at Rivals data for every year since 2002, when they first started rating. I looked at the total number of 4 and 5 star recruits each year, and then calculated that as a percentage of the overall class. As we know, 4 and 5 star recruits are what fans think of as "elite" recruits, and if you look at elite recruits as a percentage of the overall class, you can get a rough idea of the "quality" of that year's class.

There are major caveats with this approach, starting with a huge one; this year's class isn't finished being rated, since none of have even played a game as a senior in H.S. Also, the class isn't, like, complete. Finally, the usual caveats of recruiting ratings apply as well. But since fans are typically using ratings to proclaim their happiness with recruiting, it seems fair to at least look at the early ones, just as we do around here in Tim's "Hello' posts. So here goes:

YEAR- #4/5* of # in class (%)

2002- 11 of 21 (52%)

2003- 13 of 17 (77%!)

2004- 13 of 22 (59%)

2005- 10 of 23 (44%)

2006- 11 of 19 (58%)

2007- 7 of 20 (35%)

2008- 17 of 24 (71%)

2009- 14 of 22 (64%)

2010- 6 of 27 (23%)

2011- 6 of 20 (30%)

2012 to date- 7 of 16 (45%)

So of the 11 years that Rivals has recruiting rated, there have been 4 of those years that, by looking at 4 and 5 star percentage of class, this year's class so far has beaten. And of course 6 that had a higher percentage of the class rated as elite by Rivals. Again, I don't draw any conclusions here because of the above caveats, but I do find it interesting. What do you think?

I think the above guy does have a point. Michigan is not suddenly recruiting on par with USC at its apex. That's fine. We are a beaten down fanbase that reached for the spread stars and melted its bowl streak and self respect. A return to, say, the #6 program in the country—its record during the Carr era—would be a welcome change. Michigan's recruiting from the early part of the survey contributed to that and a return to it is a good thing.

But just glancing at the number of four stars sells Michigan a little short. Here's why:

Rivals Is Relatively Down On The Class

247 and Scout are higher on Michigan's commits. The original poster returned to make this point when asked by commenters: 56% of Michigan's commits have four stars on Scout, which puts it above six of the previous ten classes.

Big Classes Are Tougher To Fill

Michigan is apparently headed to 26 this year, a number that should strike fear into every 5'8" guy on the roster other than Vincent Smith*. There's a set number of highly touted guys interested in you no matter how big your class is, so getting to 16 so early with seven four stars (or nine or whatever) should mean Michigan can hold out for bigger fish and come to rest with an impressive, large class.

*[This does make me uncomfortable: they have about 19 spots now and while a standard attrition rate gets them close-ish to that number, outright planning on sending guys out is approaching Saban territory. I hope there are completely legitimate reasons the guys who leave do so but that's getting into "but he really wanted to go to South Alabama!" territory. We'll see.]

Not All Three Stars Are Created Equal

Rivals actually breaks down players into eight tiers: a five star gets 6.1, four stars 6.0, 5.9, or 5.8, three stars 5.7, 5.6, or 5.5, and two stars 5.4. Michigan's committed three stars all get a 5.7 from Rivals save Mario Ojemudia, who gets a 5.6. They've all got good offers from program established at a BCS level:

  • Ben Braden: Wisconsin (and Michigan State)
  • Devin Funchess: Nebraska (and Michigan State)
  • Matt Godin: Wisconsin (and Michigan State)
  • Kaleb Ringer: Iowa
  • Anthony Standifer: Notre Dame
  • AJ Williams: Arkansas (and Michigan State)
  • Ojemudia: Iowa, Stanford (and Michigan State)
  • Allen Gant: Stanford

Only Caleb Stacey (best other offer: BC or Illinois) doesn't have an offer from a program that's done pretty well for itself over the last five or so years.

While none of those offer lists says "you have obviously ranked this prospect wrong (or he's fibbing about who wanted him)" there's a big difference between a 5.7 three star Nebraska was after who is a four star to the other sites and the three stars in Michigan's 2006 class. Only Quintin Patilla got a 5.7. Patilla and Obi Ezeh were snatched away from the MAC; Quintin Woods had an Iowa offer but didn't qualify, something that no current commit seems to be on watch for—certainly no three star. John Ferrara (Penn State) and Perry Dorrestein (Nebraska) each had one other good-ish BCS offer but didn't get that 5.7 and Nebraska then was Callahan Nebraska. Greg Banks shows an Oklahoma(!) offer on his profile but I'm not buying that; he was nondescript 5.6.

Similarly, of Michigan's 11 three-star-or-worse commits in 2005 only two (La Terryal Savoy and Mister Simpson) got a 5.7.

This is where some light Carr tsking has to go: Michigan's strike rate in the late Carr era was dismal. Exactly one three star* from 2006 or 2005 can claim to be anything other than a desperation starter: Mark Ortmann. In just 2005 Ohio State dug up Brian Hartline, Malcolm Jenkins, James Laurinaitis, Anderson Russell, Donald Washington and Brian Robiskie. That's six guys currently in the NFL rated three stars or lower by Rivals. We can talk all the crap we want about Terrelle Pryor but the current Buckeye dominance wasn't just built on loaner cars and birthday parties. They annihilated Michigan when it came to unplucked gems.

Similarly, Rich Rodriguez's classes were laced with academic washouts, insta-transfers, and guys with offer sheets nowhere near the solid lists Michigan's current commits have.

While we've got little evidence Hoke can manage the same trick OSU did the chances he comes up as empty the Carr regime did towards the end are slim, and the chances he suffers as much attrition as Rodriguez are zero.

*[Other than Zoltan Mesko, who is a punter. He got three stars but for recruiting sites giving a kicker three stars is the equivalent of giving anyone else five.]

Michigan State: Goo

This has already been established. Brady Hoke has turned Michigan State recruiting into a national endeavor. Good luck with that, kids.

Notre Dame Is Not Invincible

Recruiting against Notre Dame became virtually impossible for Michigan after Charlie Weis (of all people!) ascended to the top job in South Bend. Throw a rock at Notre Dame's highly touted, highly disappointing offensive line and you have about an 85% chance of hitting a guy who Michigan had offered and pursued heavily. (Don't worry: in response he will only mewl pitifully and see his draft stock plummet.) When Michael Schofield committed to Rich Rodriguez, this was a tremendous outlier.

Notre Dame always did well against Michigan since they had an edge with upstanding gentlemen from Catholic schools and upstanding gentlemen from elsewhere were a dogfight, but in the late Carr/Rodriguez era that went from a slant to an avalanche.

Hoke hadn't fought with Notre Dame much early but four of the last five commits—Erik Magnuson, Tom Strobel, Anthony Standifer, and Terry Richardson—had offers from Notre Dame. Richardson is Cass Tech and his buds are commits and etc etc, but

  • Standifer is from Chicago, where Notre Dame has been kicking Michigan's head in for decades,
  • Magnuson is from the West Coast, where Michigan recruiting had evaporated under Rodriguez and Notre Dame does pretty well, and
  • Strobel is from the Cleveland area, which is historically one of the least-friendly places for Michigan recruiting. (Information per Misopogon, his past diary, and his upcoming Hail To The Victors article.)

That's a burst of success against the Irish unlike any Michigan has seen in a long time.

Ohio State: Self-Immolated

This is impossible to judge in a vacuum; recruiting against the Buckeyes is going to be a lot easier for the foreseeable future. Does Tom Strobel swing to Michigan if Jim Tressel forwards that email to compliance? Maybe, maybe not. Probably not. However, even if Ohio recruiting's skids are considerably greased the next few years Hoke has an opportunity to become an equal(-ish) force in the state comparable to the Bo/Mo/early Lloyd era when recruiting an Ohio player was like going up against Notre Dame: yeah, there's a subset of that population you're basically Sisyphus with but you are going to win a sizeable chunk of those battles.

Shane Morris

Shane Morris. In a similar vein, the things people are hearing about Wormley, Pipkins, Diamond, and even the buzz on Adolphus Washington.

Evaluating A Proper Level Of Giddiness

I do think the research guy above has a point. While Rivals is the most pessimistic data point at the moment, Michigan killing the Midwest without pulling in any of the truly big time recruits from Ohio, Illinois, or Pennsylvania (yet, anyway) is a  baseline for Michigan's success if it's going back to a This Is Michigan strategy. Hopefully over the next eight months we'll see them pare back to an elite corps of guys they're after and close out with VHTs. If they don't it's going to look like a pretty good Carr class. If they do it's going to crack the top five and set the stage for a major realignment of power in the region.



June 14th, 2011 at 2:18 PM ^

A reason that hasn't been mentioned to feel good about this class is "positions of need".  One of the concerns under Rodriguez and the later Carr years was that they were unable to address glaring areas of need on the roster.  For Carr it was OL and DB.  For Rodriguez it was probably most of the defense (aided by attrition) and tight end. 

In this class Hoke has already stock-piled players at positions where we have been thin and untalented in the past few years - DL, LB - and addressed other immediate needs such as OT and DB by adding depth and/or quality.  If he can add 2 true defensive tackles, including one with a high ranking, and maybe a solid outside reciever he will have addressed all needs.  I still want a solid DT before I consider this class a true success, however. 


June 14th, 2011 at 2:19 PM ^

brian, i'd be happy with a average carr-level class even if this class has the potential to be even better.  the fact of the matter is that this staff has more obstacles on their path to recruiting success than carr did. 


June 14th, 2011 at 2:40 PM ^

What I really like about this class is U of M did what  wanted to do in the state, forcing MSU to go places it's never been.  There really aren't any more highly touted players left to recruit in Michigan save for Aaron Burbidge, who I still worry is too much of an academic liability to take.  The next highest ranked player still on the board is Norfleet from King.  Yet others convinced me he is on the unhappy side of small for a Hoke running back.  Then there's the Battle Creek OL, yet methinks U of M is happy with the current and potential OL.

Oh, BTW, Dodson committed to Wisconson.  Let the OSU skids continue.


June 14th, 2011 at 3:25 PM ^

Michigan is doing a great job recruiting.  Hopefully, they can snag Dunn away from Ohio.  This is off subject, but I noticed in the Lindy's College Football preview mag that Jordan Kovacs is a pre-season first team all big ten selection.  If Woolfolk and Floyd are 100% healthy and with the emergence of Carvin Johnson this could be a better than average unit.  The defensive line should be pretty good too.  I'm starting to think that the defense will be drastically improved.  Does Michigan have any redshirt freshman that will be able to contribute in the defensive back field and add quality depth?  Thank God Jake Ryan has emerged this spring because the LB's need all the help they can get.



June 14th, 2011 at 3:50 PM ^

Slight correction.  Zoltan was not a 3 star recruit.  Those stars just represent the galaxies he conquered before coming to earth.

Wolverine 73

June 14th, 2011 at 4:12 PM ^

Wisconsin proves that year after year.  Michigan almost invariably has a higher ranked class.  WI develops the people it recruits better, or recruits people better able to compete in the Big Ten.  Northwestern seems to be doing it lately also.  If this staff can develop players, these guys will be good whether they are 4 or 3 stars.


June 14th, 2011 at 5:40 PM ^

2010 was their first big ten title since 1999, as well as their first BCS berth since 1999.

From 2000-2009 they went 44-36 in big ten play.  While that isn't bad, I think it's far below what UM fans would consider acceptable. 

For the most part if you're in a BCS conference (with the probably exception of the Big East) and are hoping to compete for National Titles, you better be recruiting your fair share of 4 stars and the occassionally 5 star.  You look back over the history of the BCS Title game and just about every team that has made it is (or at least at the time of their appearance) a perennial Top 10-15 team when it comes to recruiting.  The two excpetions I can think of are VaTech and Nebraska.


June 14th, 2011 at 5:59 PM ^

It's like the FAQ's to Harvard: would you rather have an A in a general class or a B in an AP?

A: We'd rather have an A in the AP class.

If you look at schools like Texas, Florida, USC, they all get big names and develop them properly; that's why they're in the BCS every other year.

fire lloyd carr

June 14th, 2011 at 4:18 PM ^

Any credit if the defensive backfield is improved, the LB corps are improved and Will Campbell adds to the existing line? After all Hoke/Mattison will be essentially winning with RR's players. If I recall, Brian wrote about the expected incremental improvement of the record just by all of those freshmen getting a year of maturation and experience and the offense getting more experience. So, if The defense improves, and Michigan doesn't win 10, blame Hoke. And if we lose to the the SEC team in Ohio, especially after the cheating scandal, i blame Hoke and Borges.
<br>Now if Michigan wins 10 or more and pastes tsio, then I will grant Hoke sainthood. But until then, I am skeptical.


June 14th, 2011 at 5:07 PM ^

Am I correct in discerning from your post that you expect Michigan to win 10+ games, including against OSU, in 2011--and will consider anything less to reflect a substandard performance?

I personally think Michigan is looking at about an 8-9 win season for 2011, and while certainly much can change between now and November, OSU would have to be considered a favorite over Michigan at this point.  The on-field impact of the scandals is, for the most part, going to take a couple years to kick in.   While Pryor obviously will not be their QB this season, the rest of the Tat 5 will be back--and probably healthier than they would normally be at the end of a full season--as will the rest of their dubiously-recruited roster. 

I certainly hope UM can pull off 10+ victories and beat OSU this year, but I hope you won't change your screen name to "fire brady hoke" if it doesn't happen.


fire lloyd carr

June 14th, 2011 at 5:45 PM ^

All I am saying is that the offense in Denard's 2nd year in RR's system should have been much tighter and had the capacity to be incredible. The defense would be returning injured players as well as returning nearly everyone that had an ounce of potential from a team that played ole defense and still won seven games.
<br>So, if Michigan takes a step back, blame Hoke and Borges. Had RR stayed, this would have only been year three of his system (I don't count the Sheridan/Threet years) and it would have been his coming out party.
<br>As for the esteemed coach Carr, who deftly helmed the program with the Parkinsonian dexterity only Michael J. Fox could love, he held on to the job longer than Willie Mays did with the Mets. And every time I spoke to him over the last 8 years of his tenure, he acted like a spoiled child who was smarter than everyone. He acted as if football was far more complex than rocket science or brain surgery. While I agree he was a great ambassador for Mott, he couldn't hold Moeller's jock and Moeller was a moron.
<br>Meanwhile Hoke is doing a bad imitation of Bo and looks more like a redneck than a game coach. I sincerely hope I am wrong, but I am holding his feet to the fire like the Carr mafia did to RR. 10 wins, 3 losses or 2011 is a disappointment.
<br>Go Blue!!!!!!!

Zone Left

June 14th, 2011 at 7:38 PM ^

You're probably going to be disappointed, but if you expected 10 wins next year with Rodriguez, you'd have been disappointed too.

The defense let up 458 points last year (the worst year in school history, second worse was 2009) and for all the glimpses of offensive greatness, Michigan actually was outscored by three points per game. It's going to take some time to dig out of that disaster. 


June 14th, 2011 at 11:03 PM ^

Parkinson jokes, and morons, eh? I'd guess a classless guy like yourself has never talked to anyone that has ever mattered with the Michigan football program, from Bo to Hoke. If you want to hold to the same standards, I'd say you should do like the last transition, and give any credit for player improvement to Hoke (like Graham's improvement gets credited to Rich/Barwis) and anyone who stinks gets blamed on the previous guy. Because pretty good on one side of the ball and awful on the other pretty much looks like now and 2008. And if you really want to treat Hoke like Rich was treated, wait 3 years and if we have won only 15 games, you probably won't be alone.

But obvious troll is obvious, so I shouldn't even try...(though I can't believe the Blog puts up with "redneck" jokes anymore, after justifiably trying to stamp it out after the last 3 years).


June 14th, 2011 at 4:26 PM ^

IIRC, the 85 scholarship limit has been in place since 1994.  If I average the 10 years of data posted above, it comes out with 21.5 recruits/year.  The last 5 years gives 22.6 recruits/year.  That is only a fractional player away from the 23 - 25 recruit range stated by Hoke.



June 14th, 2011 at 4:56 PM ^

There is at least one kicker on the roster who has been terrible since he was recruited and given a scholarship by the previous staff.  There also may be other kickers on scholie...Im not sure...

but if these guys are still hitting 4-14 or whatever on FGs...cant punt either...what is the point of having them on scholarship if Matt Wile comes in and is at least competant.

My question is:  Once these kids get scholarships.... if they dont perform well at all... are they guaranteed the scholarship for the rest of their 4 years or can that be yanked and given to a more deserving (at least performance wise) player... I mention the kickers because they have been so glaringly bad and were brought in by the previous staff..

can those scholarships be yanked and given to new recruits?


June 14th, 2011 at 9:59 PM ^

They do, but to me it comes down to what's expected. Going into an academic scholarship, you know that certain things are expected (like a 3.0 or whatever) but athletic scholarships are a bit different. Recruits sign with schools in the Big Ten expecting four years, and IMO they should get those four, even if they're not really valuable to the team.


June 14th, 2011 at 7:46 PM ^

I realize this is the internet and so this request is almost impossible, but can we please stop worrying about the number of scholarships available until at least the end of fall practice?

While I agree the idea of "cutting" people makes me uncomfortable, we are still very far from the time when this might be an issue.  Also, if there is one subject about which the coaches clearly know far more, it's this one.  The public has really no way of knowing anything, whereas the coaches see these kids every day.  I'll trust Hoke until given reason to do otherwise.


June 14th, 2011 at 7:54 PM ^

Talk about eating your young....

Here's a medium strategy. A happier medium, certainly, though still pretty high on the sketch-o-meter.

Since we have some positions with a lot of incoming depth in this class (LB, DE), perhaps the coaches are going to ride the season out with 20-some verbal commits, see how many players are lost to the bloody-mindedness of the universe, and if any further cutting need be made they revoke their offers to some of the less-promising players at stacked positions? Naturally this is not an ideal or desirable course of action, but it is less damaging to the program in that you do not lose experienced players and is also less harmful to the shafted recruit (relative to committing to a school that would cut him down the road).

The biggest non-moral issue in this would be effect on recruiting. Which would be more damaging to our reputation for purposes of recruiting: Pulling verbal offers or cutting 5th-year seniors (or others)? The SEC is a case study indicating the latter has little effect. Any evidence regarding the former?


June 14th, 2011 at 9:06 PM ^

Standifer likely lost his spot when Prosise committed a few days before Standifer visited.  ND is looking for 1 more corner and 1 more safety in this class.  Do you think Standifer is better than Yuri Wright, Geno Smith, Kendall Sanders and Armani Reeves?  I am pretty certain ND doesn't.

Strobel has the same problem as Standifer.  Jordan Watkins, Odenigbo, Spence, and Armstead are all well ahead of Strobel and they're only looking for one in this class

Magnuson was a great get, ND absolutely wanted him and I am sure will continue to pursue him.  Hoke had a huge in with him from the beginning being in San Diego which became more and more apparent leading up to his visit.  He never had a top 3, it was UM and then everyone else because of Hoke.

ND has been after UM commits in previous classes quite a lot.  Last year it was Beyer and Hayes, though Hayes not in the same sense.  2010 Kelly would have certainly gone after Black under different circumstances, and Gardner was pursued by Weis and would have been a no brainer for Kelly.  In 2009 Lalota, Roh, Schofield were probably the 3 biggest losses ND had over those RR seasons.  ND was really high on all 3.

ND offered so few recruits during Weis's years that losing anyone was a much bigger deal.  Kelly has opened the flood gates in comparison, even more with every offer out there being verbal only, a ND offer doesn't carry the same significance as it did and it certainly doesn't mean the kid can commit.



June 14th, 2011 at 10:54 PM ^

If you stopped calling not granting a 5th year "cutting". It's not how it works. You are given 4 years to graduate, just like a guy who starts as a freshman. It's a privilege to get a 5th year, not a right. There's no cutting involved. You earn that 5th year.